Author: Jay-Rey (@jay_rey)
Game: Batman Arkham Origins (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
Release Date: October 25, 2013
After completing the main campaign for Arkham Origins, running around the city to get little items from Enigma, and beating up Black Mask and Penguin thugs just didn’t excite me. So I decided to do what no person has done, at least on this blog: Play Online!
Before I tell you my experience, let me tell you what you’re in for. A typical online match consist of three teams. Team 1 consists of Joker thugs. These guys are tricked out in the finest clown makeup a homeless criminal could buy. They have two types of automatic weapons, a fun remote controlled blimp that explodes on impact, and an ability to kinda freak out and go on a shooting rampage. Team 2: Bane thugs. Dressed in more tactical, militant gear, these guys seem to be a bit more professional. In control of a UAV with rocket shooting capabilities, their gadgets are a little more hi-tech. They also have a nifty little device that shoots some kind of pulse through walls, temporarily incapacitating any one in its radius.
The last team gets their own paragraph. These guys are the heroes. Batman and Robin take to the rafters and stalk the gang warfare below with all the gadgets and flair of the solo campaign mode. There is no real explanation as to why Robin is here. However, off the top of my head, I figure it is Tim Drake, the same guy from the last Arkham game whose trademark weapon is a staff. While the two gangs battle it out below, Batman and Robin do their best to take out the stragglers. Their melee is weakened considerably, capable of only dizzying thugs. The key here is takedowns.
The heroes earn points through intimidation. Every take down earns them intimidation points. If the heroes fill up their intimidation bar before a gang can deplete the opposing gangs lives, heroes win. Unfortunately, if you bite it as a hero, the gang that killed you becomes less intimidated and you essentially end back at square one. In theory, its a pretty balanced system.
The gangs battle for control points across the map. Kind of like an ever changing king of the hill. Thugs also have a type of detective mode, though it has a battery life and takes time to recharge if you drain it all the way. This is useful for seeing enemies through walls, and possibly spotting The Dark Knight and Boy Wonder up above. Our heroes, while infinitely more agile and gadget-equiped, are squishier than wet dog poop. Like the campaign, they can’t stand much bullet damage. So if you’re caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’re tissue paper on a rainy mischief night.
Oh, yea! About half way through the match, a door marked on the map will start to blink. The gang that opens the door first (and more specifically that player) gets to control the gangs boss: Joker or Bane. Joker is crazy, moves wildly, and has two, huge hand cannons that are basically one hit kills. Bane is a tank of a character. Bane can charge across a level, break an enemies bones, and also has a rocket launcher. These bosses have bigger health pools and are a pain in the butt to kill, either as a thug or a hero.
Woo, got all that out of the way. Now, how do I feel about it? I gotta say, I don’t like it much. Lets start with the Thug controls. A game that runs on the Unreal Engine is in the company of some of the most played third person shooters in the industry, including Unreal Tournament and Gears of War. I was surprised how fun it had been to fight as Batman, and assumed the transition to gun wielding thug would be easy, however that isn’t the case. The controls are janky as heck. There is a cover system that works sometimes, aiming down the sites is barely more accurate, and the level design could be better. Thugs’ detective vision is short and becomes a crutch, though you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t use it. The worst thing about it is the animation for deactivating. It turns a snowy white with a slight delay. Hardly as fluid as Batman’s own. This 2 or 3 seconds is vital in the small areas you play in. And this temporary inability to see can be your undoing.
I believe the Thugs are crap to play because the Heroes are meant to shine. Batman and Robin play how you would expect them to. It’s a shame that melee attacks don’t do much, but it makes sense. It would make being a thug that much more horrible. When you’re on a gang, you really do feel the fear of being hunted by Batman. All too often have I been in cover and taken out by The Caped Crusader. Flying bats and moving shadows give you the sense of paranoia you figure the AI felt when you were doing it to them. The thugs have the Bat beat when it comes to fire power. All the gizmos and gadgets have nothing on a shot gun to the face. But matches feel chaotic whoever you are: control points chiming off, gunfire coming at you from somewhere, and then the occasional bat-a-rang. Even as the hero, you see everything from the gargoyle. Different color skeletons run across the map. But detective vision makes the obstacles difficult to see and your glide will get interrupted by an unseen railing or box. The dark colors make everything without detective vision blend together still.
Okay, at this point I am just whining. I think what I am trying to say is that this was a good idea, but it was poorly executed. Everyone wants to be the hero, and you get enough chances (probably every 2 or 3 games). Matchmaking is kinda bad. It could take 15 minutes to find the 8 players needed to start a match. I have never been able to play as an Enemy boss, but I imagine its somewhere between the fun of the hero and the horror of being a gang member. It’s as chaotic as the AI feels, as you are being shot at by the other team and being picked up and hog tied in the same minute. Levels are cluttered and don’t have a natural flow that multiplayer levels in other games tend to have.
Someone will enjoy this. I did not. But at least you had fun with the campaign and reading this, right?