At first, like many, I was somewhat dubious of an Arkham sequel without series creator Rocksteady on board as developer. I was also unsure as to what another open-world Batman game, set partly in the same city map as Arkham City, could possibly add to the series without the original developer at the helm. Coming so late in the console generation, I feared that it was to be a quickie sequel, thrown out to squeeze a bit more cash from the franchise while Rocksteady worked on something new for next-gen.
But then I met new developer Warner Bros. Montreal, a month or so ago, and by the Old Gods, did they set my mind at rest. While the game still didn’t look to greatly innovative over the existing series, the effort that the Canadian studio was putting into telling a very different, much darker story made me a very happy bat-nerd indeed. So it was with a fair degree of contentment that I settled down with Arkham Origins just before the weekend.
That contentment lasted all of 24 hours.
Those first 24? Pretty great, as it happens. Yes, I found the game overly familiar, in that frustrating, can’t-really-complain-about-it way that comes when something is too similar to something great. Like putting on a warm, comfy dressing gown after a bath on a cold, autumn night, and discovering that while it’s only become slightly threadbare over the years, you’re now craving an ultra-plush three-inch thick bear-skin gown, simply because you’ve become too used to the current one. Like a big, decadent twat.
But 24 hours later, all the stitching of that old, trusted garment fell out, the gown fell off, and I became very aware that my heating was knackered.
The horror started, as these things often do, with a day one patch. It’s a testament to how screwy those supposedly game-optimising last-minute tweaks have been over the course of this generation that having played the game quite happily before launch, I greeted my Xbox’s announcement of the update with a default response of trepidation and gritted teeth. The additional code should have been a reassuring sight; a warm blanket bestowed with a cuddle by Warner Montreal, to show that they knew of the game’s last remaining issues and wanted to make absolutely sure that I had the best experience I could now that they were on the case.
But I know that it doesn’t always work that way. And sure enough, by the end of the weekend, not only was I standing wet and freezing in my living room, but some swine had also put a brick through my window and let in a stream of cold, stormy air.
Batman: Arkham Origins, as it stands now, is potentially a wreck of a game. There’s no more accurate way to put it. It isn’t going wrong for everyone, but when it does, it really does. Every sub-species of glitch is there, making up the dubious passenger list for a throbbing Noah’s Ark of technical horrors. Failed start-ups. Failed boots. Crippling frame-rate drops. Missing mission triggers. AI shutdowns. Full system crashes. Dialogue glitches. Ineffective checkpoints. A world map that loses mission waypoints at random. Corrupted save files. Any of these alone would be the big stand-out errors in any release. I suffered all of them within roughly 10 hours, spread across a single weekend’s play. A single weekend’s play that, perhaps inevitably, ended with the last, most monstrous glitch on the above list, after my fourth crash of the day, and the second requiring a pulled plug as a result of my Xbox’s on-console power button becoming unresponsive.
And it’s not just me. Naturally, like any well-adjusted man of the modern age, I took to Twitter to catalogue my anguish to strangers. And lo, between that initial burst from my Akira-style satellite laser of pain, and some more sober enquiries I put out yesterday morning on my personal Twitter account and that belonging to GamesRadar (not to mention what's turned up in the vast glitch thread on Steam's forum), I have discovered an echoing catacomb of wailing gamer voices suffering similar fates. Allow me to relate a few of them to you over on the next page.