Not long ago we were all staring mutely at the first Arkham game and marvelling (DC-ing?) that someone had finally done justice to a Batman game. “How is it even possible to get these things wrong?” we asked, cracking a thug to sleep with the grim fist of twilight vengeance.
Two sequels down the line, Batman: Arkham Origins shows glimpses of the corporate carelessness that so often damages licensed games, even as it plays out another cold, compelling night in Gotham.
The first minor complaint is that this is a prequel, which doesn't inevitably mean a poorer game but does suggest that Origins has been assigned a narratively inconsequential box to play in while the unwritten future of Batman is reserved for a next-gen sequel.
In a possibly not-unrelated twist, original developer Rocksteady is conspicuous by its absence – its tools and tech have been employed here to good effect, but this still says “strategic spread of resources” and not “let's make a bloody good Batman game.”
Not that new studio Warner Bros Montreal have made a bad one. This is Arkham City , but bigger, with the open world space of Gotham now doubled and Batman's glorious grapple-and-glide ability unlocked from the start.
The story is like a spilled deck of Bat-villain top trumps (Black Mask hires everyone from Death Stroke to Copper head to whack Wayne on Christmas Eve) and the deep combat and even deeper collectibles and puzzles return with minor tweaks.
Most importantly, it still feels like being Batman – furious, iconic, really, really punchy – even if we wouldn't want him to glide in this particular holding pattern for too long.