“Prequel” is rarely a word that makes the heart soar nowadays, whether it attends three hours of tedious furry-toed adventuring or a trio of bloated George Lucas money-makers – but there had been some anticipation that Batman: Arkham Origins would be different. The past two Dark Knight outings have been rapturously received and garlanded with honours; the only hitch here is that development duties were hived out from Rocksteady to unproved developers WB: Montreal. And so, inevitably, Origins proves something of a disappointment.
The plot follows Batman in the early days of his crime-fighting career, meeting for the first time many of his friends and foes across Gotham City on a snowy Christmas Eve as he’s hunted by a gaggle of assassins. It’s entertaining stuff and handles the introduction of everyone’s favourite clown prince of crime, The Joker, particularly well.
However, there’s something missing. The game mechanics – fighting, countering, gadgets, stealth – are all much the same, with a couple of new gizmos and bad guys thrown in for good measure, but it lacks the spectacle of the previous entries in the series. Where Arkham City had a bravura opening with Bruce Wayne besieged and unmasked, Origins has a lacklustre prison break – and swiftly follows this with an agonisingly frustrating boss battle. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this fails to match what has gone before, but some of the magic has gone and what is Batman without that? Just another man wearing a rubber suit.