Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition Review
Arkham City caught us by surprise. Sure, Arkham Asylum was a great game, and we expected big things from its sequel, but Rocksteady well and truly knocked it out of the park.
It’s been more than a year since the Caped Crusader first faced his most daunting test against his most feared enemies, but with Nintendo’s latest hardware, he is more prepared and up to the task than ever, thanks to the Wii U Gamepad.
The Open World environment of Arkham City is more accessible, its secrets easier to uncover and the action more brutal. Yet these new features merely add to the experience rather than detract or change it.
Bruce Wayne calls a press conference to show his opposition to Arkham City, a knee-jerk decision from newly appointed mayor of Gotham, Quincy Sharp, to house its most dangerous criminals in the slums. Sharp believes the Asylum is already over capacity and crime can no longer be contained in such confined quarters. Wayne, however, feels a whole city gives these criminal entities too much freedom, and opportunity to plot the downfall of Gotham City and thinks Sharp is making a mistake.
However, before Wayne can get his point across, he is captured by Tyger operatives, members of a private, military firm, and taken into Arkham City where he is interrogated by Hugo Strange. Haunted by the horrors of a scheme Strange has dubbed Protocol 10, Wayne escapes, once again adorns the cowl of Batman, and prepares for the longest night of his crime-fighting career.
Fortunately, Armoured Edition has got Bruce’s back, more than any other version of the game before it.
The enhanced B.A.T.S suit accumulates energy as the Dark Knight gains combos in combat. The better the combo, the quicker the stored energy can be unleashed in a blue-blur of fury to wipe out an angry mob of thugs. Unquestionably, this makes combat in Arkham City much easier as enemies are usually quashed with a single blow. If ever you wanted the definition of a ‘Win’ button, B.A.T.S is essentially it. It’s an entirely optional feature, however, and if you’re an experienced AC player, you’ll certainly have no call to use it.
Although it’s cool to activate it during some of the game’s more unfair fights, and effortlessly blaze through rampaging hordes. It may feel cheap, but it will still offer some slight satisfaction.
Catwoman’s suit also receives the same upgrade, along with covered up cleavage. Selina’s hoping to set a new trend, perhaps?
The most significant addition Wii U offers Arkham City is the interactive hub via the gamepad’s screen. For starters, there’s a fully traversable map that allows players to zoom in, set custom waypoints and scan the immediate area for objectives, side-missions and the ever elusive Riddler Trophies. Having the map constantly accessible while the action is happening on the TV set cannot be understated. It makes a significant difference to the way the game is played and offers a level of convenience rarely found in games of this size.
Armoured Edition also offers sonar radar via the gamepad, which will help to plan attacks better, whether you attempt the silent approach from above or below, or go in all guns-blazing.
Batman’s loadout can also be assigned through the gamepad. A quick tap on a weapon or gadget and Batman instantly equips it. Also new is the ability to use the gamepad’s gyroscope to aim. It’s peculiar because the gyroscope undoubtedly offers a level of precision Arkham has never been able to provide on any other format, yet I still found myself going back to the analogs to do the majority of the work. That’s not a slight on how it operates, however, (it’s coded perfectly) and probably says more about my gaming habits than anything else.
The gyroscope can also be used to steer a thrown batarang and even scan a crime scene for clues. Both methods add a novel level of immersion into the game, but are unlikely to be preferred techniques for many players.
Returning to the gamepad, players can check full character bios at any time. They’ll also be able to read their full mission objectives, and set upgrades for their gadgets on the fly.
Environmental Audio is a personal favourite addition to Arkham City. One of the few titles on Wii U to take advantage of surround sound; whenever enemies are close to Batman in the game, you’ll hear their conversation come through the gamepad. Meanwhile, those further away will speak through the television set. Players will also receive game advice from Alfred through the gamepad as he explains to Batman how to use the various tools in his arsenal. Its intended to be a sort of personal intercom and it completely has the desired effect.
Finally, and perhaps most impressively, Arkham City is fully playable through the Wii U gamepad. Yes, that means portable Riddler trophy hunting!
It also means, in theory, you could play with Batman in bed, or while you’re watching Corrie. Hell, you might even be able to play on the crapper!
Despite the unique possibilities Wii U offers this already brilliant game, it’s not all smooth-sailing. The frame rate is sluggish and moving around Arkham City causes regular stutters and hiccups. Hell, the Wii U even sounds as if it’s about to explode when you’re swinging between buildings. Admittedly, that’s more of a concern for Nintendo than Rocksteady, but it does also have some detrimental effects on the game which are, unfortunately, can be very noticeable. Strangely, fight sequences with armies of thugs cluttering the screen aren’t nearly as bad.
There’s also an irony in the convenience Armoured Edition brings to Arkham City. Considering a lack of an Achievement/Trophy system, it’s doubtful whether many players will feel as inclined to see and do everything without that extra incentive at the end of it. Naturally, that will depend on the player and this isn’t a criticism of the work Rocksteady have done, but it is a concern that some of these efforts may not have the desired effect and aren’t used to the full.
Of course, Armoured Edition comes bundled with all the DLC released for Arkham City, including the game’s epilogue, Harley Quinn’s Revenge, costume packs and all the challenge maps. It’s certainly more than a glorified Game of the Year edition, and it shouldn’t be branded as such.
Whether this is the definitive edition of Arkham City however, is a tough call to make. The high definition glows and is more vibrant than ever. The gamepad functionality helps keep things fresh and, if nothing else, immerses you even further in an already amazing game. I would even go as far as to say that Arkham City is the best third party Wii U title in terms of creativity and functionality. However, much of that functionality may not be used much past its initial introduction, meanwhile the gameplay still suffers from some poor porting and hardware issues, things you also won’t find in any other version of the game.
That said, Armoured Edition is a wonderful celebration of Arkham City and is lovingly re-imagined through the unique capabilities of Wii U. Most of the new features Wii U introduces are fun, but previous owners shouldn’t feel slighted as they’re just quirky add-ons that won’t be used much after initial curiousity.