REVIEW: Batman: Arkham City – Armoured Edition (2012)

How does the Dark Knight fare on the Wii U?

Another previous-gen port on an alleged next-gen system, this time it’s one of the greatest Batman games ever made – Arkham City. A sequel to the classic and critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum, it follows Bruce Wayne/Batman after the dastardly Dr. Hugo Strange has him arrested and thrown into Gotham’s new penal colony: Arkham City. The poorest part of Gotham has been sanctioned off, allowing the criminal scum from both Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison to take over in mob rule, a la John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

We follow Batman’s investigation into Strange’s “Protocol 10″ plan and explore the aftermath of Arkham Asylum, such as what happened to The Joker after his little “accident” with the drug/steroid Titan.

For those of you who have yet to play the game, I won’t spoil it any more than that. All I’m going to say is that the game is well written, and plays out how, in my opinion, the Christopher Nolan trilogy SHOULD have played out. In fact, bring Rocksteady in to produce the next Batman reboot!

Plus the ending is perfect, shocking and amazing. A tour de force, in fact, and I’m super glad Rocksteady didn’t cut or alter it in any way for Nintendo. Also, all the previous paid for DLC has been added to this game, giving you more bang for your buck.

The gameplay is pretty much the same as the previous title; you glide and grapple about, use gadgets to solve puzzles, and use two buttons to beat up criminals. The only difference now is that you’re in a large sandbox environment, and like Assassin’s Creed III, it can get monotonous. But unlike Creed, Rocksteady don’t do much in the way of spicing things up. Sure, there are plenty of side quests, side stories and challenge maps to keep you occupied, but if I wasn’t playing the god damn Batman, I would have switched off after an hour. This becomes more and more apparent as Catwoman comes into play, and she has nearly all the same attributes, apart from the fact she can climb on some ceilings etc. It’s pretty disappointing, especially when I’d prefer a completely different gameplay experience. Oh well – you can’t win them all!

Rocksteady have produced a few additions for the Armoured Edition. Like it says on the box, Batman (and Catwoman) both have new shiny armoured suits that, as you gather momentum from fighting, store up kinetic energy. When Bat Mode is activated, it allows you to dish out this energy, making your blows more devastating. While it does make fighting easier, I quite enjoy the addition to the game. Another novelty is the touchscreen Batcomputer added to your wrist – this allows you to access upgrades, map, sonar, gadgets, activate explosive gel, and much more from your Wii U gamepad. Before, you could only switch gadgets in the middle of a fight by pausing. The live switching adds a further sense of realism to the game.

Alongside the Batcomputer, Rocksteady have allowed the gamepad to be used in Detective Mode to search around for clues during crime scenes, allowing you to scan the environment in real-time in 360 degrees as you move about. Much like ZombiU’s Prepper Pad mechanics, now you can move in real-time instead of being stuck in one place, which is just a massive improvement on this game’s mechanics. This indicates that the evolution of the Wii U gamepad is happening more rapidly than I initially thought. Of course, there is an “Off-TV” mode which allows you to play off the flatscreen in emergencies. If there is one criticism I have with this game, it’s that the button layout takes a longer time to get used to in comparison to other editions. I’d love to hear from those who have played it to see if they had any trouble getting used to the mechanics, or if it’s just a case of me playing too many games of Assassin’s Creed III.

Visually, the game is actually slightly better than the other console versions. It seems that it has the same textures as the PC’s max settings; the cutscenes are rich, and the lighting and explosion effects are superior to the PS3/Xbox 360/Windows versions from what I can gather. During the game, I never noticed much of a drop in frame-rate, though I have experienced very short half-second load times when exploring the city. I’m not sure if this is because the Wii U runs a game entirely off the disc, or if it’s just my copy of the game being slow. Still, it’s not really noticeable and it doesn’t spoil my experience of the game.

The sound is well crafted, and the quality hasn’t been lost at all on the Wii U version. The fact that Alfred and any character now speaks to you through the gamepad is pretty neat and helps with the immersive experience, but the soundscape and cinematic soundtrack was already perfect. As mentioned, the game has all the previous DLC content bundled in and has lots of bonus content to unlock, as well as a ton of side quests to keep this game going for months and months.

To answer the key questions:

  1. Does this game alone warrant the purchase of a Wii U?

No, not alone. Like Assassin’s Creed III, it’s completely worth buying ONCE you’ve purchased a Wii U, especially when it’s only £20 from Amazon.co.uk. It’s worth it.

  1. I own another HD console as well as a Wii U, which version should I purchase?

Well, if you already have Arkham City then it depends. Again this game is only £20 , so if you don’t have any of the DLC, this might be worth experiencing it with the Wii U gamepad. However, if you’ve already paid for DLC, then there isn’t really any point buying the game again.

  1. I’ve never played Batman: Arkham City or Asylum before; does this mean I have to purchase Arkham Asylum? Does it mean I have to buy a PS3 or 360, too?

No and no. Arkham City can be played on its own. Knowledge of the original helps, but you can still have a great experience regardless.

All in all, Batman: Arkham City – Armoured Edition is a great boon to the Wii U’s game library. Rocksteady actually spent some time developing a port and making a great game better, and it’s probably the only U title you can get from a reputable retailer for under £30. For that price, the Dark Knight will rise indeed.

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