Say It With Pride: “I’m Batman!”
It’s been over a year now since the original Batman: Arkham City released, so anybody who wanted the game should probably already have it shelved after spending dozens of hours with its fulfilling gameplay. With the Wii U freshly launched, and Nintendo trying to lure core players with more mature games, Rocksteady’s latest Dark Knight adventure was a solid choice to bring over to the new console. As an extra incentive, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition has all the downloadable content previously released, as well as plenty of gameplay tweaks using the GamePad. The controller permutations are hit and miss, but altogether the Wii U provides the must-have version if you’ve never played it, and a bargain if you passed up the DLC and are craving the extra content.
Most gamers know the story already: With the fall of Arkham Asylum, a new location was required to keep Gotham’s criminals separated from society. For reasons unknown, Dr. Strange successfully lobbied for the creation of Arkham City. Criminal bigwigs such as Joker, Penguin, and Two-Face have rallied the inmates and formed gangs within the compound, each carving out a section of Arkham City as their home turf. It is now up to Batman to infiltrate the cityscape prison, defeat (or possibly even cooperate with) his nemeses, and find a way to shut down Arkham City for good.
With Batman’s brains, brawn, and gadgetry all on the table, handling each situation is an experimental delight for the player. Whether you’re dancing between crowds of thugs and unleashing a flurry of attacks or bringing them down silently from the shadows, the controls in Arkham City are near flawless. Well-timed strikes, as well as counterattacks and quick-released gadgets, increase the combo multiplier and power of each attack and eventually grant special takedown moves. Encounters end in flourishes of cinematic display, and seeing the ground strewn with unconscious enemies is immensely satisfying. However, fail to counter an incoming attack and Batman will be thrown off his rhythm, with a health reduction to boot.
Armored Edition tries to alleviate some of the effort with a Batsuit upgrade. Along with metallic plating, the Wii U-exclusive suite sports what’s called the Battle Armored Tech Mode (B.A.T. Mode for short). With each successful attack, a meter of kinetic energy builds up. When full, this energy can be released for a short burst of charged attacks that do double damage. B.A.T. Mode also triggers a pseudo Detective Mode that highlights nearby enemies for easy execution of strikes. Ultimately, this feature makes combat easier but less satisfying.
One use of the GamePad that keeps the skill in your control is the ability to quickly switch between gadgets using the touchscreen. With well-placed icons for tools like the Batarang, Batclaw, and explosive gel, a quick tap is all that is needed to compliment your punches with tech toys. Other versions of Arkham City had the gadgets mapped to a control pad, which worked well enough, but the GamePad gives it a more visceral quality, allowing it all to flow much more smoothly with your mastery of button presses.
Outside of combat, the GamePad essentially becomes your Batcomputer. Everything can be accessed without having to pause in a menu screen. The local map will be on display the most, with objective indicators and nearby Riddler challenges indicated. You can switch to a radar screen that shows enemy locations, but it’s relatively useless, and the constant pinging can get annoying.
Scanning for clues also makes use of the GamePad screen, which can accomplished with the control stick or by physically moving the GamePad around. Even small touches—like scanning your fingerprint to unlock the Batcomputer—may seem superficial, but they make you feel that much more like the Caped Crusader.
Another cool Wii U feature is that the game can be played entirely on the GamePad. The streamed visuals from the console are as pristine as the view on any high-definition television, and if your bedroom is within range, there’s nothing like stalking the alleys and swinging between buildings while tucked comfortably in bed.
But with all this cool functionality, it’s the sound exerted from the GamePad speakers that receives the top acclaim in my opinion. The Wii U GamePad has some of the cleanest, crispest audio I’ve heard from any console accessory or portable gaming system, but authenticity in the form of scratchy transmissions and analog signals is something only possible with the fusion of Wii U’s dual platform.
The only substantial issue I noticed with the GamePad implementation is that the screen is not a multi-touch surface, and scrolling through data screens and Batman lore gets irritating when you can’t flip pages because you didn’t swipe your finger hard or far enough. These menu screens would have greatly benefitted from a smaller font size and more icons on each page. Setting custom objective points is just as irritating, as it requires a double tap, which usually ends up scrolling the map rather than placing a checkpoint.
Apart from the GamePad, there is a noticeable drop in frame rate when compared with other versions, which isn’t a monumental flaw, but it does interrupt the rhythm of the action more often than I’d like. Also, I was frequently met with slowdown every time I switched from Detective Mode to the regular perspective. Considering how often I scrutinize my surroundings via Detective Mode, this was an issue that really pulled me out of the fiction.
The main campaign has enough side quests and Riddler puzzles to keep you busy for many hours, but Armored Edition also gives you all the extras. The Catwoman episodes, Robin and Nightwing bundle packs, Harley Quinn’s Revenge, and all the DLC character skins are present. There’s even Riddler’s Revenge, with an extra 213 medals to obtain through a series of entertaining challenge maps that require the use of all your combat, stealth, and gadget skills. You can even customize your own challenge maps, creating almost endless possibilities.
A lot of people are saying that Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is only a worthwhile purchase for those who haven’t previously played it. I will only agree to that supposition for those gamers who’ve already purchased all the DLC or have picked up the Game of the Year Edition. But if you’ve only played through the original campaign, the Wii U version should be on your gift list. Even if you don’t play Batman’s story again, just the extra content is enough to justify the purchase. But I have a sneaky suspicion that once you’ve played around with the GamePad features, you’ll want to return to the main campaign and liberate Arkham City once again.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Armored Edition is just as sharp looking as any other console version. However, lag and frame rate are issues on the Wii U; they’re not game-breaking, but they’re definitely noticeable. 3.8 Control
There are a few issues with the GamePad’s touchscreen, but exploration and combat are as fluid as it is gets. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Top-notch voice acting, satisfying combat effects, and perfect use of the GamePad speakers make Armored Edition one of the best sounding games out there. 5.0 Play Value
An open world adventure with tons to do outside the main story. Tack on all the DLC content and it’s more than worth the asking price. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best