Fear not, Wii U owners and prospective purchasers. There are good ports to be found on Nintendo’s new console. When Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition was first announced and displayed, I wrote it off as nothing more than a port of a year old game. I’m pleased to report that while I was correct, this latest iteration of Rocksteady’s masterpiece is the definitive versions, even after you discount the new gimmicks.
If you haven’t played Batman: Arkham City, and have managed to avoid spoilers, you’ve accomplished a miraculous feat. I strongly suggest that you steer away from any information about the plot, because a large portion of the enjoyment comes from the twists and turns. Following the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum, the famous facility has been shut down with the criminally insane and the thugs from Blackgate Prison all thrown together in the slums of Gotham. Within the walls of Hugo Strange’s prison, the criminals have just a bit too much freedom. After Batman makes his way in, it’s up to him to figure out what Strange is really up to.
One of the hallmarks of both of Rocksteady’s titles featuring the caped crusader is the combat system. When encountering a group of enemies, Batman moves fluidly between them, punching, countering and stunning. As he acquires new gadgets and gear, he’ll be able to include some of those in his melee repertoire. For instance, once you gain the ability to use electric discharges, you can toss them into the mix to stun hapless thugs.
Sometimes open combat isn’t the best choice. The stealth segments from Arkham Asylum return. Here, you’ll need to stalk your prey, taking them out one or two at a time and using smoke pellets and the grapnel gun to escape when things get a little too hot to handle. Rocksteady does a better job than any other developer in emulating a licensed superhero.
Without going into spoiler territory, know that the story is complex, and many members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery make an appearance. Some are part of the critical path, while others will need to be sought out. There are entire side missions that can go undiscovered if you don’t know where to look for them or randomly stumble upon them. These are largely worth your time, but one sticks out as a double edged sword.
The Riddler has returned, and this time he’s gone a little overboard. There are hundreds of trophies, riddles and hidden question marks to line up all over the city. At points in your collection, you’ll find out about a hostage being kept in a death trap room. These are neat puzzles, but there are simply too many collectibles. I would be extremely grateful if, in the next game, they scaled these back just a bit.
This latest edition of Arkham City includes a number of new features. The “Armored” in the title comes from the new battle suits worn by Batman and Catwoman. Both can store up kinetic energy and trigger “B.A.T.” mode to enhance their strength and agility. It definitely speeds up some of the larger, longer battles.
There are also a number of changes to the gadgets to take advantage of the second screen. The Gamepad displays a mini-map that can be scaled and moved at any time. There is also a Sonar mode that gives a look at more immediate surroundings. As someone who is an obsessive map checker, I found this quite useful. I also loved that when I touched the screen, my actions were loosely mimicked by Batman. It’s a small thing, but it works quite well.
A number of the gadgets have been moved to the Gamepad, also. The hacking minigame suffers the most in the transition. Instead of rotating the two analog sticks, the device now requires you find a number of sweet spots. To confound you, random horizontal and vertical lines sweep through. Should you touch one, the target location is moved and you’ll need to try and find it again.
By default, there are a number of instances that utilize motion control. I was delighted to find the option to turn this off. Flying a remote controlled batarang by moving the Gamepad is clunky and unresponsive. Thankfully, you can still manipulate them with the right analog stick.
I was able to play everything as intended and use the Tritton Kunai headset I’m also reviewing. If you read my review of Call of Duty: Black Ops II for the Wii U, you know that game has major audio issues with regard to how it handles headsets. Whether you’re taking on The Penguin, Two-Face or any other villain, you can do it comfortably on the television or on the Gamepad screen. Some of the text is a bit too small for my tastes, but that’s mostly in the menu screens. The inventory is easy to work with, especially since you can access it by tapping up on the D-Pad and then dragging and dropping three pieces of gear to the quick slots.
In addition to the fantastic main story, this edition comes with every piece of DLC released on other platforms. This includes the Catwoman missions, the Robin challenge missions, the Nightwing challenge missions, all of the costume skins and the additional “Harley Quinn’s Revenge” chapter. This is a fantastic value, and if you’ve never played Arkham City before, it’s absurdly easy to recommend this version.
The visuals are almost as impressive as they were a year ago. I noticed a bit of hitching and slowdown here and there, which is disappointing. If the Wii U is supposed to be the start of a new generation, we shouldn’t have frame rate drops like this in a port.
The audio absolutely makes this game work. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and The Joker. Tara Strong does a solid job filling in for Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn. Troy Baker, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite voice actors, makes a cameo in the main story as Robin, but has more of a presence in the Harley Quinn chapter (which you should not play until after you finish the game). And, yes, RipTen favorite Nolan North is here, but you might not recognize him in his role as The Penguin.
If you’ve played Batman: Arkham City before, there really isn’t any reason to double back and play the Armored Edition. Some of the gimmicks are better than others, and the passive use of the touch screen as a map is the real gem. The experience is otherwise identical to the versions previously released. If you simply haven’t been able to play it before, or haven’t had the time, this is the definitive version. You should most certainly play this game, and anyone who tells you differently is probably a supervillain.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Great value thanks to the inclusion of every piece of content ever released for the game
+ Amazing story with top-notch voice acting to support it
+ Combat is fun and fluid
+ Stealth is smartly woven into the experience and rarely feels forced
– Some frame rate problems and hitching
– Motion controls are horrendous (but can be turned off), and the hacking minigame is horrid
9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition was developed by Rocksteady and published by WB Interactive. It was released on November 18, 2012, at the MSRP of $59.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.