One of 2011's masterpieces ushers in the Wii U.
The city of Gotham -- that eerily dark, corrupted and grimy city made infamous through the Batman universe -- has never been projected with such detail and artistic vision as it has been in Batman: Arkham City. It truly feels like a character on its own accord, fueling one of the best adventure games of the past few years. The neighborhood of North Gotham pits Batman against some of Arkam Asylum’s deadliest criminals, with incredibly satisfying combat helping refine what was already a rewarding system in the game’s predecessor. Batman: Arkham City is a fun-filled atmospheric struggle between good and evil, set within one of the richest and most inviting worlds in a game yet.
Batman: Arkham City Armoured is more or less exactly the same brilliant game we saw this time last year. It suffers from some frame-rate issues, but this is less noticeable if you’re playing the entire game on the GamePad -- just one of the port’s many additional features. There’s no slowdown to speak off, but animations can come across jittery and choppy at their worst.
Unlike most other Wii U ports, Armoured Edition aims to do more than transfer some of the action to the second screen. Batman and Catwomen are decked out with the new B.A.T Armour system, which makes the Dark Knight even more powerful and electrifying.
A meter is filled by kinetic energy as Batman attacks hired goons, which can be used to unleash BAT Mode, and a marginally stronger superhero. It doesn’t add all that much to the already brilliant gameplay, and will quickly be forgotten.
It sounds amazing, and further draws you into the dark and mysterious world of Arkham City.
The most engaging use of the GamePad is the environmental audio. When Batman overhears conversations or receives a radio transmission, the audio comes across through the GamePad while the rest of the sound effects continue through the TV. It sounds amazing, and further draws you into the dark and mysterious world of Arkham City.
The GamePad can be used to aim the Batarang and search around the landscape using augmented reality to scan your physical room in Detective Mode. Both are easy to use, and also allow you to aim using the right analogue stick if you’re tight on space, or just plain ol’ lazy. In other words, you’ll do it all with the control stick. The multifaceted GamePad is also used as a sonar for quick glances and to change gadgets and access all menus on the fly.
To round out the package, Armoured Edition includes all of the DLC released over the past twelve months. There are six packs in total.
Batman’s gadgets definitely play a bigger role in the combat than they did in Arkham Asylum. Many of the tools used in the predecessor – such as explosive gel or an electric charge – can be used at any point during battle, giving you far more variety in how you can approach a group of enemies. These quickfire gadgets can at-first take a while of getting used to, due in part to how they’re mapped to the controller. You may find yourself using one gadget when you wanted to use another, but thankfully the game display’s button prompts to assist you in choosing the right gadget for the right moment. Sure, it might seem slightly overwhelming at first, but it certainly doesn’t feel like overkill in that regard: Arkham Asylum allowed you to use Batman’s illustrious Batarang to take out enemies, but now you have far more at your disposal, and alongside the satisfying hand-to-hand combat, the quickfire option adds another layer of depth to the battles.
Some of Arkham City’s most satisfying enemy encounters will happen when Batman is working under the darkness of night, using his stealth abilities to creep up on unsuspecting foes. You can definitely approach a group of enemies and rely on Batman’s gadgets and fists to get a point across, but Batman’s vulnerability as a lone warrior with no actual superpower makes him an easy target for groups of evil do-gooders. As fun and satisfying as the combat can be, taking out a whole room of enemies without even being noticed makes for a very rewarding element of the experience, an aspect that also blessed Arkham Asylum. You can use an array of tools to help you stay incognito, from the great detective vision, to neat little gadgets like the disruptor. The former is a great way to analyse an area from one spot, as it highlights enemies through walls and floors. If Batman is seen you can use any number of his great tools to put the ledger back in his favour, such as a smoke pellet to blind and confuse enemies.
Your ability to work up a combo during battle will determine how many experience points you earn, which can in turn be used to upgrade skills, gadgets and Batman’s suit. You can upgrade things like the efficiency and accuracy of weapons, how you use specific gadgets, and the skills used during hand-to-hand combat. There is a wide range of upgrades available throughout the game, meaning that the gameplay changes considerably from the moment you start the game off to the moment it ends. Batman can be evolved from a strong and vigilant hero into a near-invincible beast of advanced gadgetry and near-superhuman strength. It makes for a very rewarding and valuable experience, and it definitely gives incentive to time attacks and work up illusive combos.
While the world in Arkham City might not be as vast and ‘open’ as one might expect, the five or so city blocks that make up the Arkham City superprison make for an incredibly detailed and atmospheric world that is bustling with life. The design of the area is simply superb: it’s quite clear how Gotham City used to be, with this new superprison showcasing how damp and dark the city has become over the past few decades. The world projects a sense of surrealism -- probably best realized on a large scale in Tim Burton’s films -- complimented by an imaginative sense of anarchy and corruption that helps define Batman: the character and universe.
Moving around the city makes for great fun, as Batman can zip across building tops and ledges with ease. Using The Dark Knight’s cape you can glide from rooftops down onto unsuspecting thugs, which makes for a truly satisfying way of enforcing the law in Gotham City. Travel is simple and fun, and with such a rich and exhilarating world to explore, you’ll absolutely love gliding off of gargoyles and buildings.
The side quests collectively could very well form another complete game. The Riddle returns in the same capacity as in Arkham Asylum, placing hard-to-reach trophies throughout Arkham City for Batman to find. There’s also a hoard of side quests to tackle, many of which feature characters from the comic book series that haven’t been included in the game’s main story. These quests vary in objective, from solving a murder, to abiding by the requests of a madman, to protecting political prisoners that have no place among Gotham’s most evil criminals. There’s a stack of side quests to tackle, and while they aren’t compulsory in order to finish the game, they offer a fantastic breakaway from the main missions.
Batman is tasked with monitoring the dark and damp alleyways of Arkham City, a prison that houses the dying super villain, Joker. After having being coerced by Joker to find a cure, Batman bumps into the likes of Penguin and Mr. Freeze, just to name a few characters. Many of the characters included in Arkham City seem to be accurate representations of their comic book counterparts, making for an all-star cast assembly of comic book villains.
Arkham City puts you into a large, highly detailed and inviting world, but don’t expect to be flying through the streets of Gotham City. Arkham City is considerably larger than Arkham Asylum, which in its own right was pretty damn big. While this game might offer the best virtual recreation of Gotham City yet, the world is still not quite as big as one would expect to find in a traditional open-world game like Saints Row. However, whatever the world lacks in size it makes up for in detail and design, and on its own accord Arkham City is still large enough to house a 20+ hour game.
Leading into a boss battle you’ll think you’re about to encounter the hardest and most spectacular bosses you’ll ever come across. Unfortunately it’s all show and no substance. Bosses are far too easy to take down, making for at-times disappointing conclusions to epic lead-in battles and plot points.
Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition is every bit the amazing game we saw last year. The B.A.T. Armour doesn’t add all that much, but the new GamePad options and environmental audio are worthy additions. There are a few frame-rate issues, but there are less noticeable when playing the full game on the GamePad and, for the most part, don’t detract from the gameplay. If you missed it last year, Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition makes for a great Wii U launch title.