When Batman: Arkham City launched over a year ago it was celebrated as one of the best action adventure games in the genre – the pinnacle of superhero gaming. It’s no surprise that developer Rocksteady Studios decided to port this blockbuster title to Nintendo’s brand new Wii U console as Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition. Can the unique controller of the Wii U contribute to the overall experience?
When it comes to story nothing changed since the first rendition of the game. Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition is a clear port with only a few additional added bells and whistles.
In Batman: Arkham City a large portion of Gotham City has been sealed off and turned into a mega-prison for all the weird and wicked. The prisoners are left to fend for themselves and inter-villain conflicts swiftly come to pass. Batman is thrown into the immoral mess as he tries to uncover the schemes of the prison’s warden, Hugo Strange, and his so called “Protocol 10”.
Almost every prisoner has a knife out for Batman as he tries to prevent one dastardly deed after the other: plots to poison the city, mass executions, and missile strikes to name but a few. Seriously – what did they expect would happen when you put all the Bat-villains together?
Players are treated to all of the best characters from the Batman series: the Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Bane, Harley Quinn, and many others make appearances throughout the campaign. It’s an enjoyable fan-fest of Batman elements and an overall celebration of this iconic superhero.
In between missions Batman is free to explore the sandbox environment of Arkham City. It’s not as big and varied as your typical free-roam game but the exceptional focus on detail makes gliding through the city fascinating and highly captivating.
There are loads of side-missions to complete, civilians to save and over 400 Riddler trophies to collect. Getting side tracked from the main mission is inevitable and a highly enjoyable part of the game.
While the bulk of the main story remains unchanged from the original, Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition includes all of the previous DLC including the Catwoman Pack, Harley Quinn’s Revenge and the Robin Bundle Pack. The additional content alone provides hours of gameplay and you definitely get your money’s worth from this game.
So what does the “Armoured Edition” contribute to the experience? Well – not much to be honest. If you’ve played the previous “Un-armoured” editions there’s really no need to pick up this game.
Batman is characterized by his broad array of deadly weapons and gadgets and it seems obvious to employ the Wii U gamepad as a quick access point to these tools. It seems logical to put frequently used items like the Battarang and Batclaw on the touch screen.
Unfortunately, innovative thought eluded the developers and you still need to assign items to the D-Pad. Even worse: you have to press “up” on the D-Pad to access the D-Pad customization screen on the gamepad leaving only three slots for gadgets. Why can’t we have nice big icons on the touchpad for all the cool bat-gear instead of assignment to buttons?
Actually, what did they do with the Wii U gamepad? It displays one of the worst in-game maps I’ve ever used and access to the upgrades menu; there’s no other significant use of the built-in display on the controller. The best feature is that you can switch off your TV and continue playing Batman while taking a bathroom break.
Some of the equipment like the Battarang tries to take advantage of the gamepad’s built-in motion controls but this is catastrophic at the best of times. As an alternative you can use the analogue sticks but the slightest twitch of the gamepad will register as motion input resulting in the Batarang veering off course.
There are a couple of mini-games that play off on the touchscreen but they quickly turn into a novelty due to their repetitive nature and simplicity.
The only constructive use of the Wii U’s gamepad is the built-in speakers. Communication with Batman’s assistant Alfred takes place through these speakers leaving the main audio channel free to provide ambiance and surround-sound effects. The gamepad also hones in on nearby enemy conversations which adds a cool spy-gear effect. The speakers in your hands greatly contribute to the overall “I’m Batman” feeling, and results in a wonderfully immersive audio experience.
Graphically, Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition is on par, if not slightly better, than the first editions. The dark, gloomy visuals paired with the excellent voice acting perfectly sets the tone of this game.
One of the biggest hoo-ha’s in Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition is the new B.A.T. combat mode. This retaliation armour upgrade gives Batman increased power during fist fights and can be triggered when a meter fills up. It’s supposed to make it easier to defeat large groups of enemies but I can’t really feel a difference when activating this enhancement. It might just be because I’m actually Batman and don’t need silly upgrades to win a fight.
Overall Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition is just as good as the original and isn’t weighed down by the new features of the Wii U. Unfortunately these new features aren’t optimally used to make this already good game better – and that’s a shame. There’s loads of wasted potential with the new hardware and too much invested in slapped on gimmicks and features.
However the Armoured Edition with all the included Batman DLC makes for an exceptional choice if you’ve never played the game before. As a whole it ticks all the right boxes with visuals, story and gameplay and should be considered by all new Wii U owners.