I bet Batman has a Wii U in the Batcave…
Originally released over a year ago on the other consoles, Batman: Arkham City has found itself as one of the Wii U launch titles in the form of an Armored Edition. Rocksteady’s game received much praise from both gamers and the industry, but this version has been ported and tweaked by internal Warner Bros developers to make it ready for the new Nintendo console. Is the result something you should trade your Batarangs for? Or will it only manage a grunt of disapproval from the Batman himself?
The story stands that some bright spark though that a city-sized super prison set in the middle of Gotham was a good idea, and that throwing all of Gotham’s finest criminals into the prison city and pretty much leaving them all to their own devices would make things even better. On top of that, the mysterious Hugo Strange has been put in charge and undoubtedly has some nefarious plans. Enter the Dark Knight who manages to get himself unceremoniously admitted to the prison under his alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, ready to investigate just what Huge Strange’s endgame plan is.
The prison city has been predictably split between the different arch-criminals and their henchmen, with Two-Face, The Penguin and The Joker controlling the lion’s share of their prison-like environment. Besides those big three, a healthy roster of Batman’s other foes can be found within the city, each having their own little space in the city and their own place in the story, either following the main storyline as it leads to Hugo Strange, or spinning their own little tale and providing Batman with yet more to deal with.
The open world environment of Arkham City is a veritable playground for gamers, and filled with references that will please any Batman fan. The open world nature leaves the player free to tackle the story head on, and follow the twists and turns to the enjoyable conclusion, or simply enjoy the city and all of its attractions. Simply using Batman’s cape to glide from one building to the next, and then his grapple hook to zip back up and get more height, is a joy and easily winds away the hours. While gliding along, the player can have Batman drop down amongst the many groups of henchmen and indulge in a little fisticuffs, or even use Batman’s trade mark stealth to grab the henchmen from above, disable them and then disappear back into the darkness. It really is a lot of fun.
The combat is one of the highlights of the game, using a simple attack and counter system, allowing the player to pull off some really impressive, cinematic moves with ease. It all flows really well and within minutes the player will be smoothly countering attacks and landing finishing blows to increasingly large groups of henchmen without even breaking a sweat.
The story is impressively written, managing to incorporate most of Batman’s most well known foes, and is quite long even without the optional side quests, such as finding The Riddler’s annoying hidden trophies that are found all through the city. Everything is incredibly well polished, from the gritty visual splendor of Arkham City itself, and the mannerisms of the various key characters, to the voicework and easy to follow objectives. There are plenty of reasons why Arkham City won so many awards.
The main problem with the Wii U version is that it has come to the party so late. Whilst jumping into the game again for the Wii U was enjoyable, a lot of the wonder of discovering Arkham City for the first time was simply not there. That being said, if you happen to be a Wii U owner who has yet to play this game, it is one of the finest videogames in recent years and you should undoubtedly give it a bash.
But if you have played the game before, the reasons for picking it up on the new Wii U are few. Perhaps the most important reason would be that in this version, the “Armored Edition”, all of the previously released DLC is included, giving the most complete version of the game currently available. This includes all of the fancy outfits, the additional characters such as Robin and Nightwing, the new challenge maps for Challenge Mode which allows players to compete on leaderboards, and the brilliant Harley Quinn’s Revenge which adds more single-player content and carries on from the main story conclusion. In all, this is a mighty chunk of gameplay, but it is all available as DLC for the games on other systems, or on the Game of the Year Edition which was recently released.
Then there are the changes made for the Wii U version itself. Perhaps the most interesting tweak is that the game can be played fully on the Wii U GamePad. There are some obvious concessions to playing the game on the GamePad, which may well outweigh the benefit of playing the game while someone else uses the TV screen. Firstly, it does no favours for the usually gorgeous visuals of the game, leaving them slightly grainy and squeezed onto the much smaller screen. The other problem with playing on the Wii U GamePad is that it no longer functions exactly as the developers intended for this version of the game.
Which is quite important to the appeal of Arkham City – Armored Edition. The Wii U GamePad has been used to add an extra level of immersion to the game, allowing players to use the controller for all manner of interesting functions. It can display the map, it can be used for inventory management, gadget selection and character development. It passes on communications in an impressive way and even deals with the hacking games. The developers have certainly risen to the challenge of incorporating the GamePad, and have managed to achieve it in an interesting and enjoyable way.
The final new addition for the Wii U version is BATS mode. With this, Batman fills a meter during combat which, once filled, can be used to improve the damage that the Batman deals. Whilst this may be handy for the less experienced gamers, anyone who has played Arkham City before, or who regularly plays action games, will find the mode makes things a little too easy.
Getting into the visual side of things, fanboys of the various systems will pick these multi-system games apart with a fine toothpick. Frankly, I’m not going to break out the magnifying glass and start counting pixels or comparing shadows. But when I compare the Wii U version with the PS3 version which I originally played, the PS3 version does seem to come out on top, not that it makes any difference to how enjoyable the Wii U version is. I will also add that there does seem to be some framerate issues with the Wii U versions at times. It doesn’t impact gameplay, but it is noticeable.
For the new audience, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition is an incredible game. They can take advantage of the new ways the Wii U GamePad is used, without having to compare the game with previous versions. For a lengthy gameplay experience with more content than the Batcave has bats, pick up this launch title and enjoy. However, if you have played the game on another system, stick with the memory.