The Dark Knight himself, Batman, has swooped onto Nintendo Wii U with the release of Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition.
Bringing together every piece of downloadable piece of content, including the additional Catwoman chapters, as well as some new features, Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition could be considered the definitive version of Rocksteady’s 2011 critically acclaimed game.
But how does Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition fare both as a standalone game and when compared to its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 counterparts? Read on and find out!
Spanning a publication history of over 70 years Batman has etched his way into popular culture, becoming what many consider to be ‘the ultimate superhero’. Yet despite his popularity many have tried, and failed, to bring the Dark Knight successfully to video games.
Enter Rocksteady Studios who, with their 2009 blockbuster Batman Arkham Asylum, developed a video game worthy of Batman’s long and rich history and crafted an experience that allows players to finally step into the shoes of the worlds greatest detective.
Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition – the Wii U version – is set in the super-sized prison of ‘Arkham City’, where the illusive Hugo Strange has confined all of Gotham’s criminals. Yet, something appears to be amiss, and Batman is determined to figure out what. In the opening minutes of the game he has himself arrested as Bruce Wayne and thrown into Arkham in order to root out Strange’s plan. What ensues is a long, brutal night that sees the Dark Knight run through a gauntlet of his rogues gallery, cure a mysterious disease and face off against Strange himself.
The events that transpire are exactly like that of any classic Batman story. There’s a nice assortment of villains who pop up, both attached to the main story or appear thanks to the games many side missions. Thematically, the themes that often arise with a good Batman yarn are also at play here, such as the question of whether Batman is the source of the chaos engulfing Gotham and how far Wayne will go before he takes a life.
I wouldn’t dare ruin anymore of the game’s story more than I may already have, because like any well told Batman story it’s best experienced first hand. What I will say is the story is partly penned by legendary writer Paul Dini who worked, among other projects, on Batman: The Animated Series – considered to be the definitive Batman series outside of the comics themselves.
As brilliant as Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition‘s story is, the gameplay is all the better. Never before has a game really planted the idea of what it’s like to be Batman. The core mechanic is built on a hand-to-hand, beat ‘em up reversal system. Basically you mash a single button and direct Batman towards who you want to attack, and push another button to counter incoming attacks. It’s really simple to come to grips with, but much harder to master.
Exclusive to the Wii U version is B.A.T mode, a sort of ‘powered’ up mode Batman can trigger when he builds up enough kinetic energy. At first glance it’s really the only new element brought to the table in this rerelease, which is ultimately quite sad since its actually one of the more throwaway elements of the game. While it’s useful in certain situations you can usually just make do with the core combat mechanics.
The two-button core gameplay is expanded further by including Batman’s arsenal of wonderful toys. At anytime during combat hold down RZ and any of the other buttons (including RZ itself again) to incorporate one of your gadgets – of course you need to have unlocked it first. The gadgets themselves are of course used in various ways outside of combat, and when encountering puzzles that require the use of multiple ones really does make you feel like you’re Batman.
Outside of the combat, you’ll be using Batman’s gadgets to clear rooms of thugs all while staying undetected. Gameplay that requires the player to be stealthy is often times hit or miss, yet Rocksteady nails it. Again, that true sense of what it’s like to be Batman is expertly handled as you rely on your own wit to figure out the best way to dispatch enemies while using the Dark Knight’s iconic gadgets.
All the staples are there. Batarang, bat-claw, smoke pellets. There really is no shortage of toys to play with in Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition. Each feels organic and useful in almost any given circumstance, and using two or more in succession will even have you saying “I’m Batman” aloud. Moreover the use of the Wii U GamePad really helps to sell the experience far more than a Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 controller ever could.
Whether using the remote control batarang, or decoding one of Riddler’s messages, the game directs you to the GamePad’s touchscreen and despite sounding a little tacky it does actually help enrich the game a lot. Perhaps it has to do with the visual connection of Batman referring to an inbuilt screen on his left fore-arm that represents, in some way, the GamePad screen on-screen. It’s kind of neat to see him flicking and tapping away while you do the same, and either by sheer design or dumb luck, Batman swipes the screen at the same time as you whenever you move through the menu screens.
Much like Darksiders II on Wii U, Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition makes available the in-game map at anytime right on the GamePad screen. At the tap of an on-screen button you can enable sonar that will pick-up nearby enemies, Riddler trophies and allow you to navigate upgrades and mission objectives. Again, it sounds a little tacky and perhaps a tad uninspired compared to what Nintendo have displayed what else Wii U can do, but it all makes for a much more streamlined game experience.
If Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition‘s GamePad integration doesn’t cut it for you, then the sheer amount of content should. Aside from a disappointingly short main story, the game packs in plenty of additional items to collect, characters to beat down and puzzles to solve. None more worthwhile than the infamous Riddler trophies that are scattered across the city. Finding every single one will certainly put you to the test, and as you collect more and more Riddler himself will challenge you to rescue hostages by way of navigating deathly Saw-inspired chambers. Really, not enough praise can be shoved onto these sections – brilliantly designed and executed making them the standout almost beyond the main stories punchline third-act.
What doesn’t deserve praise is the rather undercooked Catwoman sections. A downloadable extra originally, now meshed into the game from the start. During crucial moments in the main narrative players are pulled away from Batman and forced into trouncing around the city as Catwoman. By and large I found the sections distracting and completely wasteful. Sadly there’s no option to remove the content from Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition, so you’re just going to have to put up with it.
Another piece of additional content added in is the post-launch, post-story DLC ‘Harley Quinn’s Revenge’. Available from the game’s main menu you assume the role of Robin who goes in search of Batman after he returns to Arkham City. I won’t go into much detail as to not step into spoiler territory, but for what it is you’re certainly getting more value content wise on Wii U than other platforms.
Playing through Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition now will make you realize it’s a little over 12 months old. Visually the game still holds a punch with exceptional character models, rich detail in a spanning open-world, but shows signs of ageing thanks to some rough looking textures and the Unreal engines infamous pop-in problems. There’s also the issue of some lagging loading times, which were not as apparent on the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 build. Take it however you will, but Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition can and will eject you from its intense immersion now and again.
All tolled Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition is certainly an invest all Wii U owners should make, or any Bat-fans looking to relive the incredible experience of his stellar game. Some technical hiccups and the sadly non-optional Catwoman sections do, somewhat, ruin the experience, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an experience unlike this on the console.
Brilliantly designed, fantastic voice-acting and a rich appreciation for the Batman universe, Batman Akrham City: Armoured Edition is one Wii U you just need to own.