The Dark Knight has his handy gadgets, and now you have yours.
This year we learned Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition would come to the Wii U in 2012, a year after Arkham City proper released on the other consoles. If you refrained from purchasing any other version of the game until now, you may have made the right decision. Between the additional on-disc content, off-screen play, and GamePad features, this may be the best way to experience Arkham City.
The plot of Arkham City remains unchanged and worth experiencing. The entire story takes place in Arkham City, a closed-off prison colony inside Gotham. Like the first game, this concentrated setting gives the series’ eccentric characters and dark tone room to shine. Many of the game’s moments involve you running from one building to the next to advance the plot; at some points, this felt like too much of a task, though an interest in the plethora of side quests may make up for it.
Along with the extras built into the main game, the Wii U version features content on the disc available through download on the other console versions. Most notable are the addition of Catwoman levels and an extra campaign, “Harley Quinn's Revenge.” The Catwoman levels are played throughout the game’s main story and feel like more of the same with a different combat twist. Harley Quinn’s Revenge puts you in control of Robin after the events of main story. Both sets of levels act as additional stories in the game’s fiction, allowing you to spend more time in the engaging Arkham City.
Batman’s technical performance on the Wii U didn’t impress me quite as much as the game’s story and setting. I noticed at least four instances of significant slowdown in the middle of cut scenes, during which the whole game would freeze for several seconds. Eight seconds of downtime out of many cinematic moments is not a huge deal, though I wish these issues had been addressed prior to launch. The game seems to excel graphically, however. I played Arkham Asylum on my PlayStation 3 last year, and this version appears on par, if not better, visually. I played much of the game on only the GamePad, but found that while it holds up visually, the GamePad just didn’t seem to capture the dark tone of the game quite as well.
Generally the combat in Arkham City felt rather bland. During the game’s often-lengthy fights, you’re either attacking or responding to the counter symbols displayed above enemies as they attack you. While there are a few enemy variations you must handle differently, after exploiting their weaknesses you return to the repetitive formula of beating and countering. This type of fighting is prevalent throughout the entire game, far too often for my tastes. Fortunately, you can often take down enemies in other ways. The game provides plenty of rooms and outdoor environments where you can use stealth instead of brute force to take out baddies. This stealth gameplay forces you to plan ahead and make moves efficiently to remain unseen. Though occasionally frustrating because of their difficulty, the amount of strategy required in these instances can also be a lot of fun. The game’s boss fights felt very easy; most focused on the use of one gadget or another and just forced you to dodge left and right while using it.
Armored Edition’s use of the GamePad is the main thing distinguishing it from other versions. I have mixed feelings over its implementation: at times it is a handy tool, and at others it is more of a nuisance. When in combat, switching gadgets requires you to look away from the action to properly select your weapon of choice. Perhaps this could work if it froze the gameplay momentarily, but the game keeps the punches rolling even with you out of the action. When not in combat, it is fun to steer batarangs, decrypt panels, or even just upgrade your armor and weapons with the GamePad. It feels as if the developers intended to take advantage of the hardware but went a little too far, making you use it for even the simplest of tasks.
It is hard to recommend Armored Edition to someone who has already experienced Arkham City. If you have not yet traveled the streets of Arkham City, this version should make a fine introduction; the GamePad just doesn’t offer enough benefits to warrant a purchase for second playthroughs. A few technical bugs aside, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is a great port of one of last year’s great games.