Downright amazing story; some of video gaming's finest voice acting; Arkham City itself is enormous; Combat is intuitive and immensely exciting; some GamePad functionality adds to the experience; a plethora of challenge missions to tackle; comes complete with all DLC; exploring Arkham City is filled with intrigue and lots to do; the definitive version of the game.
The new B.A.T mode doesn't add much to the overall experience; minor technical hiccups; so many characters means some get overshadowed.
When I sat down to write this review, I stared at my computer screen for minutes on end, trying to decide how I was ever going to aptly put into words just how perfectly and meticulously crafted nearly everything about Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition truly is. Was I going to drone on and on about the primal combat that is seamless beyond words and a visual feast for the eyes? Was I going to convey the beauty of its intricately woven and jaw-dropping story made all the better by some of the best voice over work in, not only gaming, but all of animated multimedia?
Or was I going to discuss the mind boggling expansive landscape that is Arkham City itself, and how playing in this DC Comics sandbox satisfied my inner child and gaming adult simultaneously to the point that I found myself not doing any particular thing related to the narrative just so I could take in all the sights and sounds the game has to offer? The truth is, I want to talk about all of that and so much more because Batman: Arkham City deserves to be talked about, and talked about in a way that convinces every single reader of its brilliance, and to ultimately buy this game if you haven’t already.
Around this time last year, I had the pleasure of picking up Arkham City on Xbox 360. I knew immediately that I was going to love the game – and I did. I figured coming back to it now would feel a bit like a chore, even despite how miraculous the experience was; however, that was the farthest thing from the truth. In actual fact, Arkham City Armored Edition was a fantastic revisit to a game that I knew I loved, but didn’t realize just how much I loved it until the small, but delightful, enhancements demonstrated this was a great game that simply got greater.
If you’re new to the game, let me give you a rundown of what to expect in the way of story. You’ll don the cape of the dark knight and tend to the recent construction of a super prison in the heart of Gotham. This new hold for all things evil strikes a chord with Bruce, and he sets out to make a public plea for those in charge to reconsider this idea, stating that all of Gotham is at risk from the prison’s creation and subsequent location. In just mere moments of making this speech in front of the penitentiary, Bruce is knocked out and taken hostage, and placed in the prison itself. This, of course, sets into motion a series of some truly excellent plot points.
What makes this title so compelling is the clever use of nearly the entire Batman rogues gallery. You’ll see all of your favorites such as Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman alongside those lesser known but extremely interesting personalities of Dr. Huge Strange and Solomon Grundy. Although it can feel like the villains have to fight for screen time on occasion, it’s a wonderful problem to have, even if it does mean that said villains’ appearance feel contrived rather than natural– but that’s a minor gripe. The point here is the interaction and coming together of all of these characters, along with how each of them fit into Arkham City’s unique world is awe-inspiring.
What’s more is just how magnificent the voice actors are for each of the iconic characters. Each actor provides their character with true depth and meaning, which serves as a vessel in taking the narrative to elevated heights of comic book awesomeness. Thankfully, even if you aren’t familiar with the comics, you’ll have plenty to sink your teeth into without ever feeling all that out of the loop. Developer Rocksteady has put together a comprehensive storyline that manages to treat longtime loyalists and diehard fans, while also catering to a more casual crowd who can get behind those bigger named personalities. It’s a wonderful balance that is often times the focal point of Arkham City’s adventure.
Of course, it dares to get upstaged by the actual gameplay. Akrham City Armored Edition follows up on the formula of the original game, Arkham Asylum, and manages to refine a set of systems that felt nearly flawless with which to begin. For starters, this game is a sandbox game, so you can best think of it as Grand Theft Auto meets Batman, as you can go anywhere, do anything, and take the game at your own pace. Though the story is great, be prepared to get sidetracked by one of the game’s many sidequests which can range from stemming off some robbers to protect a citizen to more death-defying excursions. Regardless of what you choose to do, and how you spend your time, much of your playthrough with Arkham City will be in the midst of trading blows with some of the city’s lowest scum. And boy, it has never felt better to lay the smackdown than it does as the caped crusader, especially with the arsenal he’s packing in this game.
The combat plays out in an extremely fluid and dynamic way, despite really only being a two-button brawler. You essentially perform all your attacks with one button, and counter with the other. The best part of the battling is how the game manages to make you actually feel and look like Batman himself. You’ll effortless and so damn smoothly transition between the bad guys that surround you, executing an armada of bone-crunching maneuvers that you won’t know whether to let out a child-like scream of glee or wince in empathy as you watch Bruce snap the closest thug’s arm after the goon tried to sucker punch him from behind.
The combat is incredibly hard-hitting and Batman’s melee moves carry with them a sickening sense of weight that is portrayed so well in all of his actions as well as his enemy’s reactions to those moves. Punches send henchmen flying, and throws slam them down without mercy. It’s marvelous to see Batman zipping around the eight-to-ten man mob that surrounds him, taking each one down one at a time without being hit. It’s the kind of thing you read about and watch in the comics and movies and wish you could play out yourself but don’t because you’re not off your rocker. Here, however, that fantasy is able to play out with a gross sense of enjoyment. It’s equally as great to play as Catwoman’s mission as she fights very differently from Batman himself.
To supplement the hard-hitting brawling are the Wii U exclusive features including Batman and Catwoman’s new Armored suits and Battle Armored Tech (B.A.T) mode. The former allows players to build up kinetic energy during battle and then enter B.A.T mode to boost the strength of your attacks and increase your battlefield awareness. These add-ons aren’t game-changing, or even all that obvious, but they are nevertheless a nice addition.
Adding to this hard-hitting action are the boss battles which are equally as phenomenal. I’m not a supporter of boss battles in games, however, I can get onboard with the idea when they’re implemented effectively. Fortunately, that’s the case here. They will try to brutalize you, and will undoubtedly test your metal. Better yet, they each require some kind of method of intervention to employ and by which to take them down, so figuring that out all the while trying to stay alive produces a truly tense experience.
Also exclusive to Wii U’s Armored Edition is the incorporation of GamePad and touchscreen mechanics that manage to improve the experience a bit. You can access mission objectives, upgrade your gear, pick which gadget you’ll use, detonate explosive gel, and comb the vicinity for clues in Detective mode. Furthermore, the second screen acts as a real-time map of Gotham, so you can pull up your position any time you wish. Even better, you can play the entire game on the GamePad without needing a television, making the game suddenly portable. Unlike those other small touchscreen enhancements, including this GamePad-only mode is a really great addition that I wish was more of a priority for other Wii U developers.
Aside from all that, Arkham City is just generally jam-packed with stuff to do. Batman can take to the skies and soar across them thanks to his handy cape which makes traversing the city a breeze and fun. He can dive bomb down practically out of the clouds to swoop in on a felon about to add one more crime to his rap sheet, or he can glide from one building top to a lower one, bringing himself to a sudden stop with a flying drop-kick to a heinous baddie that sends him off the roof and onto the streets far below. You can also decide, if you tire of all the action, to find one of the 400 Riddler trophies that are scattered throughout the expansive city. You can also take on challenge maps, too, as other characters such as Robin and Nightwing. It’s hard to not almost feel overwhelmed with the seemingly limitless options. Armored Edition even includes every bit of DLC from the 360 and PS3 versions, which further extends the lengthy campaign.
It’s difficult to make any headway in the game when you find yourself stopping just to stare at its gorgeousness. The graphics in Arkham City Armored Edition are top notch. Textures are crisp, character models have a distinct organic form to them, and the use of color saturation to create a portrayal of dejection and desolation is extraordinary. Other effects such as the rain that will feel constant also add to the overall tone of the game. There’s something about watching the rain splash off an opponent each time you lay into them with a devastating kick, or forearm smash to the chin, that is riveting. It doesn’t hurt matters either that, despite how beautiful the game is, the frame rate remains pretty steady. Though, this is one area that Arkham City Armored Edition takes a hit. In the more chaotic battles, or when there’s a lot happening on-screen, the game will have a tough time keeping up. This drop in FPS never deterred my experience, but was nonetheless an annoyance. There are also instances of texture pop-in, which is an eyesore. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often to really matter.
It’s truly difficult to not recommend this game to those who haven’t yet experienced its greatness. At the same time, it’s hard to suggest Armored Edition to anyone who has already played the original simply because you’re not getting a whole lot new. That being said, this is hands down the best and most complete version of the game. The new Wii U additions don’t add substantive depth, but they are nice enhancements all the same. If you haven’t picked up Arkham City, then I urge you to buy Armored Edition. If you don’t, just know that you’re missing out on one of the most influential games of the past decade. It’s a multimedia masterpiece and should be experienced by anyone who even remotely considers themselves a person who likes video games.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.