The launch of the Wii U on Nov. 18 comes with a great deal of ports and updated re-releases of games that the Wii was not able to handle. One of the more promising titles is Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition.
As the “Armored Edition” hints, this version of Batman: Arkham City is not the same as the previous version. This one comes with many enhanced gameplay features in addition to the Game of the Year Edition content, which means that all previously released DLC is already included. Armored Edition hopes to live up to the claim that it is the “most immersive version of 2011’s best action game,” and so far, it looks to be supporting that conclusion.
Most of the gameplay redesigns are centered around the Wii U GamePad. Gameplay functions normally reserved for pause menus, such as selecting and upgrading gadgets, character dossiers, and full-screen maps are all done via the GamePad. Functions such as detonating explosive gel are done via the touchscreen, and detective mode investigations and remote-control Batarangs are controlled by the motion controls. The new control system promises “an unprecedented level of accuracy”. While the motion controls are solid, “unprecedented” may be a bit of an overstatement. Out of all these new features, the real-time map is the most welcome. Arkham City requires almost constant map-checking, which can really ruin the pacing by breaking up the action. The game also gives Batman an enhanced wrist computer in-game to correspond to the GamePad, which helps make players feel immersed in the action.
Combat gets a new mechanic in the form of Battle Armored Tech (B.A.T.) mode. While the acronym is almost painful enough to harken back to the ’60s Batman television show, the mechanic itself is quite useful. Batman will store kinetic energy over the course of each fight, which can then be used to activate the mode. Batman will then do additional damage with each hit. Enemy locations will also be highlighted. The bonus damage will obviously be quite useful but the increased visibility of enemies seems of questionable use in combat. Regardless, enemies will almost always mob Batman. Arkham City enemies are not particularly known for their stealth either. Still, there are many times in the original game that the damage bonus could have come in handy.
The graphics look top-notch, easily matching the presentation of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. Batman’s enhanced and upgraded armor shows why this is called the Armored Edition. The new B.A.T. Mode comes with special blue electricity effects on Batman’s gauntlets. The graphics on the GamePad are much better than players might expect from a controller screen. Even with the high level of detail on the GamePad screen, the inherently smaller size might cause problems when looking for hidden Riddler trophies or detective mode clues.
As mentioned before, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition includes all of the Game of the Year Edition content. The Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, Challenge Map, and Arkham City Skins Packs are all included along with the much-maligned Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC. While including all of this content seems only par-for-the-course considering that this port is coming out well over a year after the original, the extra content is still appreciated. The main campaign of Arkham City is easily worth the game’s price on its own, so all of the additional content just makes the game an even greater value.
Potentially the most useful and notable new feature has to be the GamePad Only Mode, which does exactly what it says. Gamers can play the game without even using a television. Not many details besides approximations of the range are known so far, so the usefulness of this feature is still up in the air. The GamePad Only Mode’s utility is limited by the range and where players place their systems. A typical setup will let the player play in an adjacent room or perhaps to-and-from the bathroom, if it’s a short walk. With these limitations in mind, the GamePad Only Mode has the look and feel of a handheld game system, possibly an intentional comparison to the Vita-PS3 connectivity.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is not content to just be a straight port of the original version and the developers should be respected for that. This updated re-release promises to showcase the features of the Wii U while also refining the core gameplay of Arkham City. In fact, the Armored Edition has enough gameplay changes that fans of the original version should consider purchasing it. While gamers will have to wait to see if the game lives up to the promise of the “most immersive version of 2011’s best action game,” Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition appears to easily qualify for the definitive version of the game.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is expected to release alongside the launch of the Wii U on Nov. 18.