Holy rusted armor, Batman!
For me, Batman: Arkham City was one of the crowning achievements of this console generation—never mind just 2011. So, when I heard it was being ported to the Wii U for the system’s launch (13 months after its initial release, mind you), I certainly understood why. But when I went hands-on with the new Armored Edition at this year’s E3, I was disappointed with the Wii U “innovations”—it seemed Nintendo loyalists wouldn’t get nearly the same smooth experience I had when I first played the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. I understood that a 15-minute demo wouldn’t be nearly enough time to pass final judgment on this one, though—especially as it was my first experience with the Wii U, period.
Flash-forward five months later, and I’ve been playing the Wii U incessantly along with my fellow EGM cohorts. And though some of my fears have been assuaged—and some of the new features have even impressed me—several new problems that have arisen that make Batman: Arkham City—Armored Edition the clearly inferior version of this phenomenal game.
The first flaw that you’ll notice rather quickly is glitches that were never present before—audio suddenly cutting in and out and weird shadows in cutscenes that make many characters look unnatural. In fact, the very look of the game as a whole has almost a waxy quality to it now, where you wonder if it actually takes full advantage of the Wii U’s HD. Maybe some of this odd look is just Batman’s new cheap suit of armor, which leads us to another major problem in all the gimmicks that have been tacked on in order to try to sell this version of the game: the B.A.T. system.
With the B.A.T. system, Batman can absorb the kinetic energy thrown around in battle and then channel it into enhanced strength. The problem is that this redesign makes the game far too easy. Fights where you had to strategize who you’d take out first—as thugs came at you with knives, shields, stun batons, and all other manner of weaponry—are now nullified, as the B.A.T. system makes it so that every enemy can now be taken down in only a couple of hits.
The next problem comes via the Wii U’s GamePad controller and the touchscreen features that have been added. The hopes were that by adding your inventory screen and minimap to the controller, it would create a more fluid experience. Instead, it does the exact opposite. The controller’s minimap is less detailed and harder to read than if you were pausing the game and looking at it on a normal-sized TV screen. It also fails to streamline the experience in any way, as you’re still interrupting the game to look down at the screen and set waypoints, level Batman up, or change gadgets—and now you’re doing it with Batman in the open, vulnerable to the dangers of the living, breathing environment of Arkham City. This again deters the strategy offered in the original version.
One way to escape this problem is by playing the entire game on the Wii U GamePad tablet, should you wish to use your TV for something else. I do applaud the fact that there’s no lag or choppiness, but playing the game on the controller’s tiny screen—which is of a worse quality than what you’d get with an iPad, iPhone, or even the PS Vita—only makes the visuals look even more muddy and unappealing.
The final shortcoming with Armored Edition also involves the Wii U controller. Having to hold it up and move it around to scan areas in Detective mode or to pilot my remote-controlled Batarang had me grinding my teeth at times while also grinding the poorly placed controller joysticks. Also, the cheesy effect of having Alfred talk through the controller became tiresome quickly, as the audio quality is so poor on the small speakers. It all felt like unnecessary proof-of-concept mechanics that again were much smoother and simpler on other systems.
Now, I’ve really honed in on the negative aspects I found with this port, but this isn’t to say the game is broken and completely unplayable. Gamers who don’t have the muscle memory of playing the game on Xbox 360 or PS3 will likely more readily adapt to the controller, and the core elements that made Batman: Arkham City so great are still present. The enthralling story, the classic DC characters, and even all the DLC is bundled onto the disc so that once you beat the main story, you can go back and play Harley Quinn’s Revenge or use Nightwing, Robin, or Catwoman on their challenge maps. The combat system that allowed Batman to showcase his bevy of martial-arts maneuvers is also still available, should you choose to ignore the B.A.T. feature.
But, like many of the ports that are coming to the Wii U long after their initial release, there’s really no positive reason for you to look into this port if you’ve played it before on other consoles; this is simply a dumbed-down version for the Nintendo hardcore. I legitimately feel bad that they get this bastardized version of Batman: Arkham City—they’ll never know how great this game was in its perfectly polished original form.
SUMMARY: Although the core of Batman: Arkham City remains intact, new glitches and tacked-on gimmicks take away from the overall experience enough to make this a clearly inferior version of one of the great games of this generation.
- THE GOOD: Same great story with all DLC packs already on the disc.
- THE BAD: New glitches and unnecessary gimmicks make this a worse version than its predecessors.
- THE UGLY: How the game looks if you play exclusively on the Wii U controller.
Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition is a Wii U-exclusive version of Batman: Arkham City.