Publisher: WB Games
Developer: Rocksteady/WB Games Montreal
Medium: Wii U Game Disc
When the Wii U was shown proper at the E3 2012 show back in June, many journalists and gamers were baffled to see Nintendo give so many precious minutes of its E3 press conference to Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition since it's not an entirely new game, but rather an enhanced port of a game that came out over a year ago on PS3 and 360. Now that the game is out, those concerns still hold water, but it doesn't make the Wii U version any less fun or exciting than what many of us experienced a year ago. In some ways it makes for a great launch title, since it stands to reason there's a group of people that haven't had the chance to experience the game yet, and while I wouldn't put my stamp of approval on a 'double dip', I can't deny that Batman is still a blast to play and one of the better games available to purchase for the Wii U.
For those new to the franchise, Arkham City is the sequel to Arkham Asylum, a game released about three years ago on the 360 and PS3. You'll be fine with the story if you didn't get to play that game, but those that did will be happy to find out that you start the game with most of your gadgets that you ended the first game with. The game begins with Bruce Wayne campaigning to shut down the central part of Arkham City, where for some odd reason the mayor has decided that's the perfect place to put all of the criminals. Bruce Wayne is captured and thrown in with the prisoners and it's here we find that Dr. Hugo Strange knows that Bruce is really Batman. After a daring escape and a little help from Alfred, Bruce dons his Bat Suit and is ready to delve into the mysteries surrounding the events unfolding inside the city's inner walls.
Arkham City Armored Edition plays just like its predecessors, with awesome controls and a battle system that is the envy of every other third person brawler. It's easy to counter moves and string together combos, making the player truly feel powerful over the enemies. It's not always the best move to jump head first into battle, especially if the bad guys have machine guns. You'll often have to segregate them and take them out one by one, all stealth-like, in order to clear the area. Luckily there is a wide variety of takedown moves, like hanging from a gargoyle and tying an enemy up in the air, or sneaking up behind 2 of them and knocking their heads together. This game offers ups some nice variety in the take-downs and they're really fun to try out. True to the Batman lore, many villains will make special appearances in this game throughout your spiraling adventure. Within the first few minutes of the game you'll see the likes of Catwoman, Penguin, Joker, and Harley Quinn. Unlike Arkham Asylum, this game takes place in a fairly large area of city. You'll be able to explore this open world at your leisure, often picking up new missions along the way as you listen in on what the various thugs are bantering about. Half of the fun of this game is exploring new areas, learning new techniques, and solving puzzles (many of which are laid out by the Riddler).
For those of you that have already played this game on competing systems, you may be asking yourself, what's new in the Wii U version? The game makes heavy use of the Game Pad's touch screen to show off information and to use many of Batman's various gadgets. While it might not sound like much, one of my favorite improvements in the Wii U version is the ability to look down at the controller and see the map. I hated how long it took to pull up the map in the PS3 version, so simply having it showing at all times is awesome. Pretty much anything you would have done in a menu on the other consoles, is able to be done on the Game Pad without pausing the action on the screen. Changing weapons on the fly, scanning the environment, hacking mini-games, and more are done via the touch screen. This game can also be played without the TV by using the Game Pad. You can switch back and forth on the fly, and it looks great on the small screen if you need to use the bathroom or someone needs the big screen TV.
Both Batman and Catwoman have new armored suits, hence the subtitle to the game. Also new to the game is BAT (Battle Armored Tech) mode, which can be activated when a bar fills up. Once turned on, Batman becomes super-powerful for a short burst of time so it's easier to take out enemies. It's not a huge addition, but it might be helpful to those struggling through a challenging area. All of the previously released DLC is included on disc, which adds hours of game play. This includes: Catwoman Pack, Harley Quinn's Revenge, Robin Bundle Pack, Nightwing Bundle Pack, Challenge Map Pack, and the Arkham City Skins Pack.
Graphically the Wii U version looks on par with the PS3 and 360. The game runs smoothly most of the time, with a small hiccup in frame rate popping up every now and again. In my playtime I didn't come across too much slow down, only a few times did it pop up and it wasn't anything major. There has been some ruckus online about the game running horribly because of this, and it's just not true. It runs silky smooth most of the time and very few people will take issue with the few minor blemishes that occur every now and again. Batman was a beautiful game last year and it still remains incredibly detailed and polished a year later. You won't be disappointed with how this game looks, especially considering it's a launch title with very little development time.
If you've never had a chance to play Arkham City and are looking for a fun action/adventure game that has awesome combat, fun exploration, and an excellent presentation, you can't go wrong with Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. The game has enough content to keep you busy for over twenty hours and is entertaining from beginning to end. If you're a completionist, there are 400 Riddler trophies to find, which will take even more time to figure out. Those of you that have already played this game to completion, there's very little reason to buy the Wii U version. I suppose if you're a huge Batman fan and never downloaded the DLC, it might be worth a second buy, but don't expect anything too drastically different from you've already experienced. Batman is a solid launch title on the Wii U, and one that I highly recommend for those new to the series.