Much to their disappointment, Nintendo fans have missed out on a lot of quality games over the past few years due to the Wii’s technical limitations–and occasionally the reticence of developers. But now with the Wii U, players are able to experience some of the high profile titles of the past year or so, including one of 2011′s best offerings, Batman: Arkham City. The Wii U port, subtitled Armored Edition, adds a couple of convenient features to the gameplay including, obviously, a few controls differences, plus all of the DLC for the game, from Catwoman to Harley Quinn. The differences don’t always enhance the experience but all of the engrossing gameplay that made the original a must-play game is retained here–no fan of the Dark Knight is going to walk away disappointed.
Any Batman aficionado is no doubt going to be thrilled by the wealth of content that the developers drew upon in creating Arkham City. A multitude of Batman’s iconic rogue’s gallery show up in the city-wide prison, from the instantly recognizable faces like Joker and Two-Face to the slightly more obscure characters like Victor Zsasz who contribute to the wide selection of side quests by challenging Batman with more than just fisticuffs, making him work for his title of world’s greatest detective. The detail and care poured into these aspects of Arkham City are delightful to see in the game and bring this hive of scum and villainy to life. The main story, meanwhile, shows the same attention to detail in a slightly more rushed sense as the Dark Knight has to hurry to stop not only Dr. Strange but also whatever devious plot Joker has cooked up. The story will pull you in even while moving at a brisk pace–though some aspects of the plot do seem a little too rushed, particularly near the end–culminating in a clash of not only Batman’s physical prowess but also his emotional and moral fortitude. Again, a slower pace would have helped give the ending more weight, but even as it is, the story and setting of Arkham City manage to grasp the player’s attention ravenously, letting go only when you turn off the system.
Like its predecessor Arkham Asylum, Arkham City combines bone-cracking combat and shadowy stealth gameplay to perfectly capture the Dark Knight in video game form. The free-flow combat system is immensely satisfying when done right as you smoothly move from one opponent to another, delivering punches and kicks to the seedy group of thugs that each super villain has employed. The new Battle Armor Tech, exclusive to the Wii U version, gives you even more of an edge as you build up kinetic energy then release it to give your attacks even more power. For anyone struggling with fights–and the fights do get more complicated when enemies start wearing armor or carrying weapons–this is a great way to speed along the action. For anyone else though, the B.A.T. probably won’t see much use since good timing and a careful eye on your opponents are more than enough to finish any fight.
The other key aspect of the gameplay is stealth–enemies armed with guns pose a significant threat to Batman, so a little more care is required to take them out. The stealth gameplay is a blast to play as you pick off enemies one by one, frightening the remainder as they see their numbers dwindle until you leap out of the darkness to finish them off. The side mode called Riddler’s Revenge puts this gameplay to even better use as it adds some restrictions and extra objectives to ensure you’re using Batman’s full array of abilities to silence these grunts, and each victory is more satisfying than the last. Beyond the combat and stealth action, the game is largely divided between the main story and the massive amount of side quests that start cropping up as soon as your adventure begins. And there are a lot of side missions. For the most part this means completing Riddler’s huge list of riddles, hidden trophies, and challenges, but the more complex side quests are just as much fun to play and provide a great distraction from the main story since they tend to offer a wider variety of objectives, namely more emphasis on Batman’s detective work. There’s no shortage of things to do in Arkham City, and unlike a lot of other open-world games the majority of these missions are truly quite engaging and interesting, giving you all the more reason to explore the grimy streets and rough up a few henchmen.
Armored Edition includes all of the game’s DLC content on the disc, which includes Catwoman’s episodes, the extra characters and costumes for Riddler’s Revenge, and a bonus post-game mission. The Riddler’s Revenge stuff is okay, though it can be pretty repetitive completing the same missions over and over again as different characters. The real bonuses are Catwoman and the post-game story, and while these are unfortunately pretty short, the convenience of having them right from the start is a nice incentive to the Armored Edition. Another small addition to this edition is sonar which lets you quickly map out Riddler trophy locations and enemy positions, but like the B.A.T. this feature is generally not needed besides as a crutch to new players.
The controls are really where the most significant differences for Armored Edition come into play, which isn’t all that surprising. However, the new Gamepad specific controls don’t add much to the experience–nor do they subtract from it, after a little practice. Using the Gamepad to select gadgets is novel but can be kind of annoying since you can only map three gadgets to the D-pad for quick use; swapping them out means taking the time to open up the menu and move them around by touching the Gamepad. It’s a cute but ultimately simplistic use of the Gamepad–thankfully you can quick-fire many of Batman’s gadgets so you aren’t constantly opening up the menu. Secondly, you use the Gamepad to aim remotely controlled batarangs: the view switches to the Gamepad’s screen and you navigate by tilting the controller. Again, a cute concept but this makes controlling batarangs way more of a headache than it needs to be as there can be quite a learning curve to getting down the movements correctly. Finally there’s using the Gamepad to scan for clues while in detective mode which is another cute but essentially worthless addition to the controls. You can certainly grow accustomed to these controller quirks, but they aren’t exactly making the game more fun or easier to control–instead they’re just a little Wii U twist to distinguish the game.
It’s all too easy to overlook the beautifully detailed graphics as you glide over the city, but when you take the time to appreciate the scenery the visuals are certainly a treat. In both the environments themselves, ranging from decrepit alleyways to iced over police stations and museums, and the distinctive look of each villain, the art style and the technical performance of Arkham City’s graphics create a believably dark and foreboding setting for Batman’s adventure. The Wii U version may look slightly less detailed than the PS3/360 version when held under close scrutiny, but the difference is negligible when you play, aside from a few extra loading screens. And if the graphics help bring the setting to life, the incredible voice acting brings each villain to life. Mark Hamill’s Joker is nothing short of perfect for the clown prince of crime, and the various other voice work does a great job of capturing these recognizable characters as well.
For anyone that has already played Arkham City, the differences in the Wii U version are going to be essentially superfluous, especially since the control differences can be jarring at first. In fact, it’ll also most likely be cheaper on other platforms by now, DLC and all. For Wii U players though, Armored Edition provides the same core experience that made Arkham City one of the best titles of 2011–the content-packed environment of Arkham City, the satisfying combat and thrilling stealth gameplay, the multitude of Batman villains and references–as well as all the additional DLC on one convenient disc. If you still haven’t played this game in one form or another, you’re doing yourself a disservice, and now Nintendo fans have no excuse for missing out on one of the best game experiences of the past few years.