When I purchased my Wii U back in November last year, I was only intending to pick up two games with it. However, when I arrived at my local GAME branch, I noticed that the Wii U version of Arkham City was in a deal with the console. This was something I simply could not resist (especially as it was half price). So, I instead purchased three, and the third title became the game I have played most on my new console.
I know that Arkham City is not a new game by any stretch, having been on the other consoles for months before Wii U, but I had made sure it was new to me. Arkham City is the sequel to arguably one of the best superhero games I have ever played (the incredible Arkham Asylum) and, although I really wanted to purchase it when released on other consoles, I chose to wait for the Wii U version that was promised at E3 (much to my annoyance that my friends had already finished it).
All I can say, is that it was worth the wait. After the incredible achievement that was Arkham Asylum, RockSteady needed to really push the boat out with their follow up title, and they more than succeeded. More villains, more locations, more gadgets, and more grunts to serve free-flow fist-flying justice to. Plus the move from a small area like Arkham Asylum, into a portion of Gotham City gave massive scope for adventure.
The City itself is a massive playground, full of distractions, side-quests, and fights to find. It is a gorgeous place to find yourself, with so much depth to the scenery, and so much Batman lore hidden around to find. You can literally spend hours (and I know I have), just wandering about Arkham City, just picking fights and finding new areas. In fact, it could be argued that sometimes the sheer scope of the area you have to explore sometimes detracts from the story (like with pretty much ANY sandbox game – looking at you GTA).
The story of Arkham City is brilliantly told (even though one of the ‘twists’ is pretty predictable) and kept me hooked to the very end. It couldn’t have been easy for RockSteady to create a story, in the Batman Universe, that entailed so many super-villains being in the same enclosed location. However, they succeeded in creating a solid story encompassing Batman’s showdowns with a dozen of them, as well as creating side-quests tracking down others.
Basically the story states that, after the events of Arkham Asylum, a man named Hugo Strange gains enough leverage to pass action in Gotham and segregate a portion of the city for the use as an expanded asylum to incarcerate several of Gotham’s greatest criminals. Bruce Wayne, an activist against this idea (for obvious reasons), purposely gets himself arrested and placed within Arkham City to investigate Strange from inside the complex. Thus begins (after having his suit air-dropped in) Batman’s entrance into Gotham’s new asylum.
Graphically, this game is probably the best I have played on Wii U so far. I have heard many issues that reviewers have had with it, such as low frame-rate issues, but I have seen nothing wrong. Each environment is lushly designed and created in a way that makes the entirety feel very much like you are walking the streets of Gotham. Batman, once again, looks incredible and is perfectly animated. The new concepts chosen for new villains aren’t quite as good as some of the redesigns in Asylum (such as the incredible version of Scarecrow) but all are fitting and have some fantastic voice-overs. It is just a beautiful game to witness.
Then there’s the combat system. Making a very welcome return from Asylum is the incredible free-flow combat that made the game so popular. Using only a few buttons, it is possible to string long and devastating combos together, taking on large groups of enemies at once. This method of combat actually makes you feel like you ARE Batman, it’s incredible to watch unfold, and also hard to master. However, you can’t go into every battle so readily (especially when the enemy have firearms), so you can also use stealth and intimidation techniques to take out entire rooms such as silent take-downs and clever use of your extensive array of gadgets.
Speaking in terms of gadgets, the Wii U version obviously has use of the GamePad and it’s features, arguably of which I only used a few. Having a constant map in front of you and being able to cycle through your items quickly, for instance, are both huge bonus points that I never thought I would need. However, on the other side of the coin, I have found the gyroscopic controls for the remote control Batarangs awkward and fiddly, and have simply not used Batman’s new B.A.T. Mode during combat. So, admittedly, the Wii U-exclusive features are a little hit and miss (it is however fun that all of the communication you receive from Alfred, or pick up from local communication channels, comes through the speaker on the GamePad).
Finally, with the Wii U version, Arkham City has all available downloadable content there from the beginning. This, of course, allows you to play as Catwoman in the city, which are arguably some of my favourite parts of the game. Catwoman requires very different tactics to Batman, not only in traversing Arkham City, but also in combat where she is physically weaker and has less gadgets at her disposal. Also, there are all of the additional skins available and the opportunity to play as Robin and Nightwing in the Riddler Challenges too.
All in all, Arkham City: Armoured Edition is a brilliant game, and one that I would thoroughly recommend if you haven’t played it before. The only thing that lets this version down is that the GamePad features aren’t necessary most of the time and, although it can be easily forgiven by someone like me (who didn’t play the PS3/360 versions), others may not accept this fact as readily. Do you have Armoured Edition? If so, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me @reubenmount.