2012 has certainly proved a huge year for the caped crusader. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises delivered a blockbuster conclusion to the director’s trilogy of epic proportions, yet Bruce Wayne’s alter ego had another occasion to prepare for.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is part of a slew of ports that preened themselves alongside the Wii U launch, with WB Games Montréal having the unenviable task of doing justice to Rocksteady Studios stellar title on Nintendo’s new hardware.
Whilst criticism has been placed on early software for the system being old with little new on offer, what we encounter here is an acclaimed classic re-envisioned through adapting to the unique capabilities granted by the Wii U GamePad.
Batman: Arkham City built upon the sturdy pillars of its predecessor, continuing to break the stigma that superhero franchises couldn’t effectively be converted into video game form.
Events pick up a year after those of Batman: Arkham Asylum, with Quincy Sharp, elected mayor and declaring the facility no longer fit to contain Gotham’s deranged criminals. He soon purchases the city’s slum district, turning it into a gargantuan prison encampment known as Arkham City, placing it under the control of Hugo Strange.
Bruce Wayne, wary of the project’s true purpose, hosts a press conference where he objects to its existence, immediately seeing him arrested by Tyger special forces and thrown inside. Strange reveals that he knows Bruce is the true identity of Batman and thrusts him into the squalor of Arkham City amid the criminals it holds. Yet this was Bruce’s plan all along, and, following the recovery of a Batsuit delivery from trusty butler Alfred, he begins his investigation into Strange’s motives and the countdown to the rather ominous “Protocol 10.”
Fans will rejoice in the return of the Joker, suffering from his prior overexposure to the Titan formula, supported by strong showings from the Riddler and Harley Quinn. Rocksteady delved into the inclusion of further comic book characters too, with Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Calendar Man and the Mad Hatter, to name but few, elevating the breadth of Batman’s universe that is incorporated into the game.
Batman isn’t the only playable character to take centre stage either, with the alluring Catwoman also appearing in a narrative that intertwines with that of the main storyline. She provides contrast, navigating Arkham City by swinging across the skyline with her whip and pouncing up the side of buildings. Also proving particularly agile in combat, and able to scurry across grated ceilings to investigate otherwise inaccessible areas.
Gadgets are placed at your disposal, geared towards progression and opening up new methods of approaching combat. Explosive Gel can be placed to destroy weakened walls, whilst remote-controlled Batarangs can be used to hit otherwise inaccessible switches through use of the Wii U GamePad’s gyro sensor. With further gear including the Line Launcher, Freeze Blast and Cryptographic Sequencer, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, and the experience diverse.
Batman’s “Detective Mode,” which highlights key parts of his surrounding environment such as enemies and interactive elements, is further expanded. A side mission in which you trace assassinations performed by Deadshot, for instance, sees you scanning the murder scene for forensic evidence, pointing you toward his location.
Content specific to the Armoured Edition includes a new Battle Armored Tech (B.A.T.) mode that can be employed during combat, the player gathering kinetic energy through hitting enemies that fills a blue bar in the corner of the screen. Once full this can be activated by clicking both thumbsticks, providing you with a temporary attack boost until it expends.
Support for the Wii U GamePad is also to be applauded, with WB Games Montréal implementing the particularly slick use of the touch screen that allows the game to stand out amidst the launch software line-up. Players can place markers on the map, speedily navigate to required menu screens, and make switches between the gadgets currently equipped. Such ideas are simple, but they help gravitate the experience.
Use of the Cryptographic Sequencer to hack devices sees players tasked with finding weak spots by observing a proximity indicator at the top of the screen. Whereas Victor Zsasz’s side mission sees the player rush between ringing phone booths, as they trace their finger across the touchscreen to triangulate his hidden location.
Such functionality works well, as well as the capability to play solely on the Wii U GamePad without the need for a TV, and will provide an added draw even to those that have already played through Batman’s celebrated adventure.
Whilst it’ll take weeks to complete all of the Riddler challenges alone, with all downloadable content included on the disc there’s plenty to keep you occupied beyond completion of the main storyline too. All Batman skins are available to you, throwing references to variances of the character’s design over the years, as well as Challenge Map packs and Harley Quinn’s Revenge, which is a story-based expansion that takes place two weeks after the conclusion of the game.
Where the game lets itself down, however, is its visual parity with competitor platforms. Disappointingly, texture pop-in and frame rate slowdown prove detrimental to a version that would otherwise be set to surpass that already seen on other systems. It is unclear whether such issues may be corrected through a patch, either.