Arkham City: Armored Edition: Knight in shining armor

December 2, 2012

Three years ago, Batman: Arkham Asylum redefined superhero games, licensed games and even action games. We haven’t seen anyone attempt to re-create what Arkham Asylum did and pull it off as successfully. Arkham City proved that the formula still works, and the addition of an open world added a lot to an already great formula. Now we have the Armored Edition, the Wii U version of one of last year’s best releases. It provides all of the content you would want out of Arkham City with a few interesting Wii U specific changes, some better than others.  

How does Batman get himself involved in yet another predicament like this? The actual answer is pretty cool, but to avoid spoilers I’ll just say that Batman is once again stuck in Arkham and Hugo Strange is running the show. On top of that, he has to deal with a multitude of other villains, including Two-Face, The Riddler, The Joker and a few more I won’t spoil here. The story goes in some surprising directions, and manages to impress from start to finish. Once you get to the last third, you’re in for some real amazing twists. Most of the voice actors reprise their roles here as well, with a long list of excellent performances all throughout.

You start out in Arkham City, able to roam wherever you please, almost overwhelmed by things to do right from the start. There is plenty of content outside of the main story, including a large number of side quests (many of which involve a number of different Batman villains), a good number of prisoners to beat down, Riddler challenges to solve, and more. Every single side quest littered throughout the rather large city is fun, with some offering a nice change of pace from the main story. You will never run out of things to do in Arkham City, and Rocksteady has managed to squeeze just the right number of villains in here without it feeling too crowded.

To get around, you’ll have to rely on Batman’s glide ability, which will allow you to traverse the different sections of the city quickly. Combine that with the always handy Batclaw and you’ll be zooming through the different districts in no time. The glide and Batclaw combo is one of the most satisfying ways to travel in an open world game I’ve seen in a while, and if you complete some optional AR challenges, you’ll earn another ability that will reduce the down time even more. With the game’s map and menus being very easy to navigate, you’ll never have a problem managing your different tasks.

Outside of roaming around the city, you’ll find yourself going to a few different major buildings in the main story, each of which is essentially like the different buildings you would find scattered around Arkham Asylum. You will probably spend most of your time in these areas, but you’ll never really get bored of them.

Like with Arkham Asylum, combat and stealth are the two major components of the game. The combat is as fast and fluid as ever, providing yet another example of how to do an action game right. As before, you attack by pressing the main attack button in tandem with a direction on the stick, allowing you to move between targets effortlessly. You also have the ability to counter and use your cape to stun enemies, both of which are almost paramount to surviving large encounters. And while Arkham Asylum let you use your Batarangs in combat, you have a much wider array of gadgets at your disposal this time, making the combat seem a little more varied than ever before.

This all blends together seamlessly, allowing you to pull of multiple hit combos without too much effort. It does get difficult later on, of course, but as you learn new moves and get new gadgets, the different encounters won’t pose too much of a threat. And new to the Wii U version is Batman’s armored suit, which, when powered up and activated, makes Batman’s attacks more powerful allowing you to deal with large groups of enemies with relative ease. This is an interesting addition, but I never found myself using it all that much.

The stealth mechanics are relatively unchanged, as Batman will still Batclaw from structure to structure to avoid being detected. The mechanics still work perfectly, with a few new surprising elements brought in to mix things up. While there are the standard stealth sections, there are also plenty that are sprawled out throughout the city. You’ll find lots of enemies with guns that have taken over rooftops and other locations, which will keep you on your toes while you glide around, exploring and taking on side quests.

The boss battles were a major problem in the original, with a lot of the bigger boss battles (including the final boss) becoming rather tedious. While the fights are still relatively easy, the boss battles are way more creative in Arkham City and, with more villains, you’ll have plenty of fights to look forward to. None of them feel similar, and they all stand-out on their own, with the final battle in particular truly delivering in a way the bosses in Arkham Asylum should have.

Detective vision returns as well. When you use it, some of the HUD elements are removed, but you will probably find yourself relying on it just as much as you did in Arkham Asylum as it continues to be fairly helpful. There are a couple of specific boss battles that rely heavily on this mode and use it to amazing effect, showing that it’s more than just a handy hint system.

While Arkham City is still the same amazing game it was a year ago, the Wii U adds some new twists to this formula. For one, the GamePad is used as your main hub for menus and the map of the city. From here, you can upgrade Batman’s suit, check on character information and mark your map with waypoints. During specific parts of the game that focus on using the detective vision to search for clues, you are forced to look at the GamePad to scan the area. This is a neat idea, but feels relatively pointless in the grand scheme of things. I appreciate having the menus on the GamePad though, as it makes it easier to pinpoint locations I need to travel to and also upgrade without needing to exit to a separate menu.

On top of Wii U features that don’t really add all that much to the overall experience, the framerate in this version never seemed stable, especially during combat. This is a gorgeous game that is perfectly stable on consoles and PC, but for whatever reason this port seems to struggle to support the fluid combat and open world as well as it should. Whether or not this is an issue with the Wii U or the port itself is unknown, but this turns what could have been the best version of the game into one of the worst.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better action game than Batman: Arkham City, but you won’t be hard-pressed to find a better version of this fantastic game. This could have been the definitive edition, and yet it’s bogged down by problems that make it seem like a less than stellar purchase, especially if you have the option to get another version. If you have no other choice, the frame rate issues won’t kill the experience completely; this is still a brilliant game with plenty of content to keep you busy for quite some time.

Pros: Combat continues to be fast, intuitive, and brutal; lots of content that will please any fan of Batman
Cons: Framerate issues, Wii U specific features not great

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.