December 19, 2012
The biggest addition to the Wii U version is the way information is displayed on your Gamepad. It acts as a mini-map that displays you and your surrounding location. Not only that, it also displays objective markers and allows you to set waypoints. It's a neat touch, and I'm glad a lot of games are utilizing this idea. On top of that, the Gamepad offers full character bios on the fly, so you can essentially become Batman, and prep yourself with knowledge of whoever you're about to face.
Unique to this version is the ability to use sonar radar, to better find the whereabouts of enemies and aide in planning your attacks. There are also touch buttons to access your upgrades, personalize your gadget load out, and a new mode, humorously titled B.A.T mode. This mode grants Batman an enormous boost in strength, and surrounds his fist in electricity. Fighting enemies builds your B.A.T meter, and after a certain point you are able to use it.
While these are nifty integrations, especially the character bios, none of them are particularly mandatory, or necessary. B.A.T mode is a novelty you'll probably find yourself never using, mainly because you're already a powerhouse as it is. Still it may be appealing for people who essentially want to get the job done even faster.
Omitted from these Gamepad features are two that add a fantastic element to the game. The first is the way your Gamepad's camera interacts with the game. In the original version of the game, there are parts of levels where Batman would conduct investigations, where he would need to scan the environment for clues. With the Wii U, you must first calibrate the screen to your TV, and once that's done, you can move the camera around as if you were scanning the three-dimensional area yourself. It was a great element that added immersion to the experience.
Not only that, but there are additions made to some of your gadgets like the cryptographic sequencer, which is fully displayed on your Gamepad screen as a new touch-screen based mini-game. Unlike the features mentioned before, these feel truly great when playing and while they may not be what the game was desperately needing, they make this version a little more interesting.
Gameplay is what you'd expect of the 2011 version. You have your campaign, which on its own runs at a hefty length, not counting the 400+ riddles, collectibles and side missions you can do to increase longevity. There's a New Game+ feature that allows you to use your equipment and upgrades you collected in your previous save, but against enemies are much harder to beat. And there are Challenge modes that have leaderboard support which lets you play as the Batman, Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin. One interesting note that should be worth mentioning is that this is quite like the GOTY version of Arkham City, in that all of the DLC, including Harley Quinn's Revenge are included on disc.
Combat remains combo-based, focusing on timed counters, stun attacks, grapples, super attacks and of course the new B.A.T mode. While playing on the gamepad there was no instance of button latency, so it's good to see the controls transferred over well.
It's a shame the same can't be said for the visuals. Graphically, the game is on par with the Xbox 360 version, if not slightly better. The team in charge of the port added anti-aliasing to smooth the jagged edges present in both of the other console versions, and that is certainly great to see. A game built on the Unreal 3 Engine comes with its typical problems, like texture pop-in – and that is certainly present here. Screen-tearing, an issue with the PS3 version, does not seem to be an issue here.
Where the visuals start to get troublesome is how the game performs. The PS3 and the 360 version of Arkham were both locked at 30 frames per second; however they both dipped in frame when the action was heavy. For the Wii U version, the developers have unlocked the frame rate which really is a double-edged sword. On the one hand there are plenty of instances where the game runs at 30, and even shoots beyond 40 frames, however in instances where there are many enemies on screen, or in heavily action-oriented sequences, the game slows down to the low 20s.
Once again, the Wii U's CPU is not the console's strongest ally, as we see another example of a developer who clearly took less time in optimizing the game to satisfy the Wii U's architecture, and instead focused on rushing a game out just in time for launch. Hopefully the team responsible for this port can address some of these problems via online patches.
Despite the minor annoyances, Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition is still that same game that won a load of awards twelve months ago. While it's difficult to recommend double dipping, for those who have already played this game, it's easier to recommend it to those who may have missed the boat before. While some of the Gamepad integrations aren't all that important, it does show that the team responsible at least cared for how this game attempts to stand out above its other versions. It's just a shame the same level of care wasn't placed with regards to the actual performance of the game.