Batman Arkham City Armored Edition
Publisher: Warner Home Games
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up/Sandbox Action
Release Date: 11/18/2012
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Batman: Arkham City was a great game. When I reviewed it last year, I gave it one of my highest ratings ever. Then, when it came time to give out the 2011 Video Game Awards, Arkham City walked away with Best Action Game of the Year and it tied for our Game of the Year award with Radiant Silvergun. That’s pretty damn impressive. Earlier this year, Warner and Rocksteady bundled all the DLC in with the core game and released a GOTY Edition that was just as fun, as well as easier on the wallet for those that missed out the first time around. Now, just a few months later a THIRD version of Arkham City hits shelves. This time it’s a Wii U exclusive (as well as a launch title) known as the Armored Edition. Now, the catch here is that practically everyone has already picked this up for either the PC, PS3 or Xbox 360 in either its original or GOTY form, so that leaves three big questions about Armored Edition. The first is who is left to pick this up? The second is, why would people pay sixty dollars for a game they already have? The third is, “Is Armored Edition different enough that it’s worth twenty dollars more than the GOTY Edition?” Let’s find out.
As for the first question, Nintendo faithful didn’t get a chance to experience Arkham City, so now is their chance. Granted, the percentage of gamers that don’t have a 360 or a PS3 relative to people who would be interested here is a bit slim, as is the percentage that only own a Wii and plan to get a Wii U at launch. Still, for those gamers, this is their chance to experience a truly wonderful game. You get all the DLC, like the Catwoman storyline, Harley Quinn’s Revenge, the various skins and challenge packs, along with playable characters Nightwing and Robin (for challenge packs) – all without having to download copious amounts of stuff to your hard drive. Considering the Wii U’s hard drive is only 32 gigs max, this is a real benefit. Of course, there are also the PC, PS3 and 360 owners that haven’t picked up Arkham City for whatever reason, as this is their chance as well. So there’s a small percentage of gamers left to pick this up that haven’t experienced the original version of Arkham City and will have a Wii U at launch. I can’t see Armored Edition moving a lot of copies, but like with a lot of the Wii U launch titles, it’s not that the game is bad. Far from it. It’s that everyone who wanted it picked it up months ago for a different console.
Now for the second question. If you already own Batman: Arkham City, why should you pick up Armored Edition? Well, if you own the original, you’re getting all the DLC with this, and it’s almost the same cost to get this and the special Wii U content for the same price as the PS3/360 DLC. If you own the GotY Edition, you’d be paying twenty bucks just to experience the Wii U changes. I can’t really say I’d personally have purchased the Armored Edition because I picked up the original Collector’s Edition for the PS3 (snazzy statue, Robin DLC and other fun stuff) and I don’t see the point in owning the same game for multiple consoles. That said, after playing the review copy Warner sent, I could understand trading in the original PS3 or 360 version for this (unless you are a trophy/achievement oriented gamer) as you’re getting a lot more content. I still don’t think it would be worth it to exchange the GotY version for Armored Edition (or purchase AE on top of the GOTY version) however, as you’re then paying roughly $100 for two versions of the same game – one with Wii U bells and whistles. I don’t think any game is worth purchasing multiple copies of unless one is radically different from the other for whatever reason (Say, the original PSX Persona and the PSP version; the latter has all the missing content that the US PSX version lacked and it’s portable, even if the translation is god awful.). Still, the Wii U version isn’t just bells and whistles; it fundamentally changes how you play Arkham City. There aren’t a lot of changes mind you, but what has changed is pretty striking.
Now, if you want to know all about the story, gameplay and the mechanics of Batman: Arkham City, you should really read my original review. Just click on through and you’ll get seven or eight pages on the core experience. From here on, we’re going to focus purely on the Wii U experience, how it differs and what is new. I have to assume that nearly everyone reading this has played the original or GOTY version of Arkham City and I neither want to repeat myself or bore the audience.
The majority of the changes revolve around the GamePad the Wii U comes with. I should bring up that, unlike a lot of Wii U launch titles, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition only allows for play with the GamePad, not the Classic Controller or the Wiimote/Nunchuk setup. As the GamePad is laid out like a controller with a tablet in the center, people that have played the game before should have no problem with combat, figuring out Riddler puzzles and the like. Where things will feel a lot different is with the touch screen. Nearly everything that isn’t wanton violence is mapped to the GamePad. You’ll pick what items you want to use here, select upgrades and new abilities from the touch pad instead of going to the pause menu, track clues from here instead of on the main screen, set and explode your gel capsules and more. The new Sonar mode (think detective mode from Arkham Asylum) uses the GamePad screen. You can even use it for the Batarangs for pinpoint accuracy. The motion controls are great, and it’s much more precise than what I experienced in either Arkham game on my PS3, but it’s not going to blow you away by any means. Still, it’s nice to see this isn’t just a $20 more expensive direct port. The best of the new abilities, to me, is the real time map though. No more constant pausing in and out to check the map. It’s always able to be there on your GamePad. I should add the caveat that confining the use of secondary abilities to the GamePad will either delight or frustrate gamers. Those who are used to previous versions of the game might not like this, simply because it’s different and not instinctive to them. Newcomers, however, will find that the GamePad makes Arkham City feel more realistic and real-time. Both versions of gameplay have their advantages and drawbacks – it just depends on if you like things real-time or with a pause menu.
It’s also worth noting that you can play the ENTIRE GAME on the GamePad. A lot of launch titles are taking advantage of this option and Arkham City Armored Edition is no exception. So if your wife, child, or someone else wants to watch TV or even play a different game on a different system, you can just switch to the screen on your GamePad and play like Armored Edition was on a portable system. Now, it is worth pointing out that playing strictly on the GamePad causes Armored Edition to lose most of its uniqueness from previous versions. You don’t have the ability to use two screens at once and the gameplay goes back to what you experienced on the PS3 or 360. Still, you’re getting a somewhat portable version of Arkham City with the GamePad only option, but remember there is limited range. It’s not like a Vita or 3DS.
Combat gets an upgrade too, via the Battle Armored Tech Mode aka B.A.T. (ho ho ho). Batman, and all playable characters, have access to this mode, although only Catwoman and Batman have redesigned outfits to go along with it. I will say I’m not a fan of the new skins for Bruce and Selena, but that’s why we have all those extra skins for free with this version of the game, right? B.A.T. basically lets Batman have the same power a lot of beat ‘em up or even fighting games have. You’ll slowly charge up power as you give and take damage. After you build enough enough energy, you can activate B.A.T. mode. In this mode, you’ll deal a lot more damage and have an easier time detecting enemies. Of course, the upgrade isn’t really needed, as detecting enemies in the game has never been hard. The extra damage is much appreciated though, especially when Batman is literally mobbed by cannon fodder. This does make combat a little easier, but it’s neither a game breaking ability nor one you’ll ever NEED to use. More often than not, you’ll appreciate B.A.T., if not the armored up outfits.
Aside from these changes (which are minor or major depending on your outlook), this is the same old Batman: Arkham City you played in 2011. The graphics are a bit retouched, as the processor in the Wii U is weaker than in the PS3 or 360, but the game still looks good. I will say it DOES look better on my PS3, but the differences are minor enough that only a console fanboy is going to truly care. The game still looks gorgeous, and Batman fans will have a blast with this. If you have already played it, than you know what to expect, but since Arkham City is so huge, this is your chance to discover plotlines, subquests and Easter Eggs you might have missed the first time, as well as get your hands on a whole new way to play the game.
At the end of the day, I really had fun with Arkham City Armored Edition. The story and game both held up well a year later, even though I knew what to expect from beginning to end. The new controls are well done and it keeps the game fresh. If you don’t already have Arkham City for whatever reason, I would suggest that this is the version to get. You get everything that the GotY edition has, plus more, and you don’t have to download a ton of crap to your hard drive to play the game. The downside is the slightly weaker visuals, a bit of rare slowdown when there are a ton of enemies on the screen that wasn’t in previous versions (again, weaker processor. Warriors Orochi 3 scaled back on the max number of enemies on screen in the Wii U version for this same problem while ACAA hasn’t.), and some gamers might not like that everything is immersive and in real-time instead of being able to pause and look at things. Is it worth trading in your original or GOTY edition for this, or owning two copies of the same game? I personally don’t think so. I like my statue and neat case for the original Arkham City too much, and I already own much of the DLC (free Robin with the Best Buy purchase and a few others for reviewing purposes back in the day) so if I had to choose only one, I’d keep my PS3 version. Still, if you don’t already own Arkham City, this is the one I’d recommend. For twenty dollars more than the GOTY Edition, you’re getting download free gaming and a very different gameplay experience. Whether that’s worth it to you or not is your own personal opinion, and that twenty dollars CAN buy you another game or two on PSN or XBLA. You just have to decide if you want a traditional beat ‘em up sandbox affair or something that feels more real time and realistic. Just remember though, with the PS3 or 360 version, years from now if your system crashes, those servers will be down and you won’t be able to download the DLC or the Catwoman bits. With Armored Edition, you never have to worry about that problem. Is that worth twenty dollars? If you’re planning to stick with this game for the long haul, it really is.
Control and Gameplay: Good
Originality: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: Very Good Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition may be twenty dollars more than the GOTY Edition for the PS3 and 360, but it’s the version I would definitely recommend to people who still haven’t picked up some version of this award winning title. The graphics are a little weaker than in other versions, but the gameplay more than makes up for it. Good-bye pause screens and hello to a more real-time immersive experience. Of course, whether you prefer that or not is something you have to experience for yourself, but I really enjoyed it. All the content from the GOTY edition is here, sans the need to download all of it and store it on a hard drive. Even better, you’ll always have access to the content in this game, unlike other console versions where if the hard drive and servers go, you won’t ever be able to re-download it. Add in the ability to play the entire game on the GamePad as a quasi-portable title and you have far more than just another re-release or port. Again, if you somehow haven’t picked up this game in some fashion yet, the Wii U version is the one to get. If you already own it for the PS3, 360 or PC, the only thing you are missing out is a new way to play the game, and though it’s something you should really try, I can’t say it is worth repurchasing the same game all over again for another sixty bucks.