Review | Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition

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The Wii U has a surprisingly strong launch lineup. Yes, most of the games consist of ports with the exception of the lone Mario game or ZombieU, but at least most of them are newly released games, including Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. They’re games that will reach a broader audience than Nintendo is accustomed to lately.

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Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is not one of those new games – it is a year old now – but it is arguably the best game at launch. It does so much right that the flaws are made to feel superficial. This is not a testament to the Armored Edition so much as it is to the original game. The Armored Edition does a few things better and a few things worse, equalizing out to make a solid must-play for Nintendo gamers who lack a PS3 or Xbox 360.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Batman: Arkham City follows up on 2009’s hugely successful Batman: Arkham Asylum. Whereas you were confined to an island that houses Arkham Asylum in the first game, Batman: Arkham City takes place on mainland Gotham where villainous thugs have taken over entire city blocks. Dr. Hugo Strange is in charge of the place and as you can imagine, it’s not the Holiday Inn.

Batman’s goal, of course, is to stop the mayhem transpiring in the city, pitting him against familiar foes including Two-Face, the Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze and others. It’s satisfying to fight so many familiar characters but I also have to acknowledge that the developers did not do as good of a job fleshing them out as they did in Arkham Asylum. Still, fans will be pleased with the sheer quantity of villains.

Likewise, fans will be happy to hear that Catwoman is a playable character in Arkham City. She was originally only available as DLC on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but now her missions are incorporated into the game. These missions focus on Catwoman’s heists and are now integrated into the game seamlessly. In fact, all of the DLC is included on the disc: Harley Quinn’s Revenge Pack, the “Nightwing Bundle Pack, Robin Bundle Pack and Challenge Map Pack.

Playing as Batman has never been better. The developers took what was great about Arkham Asylum and built off of it. You can easily combine multiple moves with the push of just a few buttons to combine both melee attacks and a multitude of gadgets. The important thing here is that you feel like you are playing as Batman, being able to take on a crowd of twenty bad guys with ease (and they can get this large in Arkham City). The boss fights are just as satisfying, if a little on the easy side.

While Arkham City is technically an open-world game, it is not by any means a sandbox game like GTA. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of things to do, including collecting Riddler Trophies and optional side missions. The Riddler Trophies are not collectables thrown in for you to find in obscure places, either. You have to solve puzzles using logic and Batman’s gadgets in the appropriate way. All told there are several hundred of these scattered throughout the game. All of the bonus content is well worth playing and will extend the life of your experience in Arkham City by multiple hours.

As far as Wii U specific features go, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition does nothing to make us feel like the Wii U is a special piece of hardware. Of course it was never designed with the Wii U in mind originally, so this is more of an indictment of the game than the hardware. You can choose to play the entire game on your GamePad without a television, which is nice but the GamePad’s main function is to act as a way to select gear, upgrade gear, etc. but it’s just a tacked on feature that proves to be superfluous. The new “B.A.T.” mode lets you dish out slightly more powerful attacks when activated, but again, it’s not a fundamental addition that alters the game that much.

Even though I ended up buying Batman: Arkham City on the PS3, I never got a chance to review it in 2011. The Wii U experience is much the same except it includes all of the DLC that you will probably want to get your hands on and has tacked-on GamePad features. I certainly cannot recommend someone who already owns the game or has beaten it to buy the Armored Edition, but Nintendo fans who lacked a version of their own until now should feel compelled to try out this game now.