It's not every day that a game can see a revision that trumps the "Game of the Year Edition." But Arkham City manages to do exactly that with the Wii U-exclusive "Armored Edition." Not only does it include all the content featured in the definitive GOTY collection, it adds a few new features that take advantage of the Wii U GamePad. These additions do a terrific job of making you feel that much more like the Batman--although the port's technical shortcomings hinder the experience quite a bit.
Not much content has been added to the Armored Edition of the game. Sure, there's the titular armored suits that both Batman and Catwoman can don. Enhanced with "Battle Armored Tech," the suits build up kinetic energy that can be unleashed for harder-hitting punches and kicks. It looks cool, but the added power probably isn't worth the reduced combo count you'll get as a result.
Instead, what's unique to the Wii U version of Arkham City is how you interact with the game's overabundance of content. WB Montreal has done an impressive job of taking advantage of the GamePad whenever possible, shoehorning the tablet into nearly every aspect of the game. While some will find the experience entirely gimmicky, I've found these moments to play into my love of Batman gadgetry.
The GamePad is essentially the Batcomputer, accessible at any time. In addition to the map and radar, the tablet displays relevant database information in real-time. Not having to press "Start" to see the Penguin's bio, for example, is a nice touch. When scanning for radio signals, you use a touch-based interface to find the frequency. When investigating a crime scene, you raise the GamePad and move it around, looking for clues to scan.
My favorite addition to the game is a subtle one. All the chatter you pick up on Batman's radio is transmitted via the GamePad's speakers, not the TV. It's a silly thing to note, but having the chatter come from an audio source closer to you only adds to the immersion.
While Arkham Asylum veterans will have no problem jumping in, Arkham City will undoubtedly be a bit intimidating for Nintendo fans that are only just entering the HD generation. As in the original game, there's little direction on how to master the game's rather unique "FreeFlow" combat system. (ProTip: Don't button mash!) Even the "AR tutorials" aren't much help, as the game gives you scant instruction on how to actually play these sequences. There are the occasional prompts that highlight which gadget you're supposed to use, but expect a lot of trial-and-error guesswork as you stumble through the open world. Interestingly, the game does offer some new guidance on the new Wii U-specific features, with new voiceovers for Alfred.
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Arkham City would have been one of the most visually impressive games on Wii U at launch, rendering not only an open world, but dozens of enemies at once. You will be fighting entire mobs of enemies--an impressive feat, to say the least. However, whether it's sloppy optimization or underpowered hardware, the Wii U is not able to maintain a steady framerate. During the more crowded fights, the game chugs along with a framerate that looks like its in the teens. Even worse, when gliding around the open world, it's not uncommon for the game to simply freeze and stutter momentarily. In comparison to last year's Xbox 360 and PS3 release, the Wii U clearly suffers.
Another oddity of the Wii U version of the game. Harley Quinn's DLC is accessible at the very beginning of the game, and the associated character trophies are unlocked right from the get-go. If you want to avoid potential spoilers, we recommend not looking at this rather carelessly unlocked part of the menu.
It's a bit disappointing to have such a unique version of the game marred by such significant technical shortcomings. WB Montreal's approach to GamePad integration is novel to say the least, and having every DLC add-on included in the game makes it that much better of a deal. Rocksteady's original game remains a terrific Batman simulator, one that should be experienced on any platform. Gliding off a building, cape outstretched, kicking a goon off a ledge is still exhilarating. The numerous face-offs (and partnerships!) with iconic rogues will get any Bat-fan excited. Also, you still get to punch a shark in the face--albeit at a lower framerate.
This Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition review was based on a retail Wii U version of the game provided by the publisher. Portions of this review are based on a retail Xbox 360 version of the game also provided by the publisher.