Batman: Arkham Asylum (opens in new tab) raised the bar for comic books-based games and developer Rocksteady improved on that formula immensely with last year’s Batman: Arkham City (opens in new tab) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The open world epic tested the Caped Crusader like never before, and the end result was an instant classic. Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition (opens in new tab) transports that adventure to Nintendo’s new console with all its best features intact, making it still one of the finest games in recent history. However, those who have already played Arkham City on another platform can safely pass on this version.
The core of Arkham City hasn’t been touched at all. As before, a huge chunk of Gotham City has been transformed into an open air prison for Batman’s worst enemies. The carefully rendered penitentiary is overseen by the devious Hugo Strange, and Batman has to invade the carefully guarded compound to uncover Strange’s nasty plot. Along the way Batman battles some of his greatest rogues, and utilizes his many skills to solve countless mysteries in a one of the greatest escapades in the character’s long career.
In the Wii U version of Arkham City, the dynamic hand-to-hand combat still feels great, the story and voice-acting remain world class, and Batman’s collection of gadgets make him one of the most versatile protagonists in gaming. Additionally, Arkham City’s approach to stealth empowers players, making you feel like an unstoppable predator stalking the shadows.
Since everything that made Arkham City one of the best games of 2011 is included, what separates the Wii U version from the rest, other than coming out a year later? The port, handled by WB Montreal, successfully integrates many of the Wii U’s unique features into the game. Most are little touches like having radio messages come from the GamePad’s speakers instead of the TV, but the biggest alterations involve transferring almost all of the sub menus to the touchscreen. You choose your equipment loadout by touching different items on the tablet screen, while many of the minigames used to unlock doors and find secret transmissions work well with touch interface. There are deeper uses, too, including searching crime scenes by pointing the GamePad at the television or setting off explosive gels by tapping the map on the touchscreen.
Unfortunately, these methods for using the GamePad are inconsistent at best, with the equipment selection being the most inessential. Almost none are preferable to playing the game with a traditional controller. Much like the new armor Batman sports in the Wii U release, these changes are primarily superficial. They don’t get in the way of enjoying this exemplary game, but they certainly don't make for a better play experience.
If somehow you’ve yet to play Batman: Arkham City, Armored Edition is a great way to finally appreciate the game along with a majority of its DLC. However, the Wii U port isn’t preferable to Game of the Year versions you’ll find on PS3 and 360. Armored Edition utilizes the GamePad better than some other AAA games being ported to the system, but that’s still not enough to make this the definitive release, or one you should go out of your way to play.