E3 2012 Preview: Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition

June 14, 2012

Batman: Arkham City was one of 2011’s  standout titles, and Armoured Edition aims to bring all of its open world hi-jinks and stealthy shenanigans to the Wii U, albeit a year later. If you find you’ve managed to wait until now to try one of the best superhero videogames of all time, then there is enough new content in Armoured Edition to justify waiting a little longer.

For starters, Armoured Edition comes with all the DLC and formerly-whatever-edition-exclusive content which you could plug into Arkham City. This includes the recent Harley Quinn’s revenge expansion, Catwoman as a playable character and her side missions, Nightwing, Robin, all of the different skins to make Batman look like his animated self or an old nonce and so forth. That Game of the Year content alone may tip the scales in favour of waiting for this edition, but there’s more.

Potentially the most important gameplay change is the introduction of a new super mode, the ‘B.A.T.’ (Battle Armoured Tech) mode, which can be activated thanks to the new armoured suit both Batman and Catwoman sport in the game. Fighting against enemies and chaining attacks builds up the ‘kinetic energy’ meter – filling it up allows you to enter B.A.T. mode and dole out a lot more damage, as well as get a clearer idea of where enemies are on-screen. Obviously, this feature could make the game a lot easier, so fights and encounters are being re-adjusted throughout the game to take this new feature into account and make sure things remain challenging throughout.

Since Armoured Edition is a flagship Wii U title, it has to find ways to make use of the Wii U gamepad. The way the gamepad’s integration was described to me at E3 was that the second screen becomes the ‘bat computer’ – so glancing down at the controller mirrors the way that Batman would similarly gather information. You can access all of your weapons and gadgets from the screen, as well as assign them to hotkeys, and get information about all of  your friends and foes as well. In essence, a lot of the functions that would have been accessed from a quick menu or pause menu in the previous version of the game, are now accessible entirely on the Wii U gamepad.

Some of the gadgets have new controls to suit the Wii U as well – the remote controlled batarang can now be optionally flown using motion control (much like the PS3 version, although with a screen on your controller this time). Perhaps the most useful addition is the way Batman can now remotely detonate explosive gel in any order he deems fit. The demo I played required Batman to find three weak walls surrounding a group of enemies and lay gel on each of them. Then, it was just a matter of looking at the Wii U gamepad’s screen and touching the gel I wanted blow up when an enemy neared it. That’s another thing that the Wii U edition brings to Arkham City – the sonar. Using the sonar, the gamepad shows you a map along with enemy locations, although only within a certain range. It’s an inclusion that felt sensible, and one that could potentially enhance the experience, rather than distract.

Finally, another section of the demo showed off the new way evidence can be gathered. Using the gamepad’s motion control again, you can hold the controller up to the TV screen in evidence gathering mode and scan around for clues – as the gamepad’s screen becomes an X-ray of sorts showing what areas may be hiding clues. It was a cool demonstration of the technology, but a bit gimmicky, although the developer present at the demo was quick to point out that all of these Wii U-exclusive controls and features can be ignored if you so want. They’re only present to make things easier or more interesting for the player as an option, but if you want to play Arkham City the way Rocksteady intended nine months ago, nothing’s stopping you.

Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition doesn’t have a firm release date at the moment, as it’s dependent on when exactly the Wii U will be launching after all, but it’s a complete version of one of last year’s best games, with a range of features to help you justify the upgrade to new shiny hardware. That seems like reason enough to keep an eye for it on shelves.