Batman: Arkham City - Armoured Edition
When Batman: Arkham City was released towards the end of 2011, it was praised as a masterpiece; a near perfect game that lived up to and even exceeded the lofty expectations building in our minds from the moment we finished Batman: Arkham Asylum. Hard as it may be to believe, the Armoured Edition edges even closer to that perfect score and is without a doubt the greatest bat-experience to be had in any medium of the last 12 months - yes, we're aware that by saying that we've placed Arkham City ahead of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, but at least this version of Batman doesn't sound like he's taken to his voice box with a cheese grater.
The inclusion of content on-disc that was DLC for other versions makes the Armoured Edition the most complete and best Arkham City you can buy. If you've already played through the game on another console like me, it may not be worth forking over your hard-earned cash for it again, but if you're yet to enjoy the scale and depth of Arkham City as created by Rocksteady Studios then this is as essential a purchase as anything on Wii U.
Picking up a few months after the events of Asylum, Arkham warden Quincy Sharp now fills the mayor's chair and has walled off a large sextion of Gotham, turning it into an enormous prison. All of the city's criminals - from colourful maniacs like The Joker and Two-Face, to ordinary street thugs - are now housed in one miniature city and are more or less left to their own devices. Naturally, Arkham City hasn't taken long to turn itself into a hellhole run by factions of supervillainy. Huge Strange, a mad doctor with an unhealthy Batman fixation, is charged with running the operation, but he's less concerned with keeping the criminals in line than he is with a grander scheme. Similarly, the Joker - voiced by the one and only Mark Hamill - is once again up to no good, but just what the sickened Clown Prince of Crime has in store remains a mystery. Dropped into the middle of this madness, it's up to the world's greatest detective to discover just what's going on. With enemies on every side, Arkham City should be a terrifying place, but you are the Goddamn Batman and terror is your specialty.
And that's Arkham City's greatest triumph; it makes you feel like you are Batman. It presents the most complete vision of the character we've seen outside the comic source, with Batman's intelligence and detective skills put to use almost as often as his fists and gadgets. Naturally, when the time comes for Batman to use violence, he proves extremely proficient, employing a graceful brutality that can see you take on two dozen thugs and come out unscathed. To do so takes a good deal of practice but the fighting is so much fun you'll have no qualms about putting the time needed to master it. Arkham City's combat system is a step up from its predecessor, boasting greater depth without sacrificing accessibility. As before, one button strikes, another counters, a third is used to stun, a fourth to dodge, and a combination sees Batman performing takedowns that result in broken limbs of his unfortunate foes. A number of gadgets are now seamlessly incorporated into the affray and we felt particular satisfaction when dragging hapless goons into Batman's clutches with the Batclaw.
The environment is larger this time, so Batman now has a new gliding mechanic that counters the drop in altitude by dive-bombing to gain momentum. Spreading Batman's cape at the bottom of a dive sees him soar and the Batclaw can be used to slingshot off nearby structures. There's definitely no shortage of things to do here. So rich is the world that RockSteady have created that you can expect to spend hours outside the main story just exploring the city, taking on side-missions and random events, beating up unsuspecting thugs, or tracking down every one of the over 400 (yes, 400!) Riddler trophies. The Catwoman, Robin and Nightwing DLC challenge packs from previous editions are a nice bonus, as is Harley Quinn's Revenge, which sees you playing as Robin and investigating Batman's sudden disappearance after the end of the game. We wouldn't describe these as essential - they're not as good as the main game - but their inclusion definitely doesn't do any harm.
Unfortunately the GamePad's functions do seem tacked on, and that's ultimately because they are. Touch-screen weapon selection feels disjointed, and moving the controller to look around the game world is a little cheesy, but these quibbles are minor when compared with the brilliance of the game that contains them. Arkham City: Armoured Edition is the greatest Batman experience we've had. If you're a fan of either the Caped Crusader or games in general, you owe it to yourself to play it. If you're a fan of both , then it is the definition of a must-own.