I purchased the Xbox One with the dream that the Batman Arkham series would be backwards compatible; getting a remastered version of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City was taking that dream and adding frosting, with bacon. Safe to say I was more than a little excited to revisit the series – though there was a nagging doubt that perhaps the game didn’t age well. Well, I put on my utility belt and grapple hooked my way into Arkham. I was more than surprised what I found.
A quick perspective – if you were to ask me to rate my top ten favorite video games of all time, Arkham Asylum would be in the top five. It was a game that made a huge impact on me, so much so that I actually completed the game at a full 100% completion. But riddle me this: how does it hold up today?
I’ve seen and played the intro a dozen times, though maybe not quite as smoothly as this. Being a remastered title generally means the frame-rate has been worked out. And wow, this game looks great on the next generation consoles. Everything runs smoothly, and right off the bat (bat pun intended) it was very clear just how well the game has aged. With top notch voice acting from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, you instantly get pulled into the storyline.
Now for those who haven’t played the Arkham series before, gameplay is broken up into two styles: Fighting and Stealth. The Fight Engine is still one of the greatest features of this game, as it makes you feel like Batman: there is something special about taking on five criminals at a time. You have a light attack, heavy attack, stun and block / counter. When a criminal is about to attack, simply block / counter and you’ll do any number of cool Batman counters. There is also a combo system, so the more fluid the combat, the bigger the combo, which increases the XP earned. You can then use the XP to unlock various Bat Gadgets or additional moves.
When it comes to Batman there is plenty of Stealth involved. In the stealth missions you generally have perches for Batman to stand on and the goal is to knock out all criminals without them seeing you. You have all your Bat Gadgets at your disposal and there are tons of ways to pick off the criminal element. I would recommend unlocking the Inverted Takedown, as it’s still one of my favorite moves: Batman will drop down and string up Criminals from any of his perches. That being said what really stands out in this remastered version is just how smooth the gameplay is. Nothing lags or stutters: it’s feels like a non-stop action movie.
The biggest surprise to the whole game was the overall vibe from the game. You could tell a lot of love went into the actual game, but there was something else hiding in the menus. It was that strange indie feeling the game had: sure it was Batman, but this was before the game became a blockbuster hit. So all the unlockable character art, menus and everything else about the game had this really punk rock indie feel. Way less corporate – it was really quite refreshing.
It’s such a different game than I remember, as it starts off with a Catwoman and Two Face scene. While it’s a quick scene it certainly helped the overall tone of the game. If my memory serves me right, Arkham City was one of the first titles to really go crazy with the monetization of the DLC. So on my first playthrough I don’t think I shelled out for all the extras.
Well part of the fun of getting a remastered version is getting every piece of DLC imaginable. But in terms of smooth gameplay, this title certainly takes advantage of the next-gen hardware. While the game ran great on the Xbox 360, you could see subtle hints of the game loading as you fly around. With the remastered it’s smooth central, as there are no indications that the system is struggling, even when you jump into a giant gang fight.
For those that haven’t played Arkham City, this title differs a bit from Arkham Asylum as there is a whole City for you to explore. There are tons of stuff for you to find, collect, and unlock. This really adds a nice level of replay factor, as there is truly something special about getting that full 100% completion. But what really drives you in this title is the story. Brief intro: the powers that be have expanded Arkham Asylum, blocked off parts of Gotham City, and turned it into a prison. You as Bruce Wayne were speaking out against this, and were picked up and dropped in the middle of the prison. Of course you’ve got to ask the question: are you locked in there with the criminals or are the criminals locked in there with BATMAN!!!!
The gameplay for this title changed a bit, as a majority of the game is more open world. This means a lot of Bat-traversing all over the city, and for those who love Side Quests there is plenty to do. From simply dropping down to deal out some justice, to unlocking various hidden Riddler challenges, this game has a large replay factor.
Whether you’ve never played the Arkham series or are a die hard fan, this remastered Return to Arkham has something for everyone. The game aged very well: it has some top notch voice acting and a metric ton of DLC. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are still some of my favorite games in the past ten years, and you should do yourself a favor and see it running on the next gen hardware.