Platforms: Wii U
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Wii U versions of core multiplatform titles are going to play a big part in the console’s future. Nintendo wants to compete directly with Microsoft and Sony this time rather than settle for a casual market. The Wii versions of regular titles always felt like poor ports, so what better way to convince gamers you’re serious this time around than starting with one of last year’s biggest action titles, Arkham City.
Our hands-on demo begins during the Ra’s Al Ghul section of the game where Batman has been poisoned and he’s tracking down a ninja to try to find the antidote. This session served the purpose of showing us a broad selection of the unique Wii U features.
This new take on the game has allowed Rocksteady to add elements that they may have regretted not including in the original. For example, those of you who wanted to detonate explosive gel traps individually rather than simultaneously are now free to do so. Batman sets them the same way, but now you use the Wii U Game Pad to survey the scene in Detective Mode and then tap the specific gel trap on-screen that you would like to detonate. This allows you to manipulate groups of enemies with much more precision. One explosion will take out one guard while the others run away, hopefully right towards one of your other traps. It’s one of the more satisfying elements to take advantage of the Game Pad and the precise inputs via the screen mean you’ll always select the right one and at exactly the time you want.
It was good to see that the flow of the combat itself hasn’t missed a beat on its way to the Wii U and is as fun as ever. A new addition to the fighting is the B.A.T. (Battle Armoured Tech) mode. Think of it as a Rage mode. A metre is built up with combos, when full you can unleash the B.A.T. style to send enemies flying with every attack. Yes, that’s remarkably similar to the freeflow combo system that is already in place, where upon reaching eight or ten consecutive hits, Batman’s attacks start to do extra damage, maybe even knocking out goons with a single strike. With both systems in place here, I’m struggling to see the point aside from a bit of extra visual flare as Batman’s fists glow blue with raw electric power and enemies get whacked further away.
Rocksteady are aiming to provide the most immersive Batman experience yet, so much so that you’ll never have to enter a pause screen during the game should you not wish too. Using the Wii U’s unique feature, a separate screen on the Game Pad, you’re able to take care of everything that would normally be handled with the Start/Select buttons on the PS3. Looking through intel files, live maps with adjustable waypoints and more importantly instant inventory access, all give you that feeling akin to using Batman’s wrist-mounted computer. Swapping items around in your quick-select window is blissfully simple too and using a sonar scanner to plan enemy ambushes is very useful.
Using the evidence scanner in Detective Mode allows you to use the gyros in the Game Pad to scan your TV with the screen. For example, when looking for the ninja assassin by tracking blood drops. The bigger TV you have the better for this mode.
Remote batarangs can be steered using the Game Pad, which works in a similar way to the SixAxis controls on PS3. So yes, you’ll try it once then go back to the reliable analogue stick. I’m told that the team are still working on the motion-control handling for the batarangs, so it might not be as sensitive in the final version. A more intuitive use of motion control is pulling grates from airducts and so on with the Batclaw, by pulling the pad towards your chest.
Hacking locks has changed into a new format completely. Using the screen you drag your finger around trying to get the password to appear at the bottom of the screen as the code becomes clearer the closer you get. To keep you on your toes though, a red security line will occasionally flash across, so you have to lift your finger to avoid touching it and getting sent back a step. It feels like a much more interesting way to hack locks than the analogue twiddling we experienced on the other consoles.
From what I’ve seen, the new Wii U controls work well and feel naturally suited to the game, but I think there may not be enough differences to justify buying this edition if you already have the original release on PS3 or Xbox 360. Although, it does include all the DLC, including Harley Quinn’s Revenge, but so will the upcoming PS3/360 Game of the Year Edition, which will be notably cheaper.
Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition is released November 30th, exclusively on the Wii U.