Just when you thought it was safe to return to Gotham after Rocksteady’s Batmobile-heavy finale to the Arkham Trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight (Which I reviewed during my solo Youtube run here), was all well and done making you race through the streets and beating down random Goons; along comes Rocksteady’s apology piece. The spectacular duo of Arkham Asylum & Arkham City has been given the makeover treatment with the Unreal Engine 4 and thrown into the current generation of consoles. While PC players of the games are already used to the game being in high quality, it’s just as amazing to see the console players get another chance to relive these awesome titles once again.
Game Name: Batman: Return to Arkham
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) & Xbox One
Publisher(s): WB Games
Developer(s): Rocksteady / Virtous
Release Date: October 18, 2016
The story of both games has not changed since their original PS3/360/PC release. We follow Batman in his adventure of being trapped inside the infamous Arkham Asylum after delivering a defeated Joker back after a foiled plan. With the flip of a switch, Harley Quinn is able to not only take over Arkham but also capture Commishioner Gordon and the head of Arkham Asylum Quincy Sharp. This leads Batman to the holding cells, garden grounds, and other parts of Arkham Asylum as he battles many of his past foes; all the while The Joker is on a mission of his own to get the Titan formula, an off-shoot of the Venom compound that fuels Bane.
Once things are done at Arkham Asylum, it’s time to move onto the City. After Arkham Asylum is closed down and Quincy Sharp is made Mayor of Gotham City, the walls go up and the inmates are left to do whatever they want with the remains (Trump would be so proud). Batman heads into investigating the mayhem only to find that there are way too many masterminds in the kitchen to make anything good. Batman does battle against the likes of The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Ra’s Al Ghul, Hugo Strange and the ticking time bomb that The Joker has given him as a final plot that will either kill Batman or the Clown Prince of Crime himself.
As I mentioned in the opening of this review, most PC players will not notice the difference between this version and the version that they can run on their mighty PC rigs. However, as someone who originally bought both Arkham Asylum & Arkham City on the Playstation 3, I can notice the huge difference that putting these titles through the Unreal Engine 4 makes to the overall product. The colours are crisper, the details on the characters are so detailed that you might actually be able to see if the glass bottle monocle embedded in The Penguin’s eye is from a Coke or Pepsi bottle. The upgrade isn’t just restricted to the character models, but the textures on the buildings and rooms have also been upgraded; but when it comes to Arkham Asylum, the more dated of the two games featured in this collection, you can tell that they weren’t made with an upgrade in graphics in mind. This leaves some of the textures in Arkham Asylum to look slightly blurry and low quality compared to everything else around you.
Considering that the soundtrack to the Arkham games was recorded with 7.1 digital surround sound in mind, it didn’t need to be touched at all. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth praising at all. The score and vocal work here is some of the best in the Batman Universe. You have the legendary duo of Kevin Conroy & Mark Hamill as Batman & The Joker respectively reprising their roles that got them so much fame from the Batman: The Animated Series; also joining them are Arleen Sorkin & Tara Strong (Harley Quinn), Tom Kane (Commissioner Gordon), Tasia Valenza (Poison Ivy), Steven Blum (Killer Croc) & Nolan North (Because every game has to have Nolan North in it by law… Also he plays The Penguin). All of these people either have a background with an animated Batman series, movie or are just in every video game ever, which makes the casting some of the best you can get. The background tracks feel like they are right out of the Batman: The Animated Series. Which, when combined with the BTAS costumes in Arkham City, makes for some awesome untold stories concept.
If there was anything that did not need fixing it would be the gameplay. Batman: Return to Arkham brings the perfect blend of gliding, fightings, and stealth not seen since Metal Gear Solid. Its fighting system is now the benchmark of all fighting systems in action games. Single button countering combined with long string combos is just as fulfilling as ever. Gliding around Gotham or Arkham Asylum always feels a million times better than driving the Batmobile ever did and also makes the world feel bigger and more open than ever. Even in smaller areas, you tend to think about where the next ledge is or the next hole to climb through in order to take down Goons silently or just tease them with Batarang shots to the head.
The only thing I wish that they did do was to fix the changes between quick selecting gadgets that happened between games. It’s still jarring to go from one selection style in Asylum to having things all mixed around in City. But I am thankful that some of the techniques in City have been tuned down a bit in difficulty so that you can actually use them. Jumping off the shields onto another Goon was near impossible to do on the PS3, but is a breeze to do on the PS4.
Content wise, you are getting two game of the year editions in one package. With Asylum you get all the challenge modes and the Joker specific DLC; with City you’re get the same thing plus the excellent story content: Harley Quinn’s Revenge and all the extra costume packs that were available for the game. I highly recommend playing with the Batman: The Animated Series costume pack as it automatically changes Catwoman & Robin characters into that style too.
Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can pass this up; unless you own these games on PC. Thankfully those ports on PC fared a lot better than Askham Knight did. But back to the point. Batman: Return to Arkham is perfect for anyone who hasn’t already played the games before or anyone who wants to just get these games again for their current generation systems. Since the Arkham games have become the benchmark for all other action games in the industry, why not pick up the original and play it again, and again, and again… Can you tell I’ve played these games A LOT!?
Batman: Return to Arkham Review
Holy Master of Remasters Batman!
Perfection in remastering. Batman: Return to Arkham is something that I was hoping for since they announced Batman: Arkham Knight on the PS4. I wanted to go back to the beginning of the series without having to go back to finding my PS3 and setting it up. It's good to see that instead of going the cheap code upgrade route that a lot of PS3 remasters have gone through (I'm looking at you Resident Evil), Rocksteady decided to take the care to get the game engine upgraded and used to its potential. This is right up there with Bioshock: The Collection in terms of how to do a remastered game for this generation.
- Graphical upgrades are well worth taking a look at
- No more texture pop in loading
- Everything else is untouched
- Easily the best series to play over and over again
- Some graphics in Arkham Asylum look outdated next to upgraded character models
- Could have changed the gadget layout to be more consistent
- Even though it wasn't a Rocksteady game, they could have included Arkham Origins