Last year I got a chance to demo Batman: Arkham City on the Xbox 360. While this showed what the game would look like and how it would play (great and great), it didn’t tell me how the Wii U version of that game would use the Wii U gamepad. I finally found that out at a recent New York press demo of Wii U games, where I had a taste of the upcoming Wii U port, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition.
Of the games I saw that day, Arkham City had the steepest learning curve. I think the game has every button, stick and trigger set for some function, and the guy showing me the game couldn’t always remember what I was supposed to press (“I think it’s the left trigger. No? Maybe it’s the right bumper? Try clicking the left analog stick...”) I’m sure it all makes sense after a while though.
Fighting is just like fighting in the original game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, where I pretty much just kept hitting the attack and the counter-attack buttons repeatedly to take out enemies. I was having trouble getting the timing right, but I don’t know if that was because of the controls or simply because it’s been a while since I played Asylum.
The Wii U gamepad represents a wrist computer Batman wears in the game. As the demo started I was impressed by the clarity of a voice speaking to Batman through the gamepad; the gamepad speaker is vastly superior to that of the Wii remote.
The gamepad touchscreen functions as a map and, more importantly, as your tool selector. Bring up the tools screen and you can choose what you need; a batarang, a scanner, explosive gel, etc. Once the right tool is highlighted you need to press a couple of different triggers to actually use it.
When you throw the batarang the gamepad screen zooms into a close up of the gadget and you can tilt the gamepad to steer it. Getting the hang of this took up most of my demo, as at first I was tilting too much and repeatedly crashing the gizmo to the floor.
The batarang challenge also showed me a Wii U issue I’d heard about in which the touch screen goes out of sync with the TV. The first few times I threw the batarang I was directly facing the TV, but after a while I noticed that to position my controller screen correctly I had to face a little to the right of the TV. I’m hoping there’s a simple way to resync.
I also spent some time playing with the game’s explosive gel. You can place gel at multiple locations and then use the touch screen to set each explosion off separately. The goal was to use one explosion to lead the bad guys to step near some gel before I set it off, making it a nice little strategic puzzle.
As for the graphics, they are, of course, very good, but honestly I was spending so much time focusing on which button to press and fooling with the inventory screen that I couldn’t really focus on what the game looked like. And the demo didn’t show off the big city locations I saw during the 360 demo, focusing instead on concrete corridors and windowless rooms. I was, however, really impressed with the graphics on the touch screen, which are wonderfully crisp.
Batman: Arkham City for the 360 and PS3 has gotten phenomenal reviews, and the gamepad has the potential to make the experience even more seamless and immersive; once you figure out what all the buttons do. You’ll have the opportunity to do so this holiday season.