Batman: Return to Arkham incorporates the two first games in the series from the prior generation of consoles. So with this, you get Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, all with their respective DLC and pre-order bonus content. This basically makes the entire trilogy available on a single generation of console with last year’s Arkham Knight finishing things up. A glaring omission in my eyes – and a strange one to omit – is 2013’s Arkham Origins. Granted, it is not part of the trilogy, or done by Rocksteady, but I would have liked to see that game bringing to current-gen as I feel it is as good as Arkham City with a few decent extra mission variations.
There is no new content included within these games. If you have never played them before and are wondering if they are worth grabbing, or need a bit more information on the gameplay mechanics, then I will suggest looking at the many Youtube longplays etc.
So, to begin – Arkham Asylum is where it all started. Rocksteady truly know and love Batman from the original DC Comics. Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy by day and masked vigilante by night, is a brooding character. His arch nemesis being the Joker and the opposite end of the scale. These two characters could do with some serious therapy given the way they conduct themselves! You also have Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Riddler, Bane, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and the lesser known Zasz featuring during your time within the asylum, so quite a hit-list of Batman baddies. Add in Commissioner Gordon and his daughter, who is secretly Oracle and is your source of information, and not forgetting Alfred, your long-time butler who drops items in when needed and offers up occasional assistance.
The Joker has taken over the Asylum to create a Titan formula and poison Gotham. The story unfolds during your time, with the game drip-feeding you the numerous Batman gadgets. You get them as and when you start needing them. There are also numerous Riddler trophies to find and conundrums to work out, plus Arkham soundbites and so on to collect, so even when you finish the main campaign, then you can spend time with all your gadgets collecting everything from the numerous areas.
On top of that, you have various Predator challenges (take out enemies in an area, as quickly and quietly as possible) plusarenas with enemies that come in waves. It adds a bit extra to the overall package.
Arkham City follows on where Asylum finishes, Bruce Wayne ends up arrested and taken into a chunk of Gotham that has been turned into an open air prison, of sorts, named Arkham City. Once again, Joker is up to his old tricks but this time he infects Batman with his blood. The reason for this is that he wants a cure for his terminal sickness, and who better to do it than the world’s greatest detective – infect him first, of course, so Batman himself needs the cure! Life is never that simple, and Penguin, Two Face, Harley Quinn, Ra’s al Ghul (and the League of Assassins), Riddler and a load more of Batman’s enemies are out to get him. Then throw in Catwoman and the semi-evil Mr Freeze, with Robin sticking his nose in at the most ill-opportune times Batman’s work is cut out for him.
This time round, you start out with a good handful of gadgets to get you going – getting more as you go to help you get past specific bits of the game, and if you so wish, you can forget the story and go looking for things happening in the streets, or doing the Riddler trophies. Also, this time around, Rocksteady have gone for full open world experience, so you only see loading screens when entering buildings. This makes for some great environmental hazards and locations round the city with different looking zones.
Sound direction is as superb as ever – nothing has changed at all. The music changed with each given situation, and the voice cast features Mark Hamill (Star Wars original trilogy, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne & Batman voice work on TV and games), Tom Kane (Archer TV series & numerous voice acting) & Arleen Sorkin (Days of our Lives and numerous Batman related voice acting) and more. There is a large voice cast to these games, with way to many people to list and give credit to their outstanding work.
Visually is where it is all at with these remasters, with the game being upgraded from Unreal Engine 3 used on the previous generation of consoles and PC. Now, these two titles are running on Unreal Engine 4, which has also been used for the recently-released Gears of War 4. The frame rate is extremely smooth and is running in full HD; the only time I have experienced a stutter is in the Sewer Junction on Asylum – you will only visit this area a few times during your play through, but it is quite strange that this happens as the area is quite small and confined. There is no stuttering anywhere else in Asylum. Arkham City runs smooth as silk, with no stuttering even in the busier areas with effects and onscreen enemies. The only thing I can say I have occasionally noticed, is to look at a few straight edges in the games from an angle and you get a stepping stone effect. This seems to show more on grates that you pop open when using your detective vision, but in all fairness, it is not something that will jump out and hit you immediately.
All in all, these games are still as great now as when they were first released, and worth adding to anyone’s collection. It is worth it for the sheer scale and scope of Arkham City alone!! You will get many hours of play out of these two games and they capture the DC Universe perfectly. If you are a fan of third-person action adventures, like Assassins Creed, Shadow of Mordor and so on then you can’t go wrong. If you love The Flash and Arrow from TV, then you will also get immense joy from this Rocksteady’s pairing.
- Developers: Developer : Rocksteady/Remaster: Virtuous with help from original developer
- Publisher: Warner Bros Games
- Players: Single player only with online leaderboards for challenge modes
Director: Sefton Hill
Writers: Paul Dini, Paul Crocker and Sefton Hill (based on the characters by Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
Music: Nick Arundel and Ron Fish