Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, the upcoming Wii U re-release of last year's Dark Knight simulator, uses the console's GamePad to make the Arkham City experience both more and less annoying.
Navigating Batman: Arkham City's titular makeshift prison is a challenge, even when you have a good idea of where you're going. The best way for Batman to get his bearings is to pull up a map of his surroundings, but it felt like I spent half my Xbox 360 play-through of Arkham City in the pause menu, scrutinizing the in-game map. Having to pause the game so frequently breaks up its flow, and the Armored Edition seeks to remedy that with the Wii U's unique capabilities.
By default, the Wii U GamePad displays the in-game map, which updates in real time as you move Batman around on your television. It's surprisingly effective in that you can be playing Arkham City and quickly glance down at the GamePad to make sure you're heading in the right direction, which is particularly useful in labyrinthine environments such as the dilapidated Wonder City.
The interface for objectives, WayneTech gadgets and upgrades, and Batman universe background information also resides on the GamePad. Its touchscreen can be used to select gadgets for use during gameplay, but what's notable is that rooting around in the menus on the GamePad — say, to upgrade gadgets or look up details on Zsasz — doesn't pause the game. This means you'll have to quickly learn the D-pad shortcuts for switching between gadgets, or become adept at doing so on the GamePad during combat.
Arkham City Armored Edition also uses the GamePad for augmented reality gameplay in Detective Mode and with certain gadgets. One sequence has Batman track some fluid that had dripped out of a cracked vial; here, you hold up the GamePad in front of your face and move it to pan around the in-game environment, with a bat's-eye view showing up on the touchscreen. In addition, Remote Control Batarangs can be steered by the GamePad's tilt sensor, but this method seemed, to me, too finicky for a gadget that often requires a deft touch.
The Wii U GamePad is a key part of the Armored Edition experience. But it may not always be a welcome interface, especially for those who have already played Batman: Arkham City on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or PC. Furthermore, at this point the Armored Edition doesn't match the visuals of the previously released console or PC versions. While the frame rate is smooth, textures are muddy — in fact, they did not even seem to load properly in one area. A Nintendo rep said the demo's content and graphics were not indicative of the final version, so perhaps the retail release will look better.
Warner Bros. is aiming to release Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition by the end of the year. Below is an interview with a developer from WB Games Montreal, who explains the Armored Edition's special features.