Remasters, re-releases and ports from one generation of consoles to another are extremely common in today’s market. Games that we’d never expect to be touched are making a second appearance with varied results. Some of those remastered versions providing us with brand new features, modes and tantalising extras so that the game feels fresh and new, even to those who have previously played them. On the flip side, there are plenty of “remasters” that do nothing to enrich the experience and have players wondering why they gave in and bought it in the first place. The latest set of titles to receive the glossy treatment are Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. These two titles have been neatly packaged together for current gen consoles as Batman: Return to Arkham. Arguably the best superhero games around, does a new lick of paint justify a re-release of these beloved games?
Batman: Return to Arkham: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 [Reviewed]
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 21 October 2016
Price: £34.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Think of Return to Arkham as the complete edition of the aforementioned games. Both titles come with every sliver of previously released DLC already in-game so you’re able to experience the adventures without missing out on any content. While Arkham Asylum’s “extra content” option in the menu consists mostly of the dreaded challenge maps to accompany those already in the base game, Arkham City has a much more generous offering. Extra story levels for Catwoman and Harley Quinn are available right off the bat and if you desire more challenge maps, every character is freely available with their own set of challenges for you to play. The caped crusader himself is also able to show off his own new look with a number of costumes that can be selected before diving into the criminal underworld. Is an animated Batman up your alley? Select the costume as you continue your game and enjoy! No piece of DLC is left out and so this is good for those who either missed out last time or refused to fork over extra cash for more content.
A plethora of content is all well and good, but for many, the sole reason for returning to this franchise is the potential for improved performance and graphics. This is regularly seen as the make or break for a remaster, and in part, Return to Arkham has managed to deliver. At the time of the respective games release, they were at the peak of graphical prowess and Batman never looked so brilliant in the gaming world as he did in these games. However, time has moved on and so has the visual capability of many games. Return to Arkham, while looking shiny and sparkly in places, still hasn’t able to cover up the signs of the original games’ age. The rain effect can cause both games to look brilliant but once you look closely at character models, they remind you that these aren’t brand new releases. It’s a bit of a mixed bag so the graphical upgrade won’t necessarily have you gasping in awe at a beautifully polished Arkham Asylum/City.
Batman as a universe is regularly depicted as dark and dank. To go alongside the mixed bag of graphical upgrades, this PS4 remaster tends to brighten up when the games cutscenes are rolling. One may go as far to say that the PS3 versions look better but it’s the actual gameplay itself that help the remastered collection to feel like an improvement on the originals.
Return to Arkham has been said to only run at thirty frames per second instead of the much desired sixty that fans have been craving, nonetheless, both games run very smoothly. The fantastic free-flow combat is still a joy to behold and it is complemented even more by the rate at which the games run. When overwhelmed, it can feel as though the game is struggling to keep up with your button responses, but there is still an unparalleled fluidity to this aspect of the series that other titles have struggled to replicate.
Whether or not this was a console malfunction remains to be seen, but there was an instance in which Arkham Asylum crashed mid-flow and immediately returned to the dashboard. Other than this, it appears that blemishes have been ironed out and both games remain intact. There is also the obvious omission of Arkham Origins but as this was developed by WB Games Montréal rather than Rocksteady and also regarded as the weakest of the series, it is forgivable that it hasn’t made it into the package.
As you may have noticed by now, Batman: Return to Arkham is a bit up and down when it comes to the polish that people may expect from remasters. While graphics tend to fluctuate in quality, the actual performance of the collection and content packed into it help to strengthen its appeal. If you’ve yet to jump into these games for whatever reason, then you shouldn’t feel robbed of your money when taking the plunge into this package, but if you’ve already experienced them in full, only hardcore fans will find the return trip worthwhile.