Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City are both undeniably the best superhero games of all time. Not only did they change the benchmark for superhero action games, but also action/adventure games in general, receiving universal praise from both fans and critics alike, as well as countless ‘Game of the Year’ awards. In this reviewer’s eyes, those games were pretty much perfect in almost every way, and were the perfect portrayal/examination of the Dark Knight, his infamous rogue’s gallery and the dark world they inhabited. Ever since Asylum and City, we’ve had three more Arkham games with all varying in quality, praise and appeal, yet were still noteworthy entries nonetheless.
When the first rumblings about a remastering emerged, everyone expected them to have the same visual spectacle of last year’s Arkham Knight, and all done using the same Unreal Engine 3 software. However, this is sadly not the case as Virtuos (responsible for the remaster instead of original developer Rocksteady) have chosen to port the two games to next-gen using the latest Unreal Engine 4 technology, which has resulted in a somewhat unremarkable update with Return to Arkham. On the plus side, you still get a nostalgic feeling when replaying these games again; the stories are still strong, the voice-acting top-notch and the gameplay is excellent.
Thanks to the jump from Unreal Engine 3 to 4, Batman has gone from the Dark Knight to the “Bright Knight” with environments and character models looking more detailed, sharper and brighter than before. This is both a blessing and a curse: the vibrant lighting takes away the dark, foreboding atmosphere of the original games and you lose some of that charm of lurking within the shadows of the Asylum or City. Sure, you can lower the brightness levels down, but you still missing some of that rich atmosphere that once stood out greatly before. Despite detailed character models, the faces and hair structure look very cartoony and off-putting, which loses a lot of the nuanced emotions, plus there are some shadow textures that are strangely missing.
However, the biggest problem of them all is the framerate, as this remastered port can’t keep a steady framerate to save its life (especially with Arkham Asylum). There is sadly no bump up to 60fps, instead being locked down to 30fps, and this combined with the new powerful Unreal Engine 4 has resulted in a stuttering, choppy mess. Where this is noticeable is during some cutscenes, during combat, as well as doing even the most minor of things, including: running down corridors, going round corners and moving the camera ever so slightly. What WB Games and Virtuos have done is the equivalent of performing surgery with a pipe wrench, and with the incredible technology now available for ports, there is absolutely no excuse for the bad performance. Hopefully, all these issues could be fixed with future patch updates, but considering that WB Games never even bothered to fix both Arkham Origins and the PC port of Arkham Knight, it’s best not to hold your breath.
Overall, Batman: Return to
Arkham is not the remastered collection we deserved; the updated graphics
removes a lot of the atmosphere, the new faces and hair structures look bizarre
at best, and the framerate is criminally unacceptable. In the end, it’s really
up to you. If you haven’t played the previous Arkham games and currently own a
PS4/Xbox One, then perhaps this is a fine place to start, even though it’s not
really worth the current high retail price. But, if you already still own both
a last-gen console (PS3/Xbox 360) and the original versions, then it’s for the
best to stick with what you have.
BATMAN: RETURN TO ARKHAM / DEVELOPER: VIRTUOS / PUBLISHER: WARNER BROTHERS ENTERTAINMENT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW