The Batman: Arkham series has housed some of the best superhero games of all time – Spider-Man 2 and perhaps Deadpool aside – so it's easy to see why Warner Bros and Rocksteady decided to return to Arkham with, er, Batman: Return to Arkham.
Consisting of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City (along with all DLC), right off the bat it's hard to ignore that Return to Arkham is excellent value; £30 may seem a bit much for two old games, but considering they're both damn fine action games and have stonking amounts of replayability, the price is justifiable to most.
But does the gameplay hold up?
In short, absolutely. Sure, the way Batman slides along the floor when performing combos is a little goofy – and the fact that so many games have based their combat off of Arkham's fighting system does make it seem a little dated – but punching up thugs as the Caped Crusader still feels powerful, with thumps crunching and goons reeling as you pummel them. Combos are easy to string together but hard to develop, making the moment when you pull off a perfect varied combo seem all the more satisfying.
Traversal still feels good too: gliding is responsive, using the grappling hook isn't frustrating and is really quick to use, and overall it's pretty easy to stay stealthy or evade enemies thanks to the excellent movement responsiveness. While the gameplay isn't quite timeless and does have a few bugs – mostly clipping issues – Return to Arkham feels surprisingly fresh for a seven-year-old franchise.
What's best about Return to Arkham, though, is the pure attention to detail that Rocksteady applied to the games. Exploring the open worlds of both Asylum and City (the latter especially) can lead to masses of secrets, Easter eggs, and backstory components that give the Arkham series its excellent personality. If you haven't already guessed, there's a lot of replayability in this remaster.
Not only that, but the DLCs (for Arkham City especially) add something that most DLCs don't: a completely new way of playing. Sure, the fundamentals are the same, but playing as Catwoman plays very differently to Batman, as does Batman to Nightwing, plus the storytelling in each DLC is as good as that in the base game.
Of course, since Return to Arkham is a remaster, we have to talk about graphics and technical stuff, which is arguably the biggest shortcoming of this game. While developer Virtuos has managed to port both games into Unreal Engine 4, neither entry looks the better for it. In fact, there are instances where the change in lighting and colouring ruins the moody aesthetic of the previous-gen versions, though this is off-set by some improved texture work here and there.
Fortunately, technically, the game is sound – once again, Arkham City especially, which feels more smooth and fluid than Asylum – and speaking of sound, the audio design of both games is excellent, with outstanding voice acting and an excellent atmosphere.
Batman: Return to Arkham isn't the greatest ever remaster, but the price offers excellent value and the gameplay of both Asylum and City still hold up. Couple two of the greatest superhero games of all time with their DLC, and you get a lot of bang for your buck here.
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