Batman: Return to Arkham Review – A Little Batty (PS4)
Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City were two of the best-received video games of the last generation of consoles, the rare sort of superhero title that gamers everywhere dreamed of playing when they were kids. Rocksteady Studios became an overnight heavyweight in the video game industry, with both games even winning a few Game of the Year awards. Developer Virtuos has now been tasked with porting these beloved games over to the current generation of consoles. Have they handled the port with the care that these two games deserve?
You Get It All
In Return to Arkham, you get both of the aforementioned games, and all DLC released for them. Beyond the large amount of content, the game has internally been ported to the Unreal Engine 4, which is an upgrade for both games. The result is not as impressive as you’d think. Textures certainly look better, especially on character models, but it appears the lighting has been modified as a result. If you want the game to retain the same mood as the original releases, we’d recommend turning the gamma down a bit further than you’d normally be comfortable with.
It kind of feels like Virtuos mostly got the games to work in Unreal Engine 4 with a few settings tweaked, and then shipped them out. Unreal Engine 4 does look very nice on current-gen systems, after all. Given that all of the Arkham series of games were originally built in the Unreal Engine 3, this probably wasn’t the most technically challenging of ports. So it’s all the more disappointing when you see that basically nothing extra has been included.
What’s especially troubling about this remaster is that despite being on a more powerful console in the PlayStation 4, the games feel as though they perform worse than the originals. The frame rate is inconsistent at best, and downright choppy at worst. Even cutscenes aren’t handled as well as they should have been. Audio in cutscenes tends to be significantly quieter than actual gameplay, something that could’ve been easily spotted and rectified during development. The problems are less glaring in Arkham City, so you can thankfully mostly enjoy playing through it.
A glaring omission with this remaster is the lack of Batman: Arkham Origins. This was the third title in the Arkham series of games, and was also released for last-generation consoles like the first two. However, it was developed by WB Games Montréal instead of Rocksteady Studios, which may play a big part in its exclusion. Yet, the whole Arkham universe remains a Warner Bros. property, so licensing shouldn’t have been an issue. Who knows what the future may hold for a remaster of Origins, especially in light of the collection we have here.
Safe to Skip
If you somehow skipped both of these games, then Return to Arkham represents a fair value (the MSRP is $49.99). Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are still incredible experiences, something that shines through even when placed in a mediocre package such as this remaster. Combat is still visceral, the voice acting is still superb; level and sound design, art style, and gameplay mechanics remain impeccable. You still get to be The Batman, as badass as he ever was, confronting the nastiest enemies that Gotham City has ever seen, with an array of impressive gadgetry and the fighting system that put Rocksteady Studios on the map.
There’s only so much that the excellent Arkham Asylum and Arkham City can do for this remaster collection, however. It should have been an easy slam dunk: port the game over to the Unreal Engine 4, apply some polish, maybe through in some behind-the-scenes features, and profit! Instead, what we end up with is a poorly-optimized port which sees even the older Arkham Asylum stuttering from the game’s first moments, and some odd lighting that cuts into the otherwise excellent ambiance of both games. Then there’s the glaring omission of Batman: Arkham Origins. It all adds up to feeling like an unfinished product. If you already have both Asylum and City on their original platforms, you can safely skip this re-release.
Batman: Return to Arkham review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.