2016 has quietly become the year of the remastered game. This fall alone we have seen remasters and ports of games like Bioshock, Skyrim, and Assassin’s Creed 2. Some of these ports are better than others and include new content to go along with vastly upgraded graphics. Other times, some ports seem like nothing more than a copy and paste job to current gen systems. Batman: Return to Arkham finds itself caught somewhere in the middle. While it’s nice to have two amazing games from last generation able to be played on PS4, Return to Arkham offers nothing new and ties it together with underwhelming new graphics.
The biggest difference in most ported games is the improved graphics that they offer. Unfortunately, I found the graphics in Return to Arkham pretty sub-standard. Virtuous was the developer who ported these games to the PS4 and I was left pretty unimpressed with their additions. They brought both Asylum and City over to the Unreal Engine 4 and also touched up the character models and environments. These touch ups, however, didn’t seem to be much improved at all. The environments specifically look bland, especially when you get up close to certain objects. I know that there’s only so much that you can do when porting games but I certainly was expecting more, especially when seeing the screenshots that were released before Return to Arkham came out.
The one thing that Virtuous did that I really think threw off the game was the lighting and shader adjustments. To me, the game just looks way too bright now. Because of the added light, you can now see things more clearly, however, I think the aesthetic of a Batman game should be somewhat shadowed and dark. In the image below, you can get a better idea of just what I mean. While it’s nice to be able to see everything more sharply, I don’t think the shadowing on Batman’s character model looks right anymore. I might be completely alone with this sentiment but I think the games look much too blown out now and some of the original aesthetic of the games has been somewhat ruined because of it.
The one thing that I do commend Virtuous for is the improved textures. Batman’s costume looks better than ever and you can really see the individual fibers that make it up. This is also true with all of the other character models in this collection. From the Joker’s suit to Commissioner Gordon’s jacket, the textures in both Asylum and City look vastly better than they did before.
I do have to say that it is nice to have all of the content from both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City together in one package. This includes all added standalone DLC for each game. As someone who has played each of these games before, it was nice to return and play some of the DLC that I had missed after the games originally launched. Having all of this content in one $49.99 bundle is great and there’s a lot to keep you busy.
While both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are still phenomenal games, I did start to think that Asylum wasn’t aging as well as I thought it would. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the game is a ton of fun to play and I have greatly enjoyed going back to it. However, some of the gameplay mechanics are starting to feel a bit off 7 years after its original release. Hand to hand combat isn’t as tight as it is in the game’s sequels and Batman’s movement as a whole feels a bit clunky. These are both things that Rocksteady improved upon in both Arkham City and Arkham Knight, but when you go back to play Asylum in 2016, these small issues become much more apparent. If possible, it would’ve been nice to see Virtuous update certain mechanics from Asylum to make them tighter and more akin to the game’s sequels.
While Return to Arkham may not be the best port of all time, I do think it’s worth your time if you haven’t played either Arkham Asylum or Arkham City before. Returning fans may not find anything new in this package but the games themselves still hold up incredibly well. As long as you don’t expect to be blown away by the new graphics, then you’ll have an enjoyable time with this collection.