Less than a decade ago, when the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were new kids on the block, Batman’s video game reputation was spotty. The Dark Knight had some decent outings over the years, but nothing approached the level of a classic game.
Enter developer Rocksteady, whose 2009 “Batman: Arkham Asylum” was among the year’s best. Great as it was, the studio outdid itself two years later with “Batman: Arkham City,” one of that console generation’s finest. Both bring top-notch comic-inspired storytelling, filled with superb boss battles and wicked narrative twists.
Keeping in step with the trend of remastered last-gen classics, “Batman: Return to Arkham” packages both titles into one game that’s available now. And like most remasters, this collection — which was remastered with the assistance of developer Virtuos — doesn’t dangle many new carrots for those who’ve played and moved on from the originals.
The good news is “Return to Arkham” illustrates how well both “Asylum” and “City” have aged from a gameplay perspective. Even with the advances made in 2015’s “Batman: Arkham Knight” for current-gen platforms, neither remastered title feels far behind in the way Batman moves, fights or navigates the environment.
But the remastered selling point centers not on gameplay but with upgraded visuals for each game, and the results are more mixed. The textures are vastly improved all around, but they’re especially noteworthy indoors. Arkham Asylum or “City’s” Iceberg Lounge are so much more richly detailed than the original releases, greatly enhancing the experience.
Unfortunately, Batman’s rigid in-game dialogue with NPCs looks even more stiff as time as passed, and the new textures actually make the Caped Crusader look puppet-like when he speaks. He’s not quite Mr. Scarface, but it’s cringe-worthy at times in a series of games notable for its fluidity.
Otherwise, the games come with all the DLC available off the bat — pun intended. If you missed them the first time, especially the extra Batman skins with various looks from his history, they’re a fun addition. Just don’t expect anything that wasn’t already there five to seven years ago, because there’s nothing in the form of all-new content.
In the end, “Return to Arkham” is a great collector’s piece or an addition for wistful fans who no longer have their old PS3 or 360, and a terrific bundle for those who missed the two incredible games the first time.