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Face-Off: Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition on Wii U


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Initial post: Nov 28, 2012 9:41:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 9:43:56 AM PST
got mayo? says:
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-batman-arkham-city-wii-u-face-off

Face-Off: Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition on Wii U

Expectations were rather low as Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition booted up on our US import Wii U. Images like this one that emerged just after the launch suggested a game with fundamental compromises over the existing Xbox 360 release, while frame-rate analysis of the E3 trailer strongly hinted at a sub-par performance level.

The state of the game was a cause for genuine concern once we managed to get hands-on with a pre-release playable version. A post-E3 preview event revealed unfinished code plagued with bugs and texture issues - all of which didn't quite tally with press assets showing a considerably rejigged Wii U version with some image quality enhancements over the existing game.

So it's with a mixture of relief and slight disappointment that we can report that Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition is actually a pretty close match to the Xbox 360 game, from a visual standpoint at least. Those low-res shadowmaps from the now infamous screenshot? They appear to be confined to a pre-rendered video sequence, presumably dumped from the Unreal Engine editor, and are nothing more than an oversight. Existing renders from the Rocksteady work wouldn't be useable owing to the changes in character costumes.

But it's not all good news, unfortunately. There are still some LOD transition "popping" issues but the texture problems we've seen previously are all but resolved. In-game, image quality is a very close match indeed for the existing console versions. And that cuts both ways too - the changes we saw in the E3 media assets don't appear to have made it into the final game, so the rejigged LODs which brought out additional detail in some areas (and cutbacks in others) are gone - what we have here is pretty much the standard Arkham City experience.

The only real exception comes in the form of the addition of NVIDIA's FXAA post-processing technology. The original console versions of Arkham City operated at native 720p with no anti-aliasing employed at all so we might expect a welcome bump in image quality from the addition of the AA tech on Wii U. However, the arrival of FXAA is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, high contrast edges are smoothed significantly - a welcome addition. Unfortunately, on the flipside, the additional blurring detracts from the quality of the artwork, with specular highlights in particular dulled significantly.

But let's check out how the Wii U version compares visually with its counterparts with a series of head-to-head videos produced by matching up the new release with our existing Arkham City Face-Off assets, along with a fresh quad-format comparison gallery.

"Wii U Arkham City has much in common with the existing PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. New costumes aside, FXAA is the key addition here."

Batman: Arkham City compared on Xbox 360 and Wii U. Use the full-screen button on the bottom-right of this window for full 720p resolution.

Alternative comparisons:
Batman: Arkham City - PlayStation 3 vs. Wii U
Batman: Arkham City - PC vs. Wii U

Anti-aliasing aside, the biggest difference from a visual standpoint is the inclusion of new "armored" costumes for both the Dark Knight and Catwoman. This covers off the inclusion of the only noticeably new plot point added to the revised game - it turns out that Waynetech has developed a new system for absorbing kinetic energy, storing it in the suit and then allowing the wearer to access it when a power gauge reaches the max, giving a short boost of additional strength.

This is accessed by the player through depressing the left and right analogue sticks simultaneously, God of War-style. The intro video for the suit suggests that the wearer turns into a rampaging powerhouse possessing superhuman strength, but the reality is that the bump in power is fairly modest.

From a narrative standpoint, quite why Catwoman gets the upgrades too isn't clear - Alfred makes reference to a "female prototype" of Batman's new suit, though why it would have been created in the first place and indeed how Selina Kyle acquires it is anyone's guess. What can be stated unequivocally is that the new costumes look hideous - Catwoman's athletic bodysuit gives way to some kind of futuristic monstrosity with glowing breasts, while Batman's new costume bears all the design hallmarks of a supermarket-exclusive action figure - with a wrist-mounted Batcomputer.

Costume changes aside, Wii U's addition of FXAA is most noticeable difference from the existing console builds. It's interesting to compare the FXAA here with the MSAA/FXAA combo in the PC shots.

Therein lies the bulk of the Wii U exclusive features, consisting of a robust series of touch-screen based enhancements - specifically, a new spin on the Waynetech upgrade system, easier accessory management, along with touch-based maps and sonar, plus a slightly bizarre spin on the Detective Mode, where players are invited to align the GamePad to the HDTV. From there the motion sensors are used to scan around the environments, picking up evidence. Or, alternatively, don't align the screens at all and just concentrate on the touch-screen - either approach works fine.

If the touch-screen activities don't appeal to you, the game also offers a full HDTV mirroring option, meaning you can detach from the main display and play remotely. We've said it before and we'll say it again - this is an excellent feature that works beautifully and on PS3/360 ports we'd like to see it featured as standard, especially as it appears that GamePad mirroring incurs no noticeable performance hit. Just like New Super Mario Bros U and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the mirroring option appears to be sending a native 720p image across to the Wii U's touch-screen, which is then downscaled to fit the 480p resolution. The downgrade is noticeable, but doesn't detract from gameplay.

The Robin and Nightwing challenge rooms plus the Harley Quinn's Revenge expansion pack round-out the DLC additions bundled into the Wii U version for free.

"The new costumes only slightly alter the gameplay balance. Neither of them are going to be winning any design awards."

Here's the introductory movie for the new suit in the game, followed up by some in-game action accompanied by bonus frame-rate analysis.

Arkham City: performance analysis

On Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, we're given the standard Unreal Engine 3 performance profile. In-game, frame-rate is capped to 30FPS, with screen-tear manifesting when the engine is under stress and failing to meet the target. This helps to sustain controller latency, and while image consistency is compromised to a certain extent, the nature of the artwork makes the impact minimal. The set-up changes somewhat during cut-scenes, where input lag is not an issue - here, v-sync is employed (though we do see the odd torn frame crop up at the top of the screen when the framebuffer refresh kicks in a little late).

It's all change on Wii U though - and not for the better in our opinion. V-sync is employed throughout, working in combination with what appears to be an unlocked frame-rate. The result is messy - the consistent pad response from the Xbox 360 and PS3 games is lost and the game is plagued with judder as frame-rate zooms above - and below - the 30FPS target employed on the other console versions. Image consistency is obviously improved through the implementation of v-sync but the trade-offs in playability are not worthwhile.

To kick off with, let's take a look at a triple-format gameplay comparison encompassing a range of combat scenarios along with some open-world traversal. Xbox 360 comes off best here, doggedly maintaining its 30FPS target with only minor screen-tear issues during Batman's tour of Arkham City. In those same sections we see PS3 significantly more affected by the increased rendering load. Wii U appears to be a fairly close match for the Sony platform, but with none of the tearing problems. However, in combat it's a completely different story - decent performance on the existing current-gen platforms but noticeably sub-par results on the Wii U. In common with Mass Effect 3 and Black Ops 2, once again Wii U has trouble processing multiple characters on-screen at any given point - more evidence that the CPU is simply not up to scratch for straight PS3/360 ports without some extensive optimisation.

"Image consistency is improved a touch on Wii U thanks to v-sync, but performance is all over the place and combat in particular suffers."

Gameplay performance reveals an unlocked Wii U frame-rate, which lurches above and below the 30FPS standard set by the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.

Next up, a chance to look at Wii U performance on a series of engine-driven cut-scenes - our best chance at evaluating how the tech copes when handling like-for-like rendering scenarios. Unfortunately, the Wii U version's unlocked frame-rate rules out a level playing field, and in many scenes we see 40FPS readings or even higher, with the older versions firmly pegged at 30FPS. This may suggest that the Nintendo platform is out-performing the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but the reality is that Rocksteady artificially cap frame-rates in order to reduce judder - something the Wii U version has in spades. The cap disappears if you use the TriOviz 3D mode though, whereupon we see similarly high frame-rates - for those wondering, stereoscopic 3D appears to be absent from the Wii U version of Arkham City.

Also note that on open-world cut-scenes and areas with plenty of characters on-screen, once again we see disappointingly low levels of performance, though we suspect that if the Wii U version employed the same "lock at 30, tear below" approach seen on PS3 and 360, the open-world elements at least would be closer to what we see on the Sony platform. The big problem with employing v-sync rigidly is that the GPU effectively stalls when a frame runs over the rendering budget, as the new image has to wait for the monitor refresh to begin.

Overall, it's fair to say that performance is the Achilles' heel of this new Armored Edition. Frame-rate varies significantly, resulting in an experience that is nowhere near as smooth or as consistently responsive as the existing versions of the game. We're not quite sure why Warner Bros.' conversion team simply didn't stick to the template laid down by the existing games - there's a reason it's in place, and it's not surprising that a similar scheme is also employed by almost every other Unreal Engine 3 title out there on current-gen console.

"Wii U's unlocked frame-rate results in some obvious judder and v-sync actually hinders performance when the engine is truly struggling."

Like-for-like cut-scene analysis demonstrates Wii U's unlocked frame-rates, with a considerably higher overall FPS average. However, the increased judder and performance impacts on busier scenes don't impress.

Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition - the Digital Foundry verdict

What looked like graphical tweaks from the press materials failed to materialise - FXAA apart - but thankfully some of the more alarming reports about Wii U graphical deficiencies turned out to be of little consequence to the final product. However, what we have here is a disappointing current-gen port with some bundled DLC and some interesting - if not totally convincing - touch-screen upgrades.

The overall takeaway is that the Wii U version of this classic title is unpolished and less enjoyable to play than Rocksteady's original. On top of the variable frame-rate, we were also disappointed to see the odd moment of more noticeable LOD popping and jerky FMV sequences suggesting that this version has some streaming issues. Unreal Engine titles background load data concurrently with streaming video, and you can hear the drive head zooming about, almost as if it is struggling to maintain both tasks - the halting playback adds further to the impression that this is a rougher, jerkier, more lacklustre rendition of the original.

It's Arkham City, and by default a good game, but the basic reality is that we'd take any of the older - and now cheaper - versions of this excellent title ahead of the underwhelming Wii U port.

Posted on Nov 28, 2012 9:42:37 AM PST
Hi, Flores!

Posted on Nov 28, 2012 9:43:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 9:44:47 AM PST
Keller says:
Yeah, so far Wii-U ports have been disappointing. Hopefully this is because of developers rushing to hit the launch window. Who knows for sure, but I see no reason to get anything on the U outside exclusives. Though I have been waiting to see a writeup on ACIII. I haven't bought it yet and wonder if by chance the U version is worth it. Anybody happen to know if an in depth comparion of ACIII U has been performed? :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:46:12 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 9:46:58 AM PST
Kirksplosion says:
The GamePad integration is really all I would be concerned about with ports. Sounds like the uses with this game are pretty neato. Had I not played the game already, I'd go with the Wii U version.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:46:22 AM PST
got mayo? says:
Its too bad these bother you that much now Jason. I've long posted them before the Wii U existed ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:47:58 AM PST
It doesn't bother me since my day goes exactly the same no matter what you do. It's just not that often I see someone so obsessed over a system they have no real experience with and have no intention of buying. You'll pardon me if I mistook you for someone who does that.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:49:37 AM PST
Keller says:
Happen to be able to post one for Assassin's Creed III?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:55:00 AM PST
got mayo? says:
It makes for a decent read, for whom that applies.

Its too bad you feel anything concerning talks of the Wii U should be relegated to a 'good old boys club' aka circle jerk.

You should exercise and afford the same tolerance you do for other material things you own. Just saying ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 9:57:51 AM PST
got mayo? says:
They only have the 360/PS3 version up. My guess, because of the staggered release, if they ammend it, it may be once the PC version is out too.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:01:51 AM PST
"Its too bad you feel anything concerning talks of the Wii U should be relegated to a 'good old boys club' aka circle jerk.

You should exercise and afford the same tolerance you do for other material things you own."

Now with this post you truly are descending into Flores territory since this has nothing to do with reality. You will kindly note that I have not argued or commented on Wii U gripes from Keller, Keji, Garion or other people who actually bought and used one. I've even griped about the parts that I don't like.

Argue with me if you like. I only ask that you make your posts conform to basic reality.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:10:05 AM PST
got mayo? says:
And all i've said is i'm waiting for a larger library to jump in.

Somehow me posting an objective 3rd party analysis involving a game that is on multiple platforms (something i've commonly done in a forum with people who own multiple systems), makes me a 'Flores'.

I think i need to man up buy a Wii U to buy some acceptance from Uncle Jason.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:14:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:14:38 AM PST
"Somehow me posting an objective 3rd party analysis involving a game that is on multiple platforms (something i've commonly done in a forum with people who own multiple systems), makes me a 'Flores'."

Not by itself, but you knew that already. ;)

"I think i need to man up buy a Wii U to buy some acceptance from Uncle Jason. "

It doesn't make a difference to me but criticisms from firsthand experience are always more credible.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:15:10 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:15:42 AM PST
Keller says:
Friendly request, if they do release a comparision do you mind posting it? I can't access that stuff at work and my time at home is limited with the kids. By the time I get them in bed I rather play games than read about them. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:15:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:16:20 AM PST
got mayo? says:
Meh, I'll take Digital Foundry's 'first hand' over Reggie's 'snake oil' :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:17:02 AM PST
Nothing to do with my post but okay....

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:20:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:24:40 AM PST
got mayo? says:
I'm trying to stay somewhat on-topic.

Your post(s) have no function/bearance to the OP. You've just gone somewhere else...and personal..eww

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:22:00 AM PST
Paper Tiger says:
I have AC3 on the Wii U and it looks and runs great. I think it's the best looking console game I've played now. However, I have never seen the game played on either of the other 2 consoles. Ubisoft didn't include any "doggies biscuits" either.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:22:46 AM PST
Keller says:
Thanks for the impessions. I think ACIII will be my next U game as I wait for Monster Hunter, Rayman and Pikmin 3. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:26:27 AM PST
Paper Tiger says:
I grabbed Arkham City for the Wii U and now that I've seen this I feel disappointed. I haven't popped it in yet. I bet I won't be able to tell though as long as I don't see the other versions in action. I've haven't played either of the Batman games yet.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:28:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:29:23 AM PST
Keller says:
I have often wondered if a lot of the differences are noticable. Measuing a difference and actually being able to notice a difference are two different things, IMHO. I mean if the ps3 version drops to 28 fps while the 360 stays at 30.... does it really matter? When I read a lot of these comparisions I can't help but think during normal play no regular person could tell the difference. Except with Skyrim, that really did run horribly on the ps3. :)

For the record Arkham Ayslum is top 5 this generation if not top 3 for me. I loved it, truly loved it.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:31:42 AM PST
You should be able to return it if it is still sealed. I do think you should play Arkham Asylum first since I believe the experience works better that way.

Posted on Nov 28, 2012 10:32:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:45:00 AM PST
got mayo? says:
If you have never played them, may as well. Great game.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:33:46 AM PST
Paper Tiger says:
That's why I feel really happy with the Wii U. You can't go wrong with Nintendo games in HD. At the same time I don't blame people like Mayo for waiting because there aren't a lot of exclusive games out yet until Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 get here (not to mention Zelda). The download selection is mediocre for now if you don't include the stuff you can get on the Wii.

I don't think you will be disappointed with AC3 on the U although I know the PS3 version got some extra missions or something.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:35:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2012 10:38:06 AM PST
Paper Tiger says:
Nah I'm not that big of a graphics lover and I paid 47.99. I was more concerned about lag but I agree with Ninstationbox that it's prolly not something you would note unless side by side.

Edit: now I see this game is free on PS+ aaaaahhhhhh!!!!

Oh never mind not in NA

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2012 10:49:51 AM PST
got mayo? says:
I'm not big on Pikmin, but Wonderful 101 looks like an over-the-top blast. Big fan of Platinum Games.

I hope they become the next best reason to have a Ninty console like Rare once was.
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Discussion in:  Video Games forum
Participants:  20
Total posts:  47
Initial post:  Nov 28, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 16, 2012

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