For years, games based on spandex-clad day-savers and do-gooders were critiqued with the same denigratory caveat. Whether passingly good or abysmally bad, their merits or failings were frequently qualified with 'for a comic book game.'. 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum changed all that. Coming from the relatively untested Rocksteady Studios, the third-person action-adventure wasn't just the best Batman game ever made, it became a classic title in its own right. Strip away the cape and cowl, and Arkham Asylum's finely-crafted combat mechanics still shine as bright as the Bat-Signal on a foggy night. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a contemporary action game that hasn't attempted to emulate its addictive fist-to-face formula.
Thanks to Arkham Asylum and its sequel, Arkham City, receiving the remaster treatment, that satisfyingly crunchy combat is now complemented by a snappier visual presentation. Sporting noticeably enhanced lighting, crisper character models, sharper environmental details, and more realistic effects, the Batman: Return to Arkham bundle makes all those bone-cracking blows, foe-freezing cape stuns, and cinematic counter moves look even better.
On top of prettying up the fisticuffs, the refined graphics allow all the franchise's defining elements, systems, and mechanics — from its atmospheric open-world exploration to the Dark Knight's gadget-fueled acrobatic navigation — to pop with a new-gen sheen. In addition to both titles' lengthy narrative campaigns, the package also features a utility belt's worth of extra content and expansions, including the excellent Catwoman and Harley Quinn story packs.
While we appreciate the comprehensiveness of the package, though, Return to Arkham's lack of any new material or making-of extras seems a missed opportunity. It also would have been nice to have the bundle capped with Batman: Arkham Knight — despite being a recent release — so we could have the entire Rocksteady Batman trilogy in one tidy collector's edition.
If you've already beat the stuffing out of Batman's rogues gallery in previous Arkham releases, there's little incentive, save for the prettier presentation, to don the Bat-suit all over again. If you're new to the series, or maybe missed out on its expansions the first time around, however, Return to Arkham definitely deserves a spot in your Batcave.