It’s been close to a decade since Rocksteady Studios wrapped up its trilogy of Arkham games, but the beloved Batman titles still loom large in the hearts of many. From their authentic portrayal of the Batman universe to their timeless nature as legitimately excellent experiences regardless of the license they carry, the Arkham games have lost very little of their luster in spite of the fact that they are, at this point, not exactly “recent”. Now, WB Games has teamed up with Turn Me Up to port Rocksteady’s trilogy to the Nintendo Switch, both offering returning fans the chance to play the games portably, and newcomers the chance to finally experience them on a new platform- and the results are… mixed. And even that might be a charitable description.
Of the three games included in the Switch collection (sadly, WB Games Montreal’s Arkham Origins is overlooked once again), it’s no surprise that Arkham Knight fares the worst. When it first launched on 2015, it was already pushing the limits of the PS4 and Xbox One hardware, so significant compromises were bound to be made to get it running on the significantly weaker hardware of the Nintendo Switch. We have, however, seen in the past how something like The Witcher 3 made the jump over to Nintendo’s platform, and even though it was very clearly a significant step back from a visuals and technical perspective, it was still a perfectly serviceable and surprisingly playable version of the game. Arkham Knight, however, is far less successful in its attempts to make that jump. It is, in fact, an unsalvageable mess.
"Of the three games included in the Switch collection, it’s no surprise that Arkham Knight fares the worst."
The game barely runs. It’s plagued by constant frame rate drops, which range from being consistently annoying to rendering the game downright unplayable. During combat, the performance stutters frequently, which ruins the whole rhythm-esque flow of Arkham Knight’s action, while the frame rate drops are even more prevalent when you’re gliding around in Gotham City, which means two of the game’s best aspects have been heavily compromised. Meanwhile, when you’re in the Batmobile, things are somehow even worse, to the point where the performance issues can be legitimately nauseating. At times, the game can even freeze entirely for several seconds, and though there are times where it does recover to finally start running again, sometimes it just crashes altogether.
Beyond its performance foibles, Arkham Knight takes a massive visual hit on the Switch as well. Draw distances are laughably bad, and distant details of the city’s iconic skyline have been replaced by ugly looking generic blocks, while up close, details in the environments have been replaced by shockingly bland and muddy textures that would have looked out of place even on a PS3 or Xbox 360. Animations are often stiff and jerky, character faces frequently look horrifyingly bad, and all of it comes together to rob Arkham Knight of so much of its very distinct visual identity.
Given the obvious limitations of the Switch hardware, I absolutely wasn’t expecting the game to look anywhere close to as good as it still does on last-gen consoles even now, but even with low expectations, the drastic drop off in quality is astounding, which is exacerbated by the fact that even with all of those many significant compromises, the game still barely manages to function the way it should. That WB Games looked at this port and thought it was in any fit state to be released, let alone be sold for money, is shocking, to say the very least.
"Given the obvious limitations of the Switch hardware, I absolutely wasn’t expecting Arkham Knight to look anywhere close to as good as it still does on last-gen consoles even now, but even with low expectations, the drastic drop off in quality is astounding, which is exacerbated by the fact that even with all of those many significant compromises, the game still barely manages to function the way it should."
It’s particularly disappointing to see because, really, viewed on its own merits, Arkham Knight is a legitimately great game. Sure, it is probably the weakest entry in Rocksteady’s trilogy, but with its stellar combat, stealth, and traversal mechanics (among other things), it has more than enough going for it to overcome its weaknesses in areas like its narrative stumbles and its overreliance on the Batmobile. None of those strengths are able to shine through on the Switch, however, because that’s just how disastrous of a port this is. Sadly, Arkham Knight is no stranger to being let down by technical problems, and just as it infamously did on PC back when it first launched, it has buckled under those issues yet again.
Thankfully, Arkham Asylum and City fare much better, which was to be expected, seeing as both of them were made for the Xbox 360 and PS3’s hardware, something the Switch is more than capable of handling. That’s not to say they’re perfectly spotless ports- for instance, both of them also have notable and not-infrequent frame rate drops, though thankfully, they’re nowhere close to being as significant as they are in Arkham Knight. Asylum and City both still look good on the Switch, and ultimately, both are still pretty playable, while their inherent strengths also make it much easier to push through the technical problems they do run into.
And obviously, there are plenty of inherent strengths to speak of here. Personally, I’ve always felt that Asylum was the best game in the series, thanks to its linear, more focused approach and its excellent Metroidvania-esque design sensibilities, but Arkham City obviously has its own unique appeal with its open world structure, which is also much less bloated than Arkham Knights. Meanwhile, regardless of how they’re structured, both games also feature excellent combat and stealth mechanics, compelling characters and storytelling, and authentic portrayals of the Batman universe that fans of the IP simply cannot miss.
"Asylum and City both still look good on the Switch, and ultimately, both are still pretty playable, while their inherent strengths also make it much easier to push through the technical problems they do run into."
Ultimately, however, Batman: Arkham Trilogy is a bit hard to recommend. Asylum and City are definitely worth playing on the Switch, but there are better versions of both games available on multiple platforms. Arkham Knight, meanwhile, is a broken mess, to the point where it’s hard not to be shocked by WB Games’ audacity to actually let it release in the state that it is in (not that the company has any issues with releasing hilariously terrible Switch ports- we got Mortal Kombat 1 just a few months ago, after all). Given all of those caveats, in spite of the fact that Asylum and City are essentially still the same excellent games on the Switch that they always have been, I find it hard to recommend the trilogy to Switch owners, especially when it costs $60. Yes, the package combines all three of Rocksteady’s games and all of their DLC together in a single package, but when the package stumbles in as many ways and as significantly as Batman: Arkham Trilogy does, it’s hard to afford it any sort of respect- which is a shame, because these games respect all the respect in the world when they’re allowed to exist in the form they should exist in.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Arkham Asylum and City are stellar games that are ultimate still worth playing on the Switch, despite some technical issues.
Asylum and City both have some performance issues; The excellent Arkham Knight is let down by an absolute disaster of a port, which renders the game practically unplayable.