If Past the Pixels had a yearly awards, then Arkham City would have been last year’s game of the year. Rocksteady’s take on the Dark Knight exceeded even this huge Batman fan’s wildest expectations, by delivering the most wonderfully complete super hero blend of narrative and action that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. With the exception of the Catwoman content, the downloadable offerings so far released have been mere tasters for what was to come. We’ve played through the combat maps and Nightwing was fun, but now its time for a satisfying epilogue to the cliffhanger ending of the main game. Or is it?
*WARNING: Due to the nature of this DLC. This will have spoilers of Arkham City‘s plot*
This is Arkham City’s first proper, post launch, DLC add on to the single player campaign. The player takes control of both Batman and Robin to enter Arkham City once more, to curtail the plans of the grieving Harley Quinn. Harley’s not quite dealing with the death of the Joker very well, and has kidnapped some of Gotham’s police officers to take into Arkham City’s docks and steel mill area.
The south east corner of the map that houses the docks and Sionis Steel Mill is where the entirety of this extra content takes place. The free roaming of the main game has been abandoned, and the more linear progression of predecessor Arkham Asylum has been employed by Rocksteady. Harley Quinn’s Revenge launches from its own icon on the main menu, so players cannot unlock Riddler Trophies or explore a ‘post-Joker’ Arkham City. The restriction in freedom feels a little jarring after spending countless hours exploring the huge city to then be forced down corridors and battle in square rooms. It’s a shame you’re not able to take Robin through the city and get into random scrapes.
The majority of the Harley Quinn’s Revenge is played under the hood of Tim Drake, which is no bad thing as he handles brilliantly in combat. Those who purchased or received the Robin challenge rooms will already know how pleasing the combat as the Boy Wonder is (I didn’t). As this was my first time playing as Robin, I wasn’t aware of how his unique items such as his shield and snap flash were used in combat. On-screen prompts do appear to show their basic functions, but the finer details such as the quick deployment were left for me to find out. A trip to the pause menu shows the item shortcuts at the bottom of the controls screen though.
Mastering all of Robin’s weapons is necessary, as HQR is pretty tough in places. One particular area requires pretty much every stealth trick you have at your disposal to complete properly. And another area near the end of the story sees Robin take on a room full of enemies with a variety of weapons, it is frustrating in the right way however, as the player needs to be able to string successful combos, counter attacks, and choose exactly the right moment for takedowns. These two areas could basically be downloadable challenge rooms.
So the combat and stealth are up to their usual impeccable standard, but the real reason many want this content is for any extra details on just what has happened to Harley’s ‘Mr J’. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of plot progression, there’s no hints (well obvious ones anyway, I’m sure there are Easter eggs aplenty) as to the status of the Joker, Talia or her father. The one thing that keeps getting reinforced to the player is that something’s not quite right with Batman, that he is blaming himself for the Jokers death. Robin, Barbara and Jim Gordon, all remark on how the Dark Knight is struggling to come to terms with the death. Rocksteady convey the message that Arkham City itself is in a state of flux. From the mutterings of the city’s hoods to the main cast of this content, all transmit the feeling that the future is uncertain. As a result, the whole downloadable episode itself feels in a state of flux. Gameplay-wise, it isn’t the expansive accompaniment to the main story that the Catwoman DLC was. And from a narrative standpoint, nor is it the riveting epilogue to sets up the next game that many wanted. For those wanting the question of the Joker’s status answered, think of it this way, in comic books nobody ever really dies.
Considering its 800 MSP/£6.49 price, Harley Quinn’s Revenge isn’t that great value for money. The story is over in an afternoon. Repeated playthroughs will be needed to ensure everything has been uncovered, and to perfect that rather large stealth-based room that Robin is tasked with, but after that there isn’t much. Compared to the freedom Arkham City grants to the player, this restricted bite-sized story satisfies neither in game or story. Completists (like myself) will buy this regardless. Those less obsessive with all things Caped Crusader should hold off until the GOTY edition of Arkham City lands later this year.