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Batman: Arkham Knight's first major DLC falls short

Barb wire.

Ł32.99 is a lot of money for a Season Pass. You know this, I know this, and Warner knows this, or at the very least, it does now after the initial announcement of its pricey post-launch DLC plan was met (rightfully) with much incredulity. The publisher did its best to assuage fears that its "regular new content for six months" was a rip-off by going into more detail on what fans who chose to throw down the cost of almost an entire new game could expect: new story missions, additional super-villains who invade Gotham City, 'legendary' Batmobile skins, advanced challenge maps, alternative character skins and new drivable race tracks. New tracks and skins are standard DLC filler material, Challenge Maps will be a welcome inclusion as they're sorely lacking in the base game, but the real attraction is the additional story content. The first of these three planned single player excursions focuses on Batgirl, the only time she's been playable in the Arkham series thus far. And as a first taste of what value we can expect from the Season Pass, the hour-long experience doesn't do much to help Warner's case.

A Matter of Family takes Barbara Gordon's Batgirl, flanked by Robin, to a new location - Seagate Amusement Park; a nautically-themed funfair which has, predictably, been given a gothic makeover by the Joker and his goons. It's quite a claustrophobic space - there's barely enough room to glide end to end - but it does hide one or two secrets if you're prepared to look hard enough.

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Batgirl feels like a cut-rate Batman in the DLC, and is something of a missed opportunity.

Batgirl herself controls almost exactly like her mentor. She's essentially Batman on a budget - packing explosive gel, a line launcher, grappling hook, Batarangs and a remote hacking device. And that's about it, really. There are no upgrades, no new gadgets, and no unique vehicles or skills.

While the Harley Quinn pre-order Arkham Story didn't have any cutscenes, it at least had a unique look that played up to Harley's character; Batgirl's HUD is just the same as Batman's, only recoloured slightly. And Quinn's Psychosis Mode actually managed to cleverly integrate a little bit of backstory in along with the gameplay, by way of emphasised scrawlings like "God I'm so alone" marked out on walls in what amounted to her version of Detective Vision. Batgirl has no such luck. She has a dozen lines, tops, and most of those are spent worrying about her Dad or Batman, or exchanging awkward, cliched back-and-forths with a quietly lovesick Tim Drake.

It's a bland, no-frills reading of the character, to be frank, which focuses on her familial connections rather than her youthful exuberance. The developers - worth noting it was Arkham Origins' Warner Montreal and not Rocksteady that took the helm here - attempted to work in some reference to her technological intelligence by way of an emphasis on remote hacking, but all this really means is that you open a few extra doors from further away, diffuse a handful of bombs and can turn lights and attractions on and off at the facility in order to get the drop on enemies.

Robin will show up a few times throughout the mission, having uncovered a bomb, and you'll have to race across the site, take down a handful of foes side-by-side and then stop the bomb from going off, all on a timer. But all told, your time with Babs will be up within an hour, culminating in a QTE-heavy boss fight between Batgirl, Robin, the Joker and Harley. The highlight of the entire experience, for me, was seeing Harley Quinn in her original Animated Series outfit. I would have switched teams if I could have.

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There's a new environment to explore, but it's hardly a classic.

I can't say whether the rest of the DLC content that Warner has planned for Arkham Knight will be worth picking up. Perhaps the two other Arkham Stories included in the Pass, The Season of Infamy and Gotham City Stories, will see a significant upshoot in production value - new never-before-seen villains and gadgets and allies - that'll make them worth their price tag. But A Matter of Family certainly isn't.

It's not bad, exactly - it's functional and does exactly what it says on the tin; it just feels a wasted opportunity. There's no AR Challenge Map, for example, so the character model is confined to this one short story experience. The story is about as basic as they come - a shame given the strength of some of Arkham Knight's finer moments - and given how they've chosen to frame this version of Barbara Gordon as a two dimensional doting daughter and romantic interest for Robin, I can't help but think a story focusing on the Cassandra Cain incarnation of Batgirl would have been far, far more interesting. As it stands, Batgirl fans are likely to be the ones most disappointed by this offering. If you decide not to fork over cash for the ability to step into Bab's impractically-heeled Batsuit, know that you aren't missing much. That said, if all you want is a few extra scuffles and challenges in a new space with a new face, this will scratch that itch. Just think long and hard about how much you're willing to pay for the privilege.

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