Batman: Arkham City – Harley Quinn’s Revenge Review
Short of you having retreated into recluse in the midst of a RAGE-esque nuclear fallout last Autumn, it was impossible to miss all of the critical praise that surrounded Batman: Arkham City upon its release. Chris gave the game an impressive 4/5 in his review, and I would have gone a step further even than that, as that became my Game Of The Year 2011. Flash forward seven months, and developer Rocksteady Studios have now provided us with a full narrative epilogue to that grand superhero epic, with the release of the Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC package.
At an asking price of over a fiver, you’d hope that this extra content would provide some serious bang for your buck. Thankfully this is Rocksteady we’re talking about, and so we get a fully-fledged two hour expansion to the main campaign that does a great job of picking up from the shocking events that formed the original climax. The Dark Knight is forced back into everyone’s favourite prison district when Harley Quinn captures a handful of police officers, leading into a clever segueway whereby Batman gets himself taken hostage and Robin must head into the Steel Mill to save the day.
Anyone who has played Arkham City‘s gripping narrative will recall that the Boy Wonder only got a brief cameo in the storyline, relegated to hospital duty as the Titan infection threatened to kill off Gotham’s population. Some of us here in the UK got a chance to try out playing as Robin via GAME’s exclusive pre-order edition, but for the vast majority of players this will be their first chance to step into the sidekick’s shoes. As ever, Rocksteady ensures that the transition is both smooth and fast so as to press on with the core gameplay experience of the DLC ‘episode’.
However, it’s perhaps that this shift in perspectives is so smooth and accessible to fans of Arkham City that actually hampers Harley Quinn’s Revenge the most. Like it or not, this downloadable expansion is very much more of the same game we know and love, utilising near-identical enemy models, locales and animations in the bulk of its gameplay. This means that in terms of how everything plays and moves forward, there are very little genuine surprises awaiting players, which is a shame considering the Arkham franchise so far has prided itself on innovative twists like Asylum‘s ‘crash’ gag and City‘s League Of Shadows and Mad Hatter missions.
Even in the core extended storyline itself, there aren’t many instances of truly groundbreaking storytelling mechanics or surprising DC universe-altering twists that will entice the player as much as those of the DLC’s heritage. Perhaps Rocksteady are saving the big pay-off to the game-changing demises that brought City‘s campaign to an end for their next entry in the Batman lore, but it would certainly have been nice to see a few more developments in the narrative department considering that the developers pushed this as the sequel’s ‘final chapter’. If anything, the writing team provide too many hints of what’s to come in future instalments and not enough actual resolution to the present situation.
That said, I don’t want to give a negative impression of the Revenge expansion, because what it does well, it does incredibly well. All of the original gameplay mechanics are as tight and impressive as they ever were before, the tension of the various set-pieces on offer is always hugely tangible and of course the visuals themselves are absolutely stunning. Rocksteady still do manage to accomplish countless feats that other developers could only dream of, not just in terms of DLC offerings but also in terms of entire video game experiences.
My problem here, then, is not that Rocksteady fail to deliver on their consistently strong combat and stealth gameplay in this mission pack (because they don’t!), but rather that they do not take things a step further and have us literally craving more Arkham goodness as the main campaign of their two main games did. You will still undoubtedly get brilliant value for your cash here, especially if you end up getting this DLC as part of the Game Of The Year Edition (out now in the States, out in the UK this September). What you should not expect, though, is an expansion that offers completely innovative gameplay developments and/or massive narrative breakthroughs. Yes, the different gameplay styles of Batman and Robin diversify things, but would it really have hurt to delve a little more into the Dark Knight’s psyche rather than hint at the repercussions his actions have had on his mental state?
In this respect, Rocksteady still have lessons to learn from Rockstar’s own digital content in terms of how they build upon Harley Quinn’s Revenge, but on the whole there’s still enough of the new content for 2011′s best gaming experience to justify a purchase.