Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC
To be fair, following that ending would have been tough.
Going where only Frank Miller had previously dared touch, Arkham City's campaign finisher that saw Joker gasp out his last laugh felt epitaph enough for Rocksteady's action-adventure sequel.
Yet given the brevity of both it and its predecessor's endings, it'd be easy to hope that this DLC could feasibly dig deeper into the fantastic characterisation that put the London-based studio's own memorable stamp on the iconic cast.
In that, this DLC pack fails: other than a fantastic turn by Joker's self-proclaimed widow Harley Quinn - or more accurately her voice actress Tara Strong - there's little here that truly digs into the fallout of Joker's death. Batman remains the stoic but near-silent detective and its left to the conjecture of those on both sides of the law, as well as the player to guess at what's going through the Dark Knight's noggin: his actions remain exactly the same as ever.
It's best to consider this pack as a mini-"Best Of", gliding through key gameplay elements from the main campaign in rapid fashion. The story's solitary location - the Joker's domain of the Industrial District - compacting thug takedowns, crime scenes, silent predator and bomb tracking into a tight series of rooms and a small outside area, and each short enough to be over in minutes barely touching the double figures.
It is brief, but not bereft of enjoyment: Rocksteady's game mechanics are still an enjoyable mix of types, and the issues to be had are partly due to rusty skills: combating larger groups that are dotted throughout the story a battle in themselves to remember the moves. The other is over-familarity with the city: if you've combed the streets and rooftops as thoroughly through the campaign as we have, you'll instinctively know where to go. If you choose to take the time to down Quinn's entire gang, you'll likely break the two hour mark. Focus on story only, and you can subtract thirty minutes.
Rocksteady dice things up with dual perspectives: the game skips between Robin's re-appearance in Arkham City as he investigates the disappearance of his mentor and a kidnapped GCPD officers, and Batman's own reentry earlier as he tracks down the recently escaped Harley Quinn. Time-wise it's a fairer balance of the two than the Cat/Bat, and the Boy Wonder's own gadgets, such as a shield and staff, makes enough of a difference in play styles between the two to matter.
Henchmen still carry the same armaments, but have been given as much of a script upgrade as Harley, and its this dialogue - often humourous, always voyeuristically engaging - that's the highlight of the show. Frequently it's worth hanging back to listen in on thugs talking about going super-villain, attempting to find weapon stashes to become the next mob boss, or in one hilarious moment - trying to hit on their female employer. Its a shame that outside these scripted moments, they fall quickly back to type, repeatedly spewing the same one-liners that grate swiftly.
Harley's master-plan fails to make good on the promise of the DLC's title, yet is entirely in keeping with the character's hopelessness. Harley's mostly unseen before the story's climax, filling the void of both Joker and Hugo Strange as disembodied antagonist, and plays it fantastically well, alternating between hopeless arch-villain and wacko in mourning to brilliant effect.
It's still a shame that come the climactic scenes she still doesn't get the send-off nor conclusion she deserves, and you're left with a nagging feeling there's one last ace not played by Rocksteady, a sense that there'd be one more big reveal, a final flourish before the curtain draws to a close.
But aside from a visual nod to one of the main campaign's biggest secrets early on, the story ends rather abruptly: no tease of something more to come, and little match for the original downbeat ending and its disturbing end credits.
Yet its congratulations to Rocksteady: it's pulled off the same trick on us for a third time in a row - and it still feels fresh, haunting and funny all at the same time. Harley Quinn's finally got her chance to shine. Witnessing that, while flexing well-worn muscle through familiar yet still excellent gameplay routines is incentive enough to download.
Because if you've still got Arkham City in your collection then it's likely you're a dedicated fan happy for another excuse to enter the city-wide asylum. If so, this DLC is worth the price and the play.
- System:PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
- Developer:Rocksteady Studios
- Publisher:Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Offline players:1
- Age limit:From 16 years
- Release date:21 October 2011
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