Gotham City Stories

A1

Continue the Arkham Knight saga with some of Batman’s closest allies… and deadliest foes.

PC Release: Various

By Ian Coppock

There are many PC gamers out there who will never forgive Rocksteady for the shoddy release of Batman: Arkham Knight last summer. While console gamers enjoyed uninterrupted smoothness from the Caped Crusader’s latest adventure, their PC counterparts were stuck with one of modern gaming’s worst ports. From new saves that crashed upon starting, to frame rates dropping into the single digits, there was no shortage of problems with Batman: Arkham Knight. The game needed patching, and needed it badly; it was over four months later before the game was re-released onto Steam. It runs as well as it should have upon release, and a wealth of downloadable content has been made available to compliment the main game. It’s time to sort out what’s worth playing amid dozens of skins, missions and other content.

A Matter of Family

B

The first major downloadable content release for Arkham Knight is a 3-hour mission pack, starring Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. Years before a shot to the spine confined her to a wheelchair, Barbara Gordon was flapping about Gotham City in a bat costume not unlike that of Bruce Wayne. This DLC is set some time before Batman: Arkham Asylum, and hones in on Batgirl trying to save her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, from the Joker.

Right off the bat, A Matter of Family‘s premise is tired. The Arkham series is nothing if not a series of missions to rescue loved ones from villains, and it’s also the entire point of this downloadable content. Gordon has had to be rescued in several Arkham games already, so it was disappointing to see Rocksteady resort to such a worn premise for this narrative.

B1

Batgirl’s first appearance in the Arkham-verse deserved a much stronger story.

Anyway, the Joker, voiced by the legendary Mark Hamill, has holed up in a creepy amusement part that was built on an old oil rig. He threatens to kill Jim Gordon if Batman so much as sneezes toward the island, so only the Dark Knight’s allies can approach with any measure of safety. Robin shows up to help Batgirl out, which was annoying to see. If this is supposed to be a story about how skilled Batgirl is, why is there a male character there to chaperone her and warn her away from danger? The execution of the narrative sabotages its premise.

Once Batgirl makes it onto the oil rig, she has to travel around the amusement park fixing shit so that she can make it to her dad. It’s an unfortunate tendency of downloadable content to present a small, albeit new area, and fill it with only 2-3 objectives that can be completed in any order. To be fair, the content is reasonably long for its price, clocking in at about three hours. It presents a portrait of Barbara Gordon preceding her time as the Oracle, but that’s about all the innovation it brings to the table. She plays little different from Batman, but the game does try to exemplify her skills as a hacker by including more computer-based puzzles. It’s just a shame that she barely gets to develop as a character before the lights are out and the game is over. It’s a decent piece of content for fans of Oracle, but not much more.

Harley Quinn Story Pack

B2

The chance to play as Harley Quinn was hotly anticipated by Arkham fans prior to the game’s release. It was a piece of bonus content offered to gamers who pre-ordered Arkham Knight, and is now available to all on the game’s downloadable content menu.

Set shortly before the events of Arkham Knight, this DLC allows players to star as Harley Quinn, everlasting admirer of and sidekick to the Joker. Harley has arrived to Bludhaven, a city not far from Gotham, to spring the plant-wielding Poison Ivy out of the city’s prison. It’s difficult for crazy clown girls with baseball bats to blend in, and soon the entire police department is alerted to her presence.

B3

Harley Quinn’s romp through the Bludhaven PD is as irreverent as it is short.

Like all pieces of pre-order content ever devised by the video game industry, Harley Quinn’s little mission pack is soundly underwhelming. Sure, it’s interesting to poke around as one of Batman’s most infamous enemies, but the DLC offers no new gameplay. Harley moves through the police department in a series of encounters identical to those of Batman, even though she’s not Batman. From enemy brawls to predator encounters, this DLC offers nothing new in terms of gameplay. Even the frustrated radio banter between Harley and the Penguin only offers so many laughs.

The cherry on top of all of this is that the DLC is short. It can be completed in about 20 minutes, including all of the enemy encounters and a bruising boss fight with Nightwing. The most interesting piece of this content has nothing to do with the gameplay and everything to do with Harley’s version of detective mode. Instead of seeing in infrared like Batman, Harley sees in shades of bright pink, and all of the surfaces she sees are scrawled over with ramblings about how much she loves the Joker. It’s a novel way to express the insanity of the character, but not enough to make this DLC worth its price. If it’s to be owned, it must only be done via a sale.

Red Hood Story Pack

B4

The Red Hood is a fascinating character in Batman lore. He represents everything that is wrong with Batman, including his unwillingness to kill criminals who are clearly beyond redemption. To be the judge on such a matter is no small task, but where Batman fights with martial arts, Hood fights with lead. Both characters are on the side of justice, but have very different ways of going about it.

The Red Hood story pack features the titular vigilante as he takes on the crime lord Black Mask, who served as the main antagonist of Batman: Arkham Origins. Unlike the Dark Knight, the Red Hood has no qualms about killing criminals, and this is reflected in the DLC’s gameplay. Instead of punching and choke-holding criminals into unconsciousness, Red Hood shots them between the eyes and snaps their necks while their backs are turned. His moves incorporate a mix of melee fighting, but make no mistake; he’s in this to be lethal.

B5

The Red Hood reasons that criminals can’t live to fight another day if they’re dead.

It’s strangely cathartic to play as a lethal character in the Arkham-verse. All Arkham fans know that those criminals taken out by Batman will eventually wake up and live to stand in his way again. With the Red Hood, that problem is rectified with a few well-aimed bullets. The gameplay has been tweaked to suit Hood’s murderous nature, with deadly fighting moves and silent take downs from which there is no waking up.

Unfortunately, like the Harly Quinn Story Pack, Red Hood’s DLC is quite short, clocking in at a measly 15-20 minutes of content. The missions comprise a mix of open brawls and predator encounters, culminating in a fight against Black Mask himself, but none of that saves that the DLC is essentially over as soon as it’s warming up. The Red Hood Story Pack does warrant more interest from potential buyers because it tweaks the gameplay in ways that the Harley content does not, but still. Get it on a sale.

GCPD Lockdown

B6

GCPD Lockdown stars Nightwing, the very first student of Batman, in a new story set after the events of Arkham Knight. Paradoxically for a piece of Arkham content, the DLC takes place during the daytime, a first for the series that espouses a dreary nighttime atmosphere.

During a routine patrol in the city of Bludhaven, Nightwing overhears a group of criminals talking about a plot to break the Penguin out of Gotham City’s lockup, and after handing out some justice with his electric batons, decides to putz on over to his old hometown. Sure enough, Penguin’s crew are laying siege to the precinct, and it’s up to Nightwing to stop the intruders and keep Penguin on ice.

B7

Taste the justice of 10,000 volts, evildoers!

Nightwing’s gameplay is quite different from that of his caped mentor. Bereft of a cape, and therefore any gliding abilities, Nightwing must get around the levels using the acrobatic skills he learned from his childhood circus days. The writing in this DLC is more enjoyable than that of its counterparts. Nightwing’s trademark blend of humor and over-the-top optimism is front-and-center in this content, and it’s funny both on its own and in his taunting exchanges with the Penguin.

Unfortunately, once again, a piece of Arkham Knight DLC delivers a tiny fraction of what could have been. This DLC is a little longer than the others at about 40 minutes of content, but come on… why are these so short? The gameplay presented in each of these episodes is fun, so why can’t there be more of it? Still, Nightwing’s unique style of gameplay plus the lengthier, more challenging levels make this stand out in the Arkham Knight lineup. This one is a definite must-have, if only, once again, when it’s on sale.

A Flip of a Coin

R

While Nightwing is busy keeping the Penguin from getting out of GCPD, Two-Face has managed to break himself out of jail and returned to his lair deep under Gotham. Robin takes off in hot pursuit of the schizophrenic supervillain, armed with everything that Batman has taught him over the years. Like GCPD Lockdown, this content takes place after Arkham Knight.

Robin’s gameplay is much more similar to Batman’s than Nightwing’s. He can glide from perch to perch and silently take down foes using zip lines and other devices. He also has a shield built into his staff that can deflect incoming gunfire, giving him an edge over armed enemies that his mentor does not have.

R1

Holy frijoles, Batman! A quarter!

Once again, this DLC encompasses a mix of predator encounters and unhinged brawls against many foes, and once again, it comes up at less than an hour of gameplay. Robin enthusiasts will enjoy playing as the Boy Wonder, but the best time to do so is when this content is on sale.

Having said that, A Flip of A Coin‘s writing does a good job at portraying Robin’s insecurities. Throughout the DLC he becomes rife with doubt, about whether he’ll ever be as good as Batman, about whether he can stop one of his mentor’s most seasoned enemies. Brief as it is, the narrative includes more subtlety than any of the other content and doesn’t close out its uncertainty at the end. The DLC also features a few unique new puzzles, but how many Arkham fans are in it for the godddamn puzzles?

Catwoman’s Revenge

R2

The final piece of these tiny, episode-driven content packs stars Gotham City’s most infamous cat-burglar. Suffice it to say, Catwoman is out for revenge on the Riddler; he did some pretty shitty things to her during the events of Arkham Knight, and now she’s going to gut him for all he’s worth and then some.

Set some time after Arkham Knight, this DLC is much more stealth-focused than the combat-driven packs featuring Nightwing and Robin. Things kick off with Catwoman creeping around a creepy museum, as she silently takes key cards from guards without being able to knock them out. This type of mission has already been seen in Batman: Arkham City, but it was fun to see it again.

R3

(insert bad cat pun here).

Before long, Catwoman gains entry to the Riddler’s innermost laboratory, and begins looking for ways to clean out his bank account. Before she can get too far, the Riddler’s robotic army wakes up, and begins to surround her. After two missions focusing on stealth, the DLC closes out with a climactic battle against easily dismembered machines.

Though the writing is not as strong in this DLC as GCPD Lockdown or A Flip of a Coin, the stealth missions are more novel than the predator encounters seen in all previous episodes of this series. The final battle against Riddler’s machines is difficult, but not impossible, and the narrative closes out on a resounding high note. Despite its shortness, stealth fans will enjoy Catwoman’s Revenge for its emphasis on, well, stealth. It’s also refreshing to see that the developers de-sexualized Catwoman just a little bit. Seriously, she wore like 18 pounds of makeup in Arkham City.

The Season of Infamy

R4

The last and biggest piece of DLC for Arkham Knight stars the Caped Crusader himself. The Season of Infamy adds four iconic Batman supervillains to Arkham Knight. The missions take place during the main game itself, and are simply added to Batman’s queue of side quests. As if the Scarecrow drowning Gotham in fear toxin wasn’t enough, Batman must now contend with Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze and Killer Croc. Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of The League of Shadows, returns from Batman: Arkham City.

Each of these side missions contains about an hour of content, so players can expect an additional 4-5 hours of romping around Gotham City. It’s ironic that each individual side mission is longer than the episodic DLC discussed up until this point, and it begs the question as to why more time wasn’t put into the earlier content. However, back to the content at hand.

R5

What the hell does this thing EAT? Well, besides people.

If the Arkham fans out there could only choose one piece of DLC content from this series, The Season of Infamy is far and away the best. More than just adding content to the main game of Batman:  Arkham Knight, each mission offers a sense of closure with the side villains we’ve seen over the years. Some of these characters debuted in Batman: Arkham Asylum all the way back in 2009, and it’s fun to see their journeys come full circle in Arkham Knight.

Batman doesn’t get any new gadgets or abilities with The Season of Infamy, but he his thrust into new gameplay situations necessitating new creativity with what he’s got. The voice acting in each mission is excellent, and the DLC meshes into the main game as if it was already there. The Season of Infamy is a must-have for anyone buying Batman: Arkham Knight. Everything else, from the other content on this list to the myriad of skins and challenge maps, is optional. Arkham Knight is running well again, as evidenced by the “Overwhelmingly Positive” mark on recent reviews of the Steam edition. It really is the ultimate Batman game, so please, at least give it a try. It deserved the rap it got when it didn’t work last summer, but now that it’s fixed, it’s a true gem.

____________________

You can buy Gotham City Stories here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

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