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‘Batman: Arkham City’ Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC is a Fun Missed Opportunity [Review]

At first glance, Harley Quinn’s Revenge appears to be the DLC that Batman: Arkham City fans have been waiting for. Unlike the other content released so far, Harley Quinn’s Revenge is a full blown campaign mission set shortly after Batman: Arkham City‘s ending. To sweeten the deal even more, Rocksteady has made Robin a fully playable character in the story. No longer confined to challenge mode fare, Tim Drake Robin is front and center in this roughly two and a half hour story-driven campaign. Though I enjoyed my time revisiting Arkham City, I couldn’t help but feel that Rocksteady missed several opportunities with the DLC that would have put it on the same level of excellence as the original game.

It should go without saying that you shouldn’t even be touching this content until you’ve finished the main storyline in Batman: Arkham City. While the DLC aims to explore the events after the original game has ended, it’s technically a separate “game,” as you won’t have the same unlocked progress from your previously saved game. The fact that playing the DLC is a separate menu option should also help clue you in to that as well.

As one might surmise from the title, Harley Quinn is up to some dastardly antics motivated by the events at the end of Batman: Arkham City. She’s kidnapped some GCPD officers and taken over the local steel mill as her base of operations. To top it off, Batman has strangely gone missing too. (On a side note, with all of the recent attempts by superhero storylines in trying to cast law enforcement as our “real heroes,” isn’t it a little amusing that the GCPD is almost always reduced to serving as the Princess Peach of Batman video games?) That’s where you (as Robin) come in.

In full disclosure, I didn’t play any of the challenge map DLC, so Harley Quinn’s Revenge is the first chance that I’ve had to play as Robin and it’s a blast. Combat is just as fast and fluid as it ever was in Arkham City, except Robin has distinctly Robin-like movement and gameplay. He’s just a tad more graceful in battle than Batman with his punches, kicks and flips having boasting more of a youthful zest. Smacking around goons with Robin’s staff was also slightly more fulfilling to me than laying down the law with Batman’s hammers of justice. Robin’s also got some unique toys to use in combat, such as shuriken, snap-flash bombs (which are kind of like sticky flash grenades), a zip-line kick, and a bullet shield that doubles as a battering ram.

Unfortunately, your time with Robin feels too short and limited. Given that it is a “Batman Game,” he’s forced to compete for playing time with The Caped Crusader. While playing as Batman felt as great as it always has, I couldn’t help but pine for more time with the newer car, so to speak. Robin also gets the short end of the stick when it comes to environmental freedom, too. While Harley Quinn’s Revenge only gives you a small slice of Arkham City to play in (the Steel Mill area), Robin only gets to play within the confines of the Steel Mill itself. He doesn’t get to swing around the canopy of rooftops in the open world of Gotham like Batman does.

Then again, perhaps it doesn’t matter much, since there’s nothing much to do in the DLC campaign other than follow the mission objectives. Gone are any motivations such as Riddler Challenges or side quests to explore different areas of Arkham City. Other than finding and popping 30 Harley Balloons throughout the 2 hour campaign, you have little reason to revisit the content once you’ve played through it.

It’s a good thing the combat is so polished and fun, because that’s the biggest draw of grabbing Harley Quinn’s Revenge. Be warned that the campaign’s difficulty level quickly ramps up into the “expert” range, though. As someone who hasn’t played Batman: Arkham City since last October, I had to quickly acclimate myself with the controls again with a quick refresher in the menus because I couldn’t just button mash my way back to combat proficiency. The game throws all sorts of armored, shielded, stun-baton wielding, Venom-enhanced goons at you early and often, meaning that you’ll have to make good use of all the gadgets at your disposal if you want to come out victorious.

Along with the fresh introduction to combat with The Boy Wonder, the narrative starts off in an interesting manner as well. Shortly after an introductory scene with Robin, the game flashes back a couple of days with to a playable Batman, although players already know they are doomed to failure. While the notion of Batman failing a mission always reflexively raises an eyebrow for me given his penchant for badassery, it’s happened before and with his psyche in shambles after the fallout of Batman: Arkham City, one could definitely believe its possibility within the context of the game narrative. As you set off on your mission as Batman, a conversation involving Oracle, Talia al Ghul and Jim Gordon takes place, leading you to believe an interwoven story with major Bat-characters awaits.

You’d be wrong, of course.

It’s essentially the last time you’ll even hear any character other than Batman, Robin, Joker (Mainly because Harley pines for Mistah J constantly), and Harley Quinn even mentioned in the campaign. Given Arkham City’s solid narrative (written by Paul Dini), the story of Harley Quinn’s Revenge plays out with a resounding thud. There’s enough setup and structure to justify the gameplay situations that players are put in, but with little meat beyond that. The campaign plays out in a completely perfunctory manner, with game objective tropes such as rescuing hostages, disarming bombs and knocking out bad dudes taking you straight to the end of the game.

Perhaps the most egregious offense that Harley Quinn’s Revenge inflicts as an “epilogue” to Arkham City is that it doesn’t tie up any loose ends or divulge any new story elements that could enhance your enjoyment of the Arkham City universe. As the short ending cutscene plays, all of the major players are essentially in the same places they were at the start of the DLC campaign. If it weren’t for some achievements or trophies earned on your console, you would be right there with them too in terms of the status quo. Rocksteady, at least throw us a bone for some of the stuff you teased within the original Arkham City game!

The original Arkham City was so damned good that it set the bar really high for any additional story-driven content so I don’t want to sell developer Rocksteady too short on this DLC by calling it a glorified challenge map pack. There are solid gameplay presentation elements within such as well-acted voiceovers, character modeling, and a reworked map section of the Steel Mill sector of Arkham City. However, I couldn’t help but feel that Harley Quinn’s Revenge could have been so much more from both a gameplay and story-driven perspective.

If the DLC was priced at $5, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, shortcomings and all, because the production values of the game are still sky high. It’s still a Rocksteady Batman game, after all. At $10, though, the decision to splurge for Harley Quinn’s Revenge becomes a bit more of a conundrum. You won’t be angrily disappointed with your purchase, because the core of the game is still polished and fun, but you also wouldn’t be missing a critical entertainment experience either, should you choose to spend that money elsewhere.

Harley Quinn’s Revenge is available as downloadable content on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for $9.99 and 800 Microsoft Points, respectively.

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