To say that the two current story pack DLCs for Batman: Arkham Knight are short and disappointing would be an understatement. While the prospect of playing as The Red Hood and Harley Quinn seemed exciting, the actual DLCs themselves, particularly their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it brevity, left a lot to be desired. For those of us who’ve plunked down $40 for the game’s season pass, the size and scope of these two DLCs naturally made us worry that we had wasted our money on the season pass, and if future story packs would be similar to the ones released.
While it may not offer nearly as much material as Arkham City‘s story DLCs, Arkham Knight‘s A Matter of Family is at least sizable enough to satisfy most players.
The set up is pretty simple: The Joker has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon and several GCPD officers and taken them to what would be the closest thing to the Clown Prince’s natural habitat… an abandoned amusement park. The twist here is that Joker promises to kill all of the men in blue if Batman shows his cape and cowl. Instead, it’s up to Batgirl and Robin to save the day and stop Joker. Seeing as how Commissioner Gordon just so happens to be Batgirl’s father, things are a bit personal for our friend Barbara.
This DLC’s biggest draw is the fact that you get to play as Batgirl and in this regard, it succeeds greatly. This story takes place before the events of the main Arkham games (sorry Origins, but you don’t count), which means that Batgirl is at her physical peak and isn’t confined to a wheelchair due to Joker shooting her in the back. Since she was (physically) helpless in Arkham Knight, there is a sort of catharsis one feels when being able to bring it to the bad guys as hard as Batman does.
Though Batgirl controls almost exactly like Batman or any of the other playable characters in the game, she is by far the fastest fighter. Her lightning quick moves and reflexes make combat feel more frantic than usual and are exhilarating to say the least. I was able to rack up 60+ hit combos with little effort since it was so much easier and faster to cover ground and keep the combos going.
Like Batman, Batgirl is capable of more than just whompin’ ass. Even before she became the master hacker Oracle, Barbara had skills with infiltrating computer systems and we see some of that here. However, hacking terminals is done in the same way it is during the main game so it doesn’t feel any more special than when Batman does it. Batgirl is also able to sneak around and keep out of sight. Just like with combat, she is able to move from places on the map much faster than her counterparts.
One of the things that bothered me about Arkham Knight was how most of the missions took place in the open world. I felt the game had lost something when it opted to minimize the amount of smaller, more focused environments like in the previous two games. A Matter of Family hearkens back to those days with a closed environment which allows the game to set more of a specific tone and mood with deliberate set pieces. There is still a sort of open ended-ness to the amusement park, but most of the narrative takes place in tighter spaces and I appreciated this.
Much like Arkham Knight, this DLC takes place at night during a rainstorm. This is basically a way for the developers to turn on as many visial effects as possible to impress gamers’ eyeballs. The amusement park itself is wonderfully realized with its dilapidated structures, disturbing depictions of undersea animals, and eerie lighting. The fact that it’s constantly raining and you are surrounded by a churning, violent body of water just adds to the richness of it. This DLC, just like its parent game, is absolutely gorgeous even when it does its best at creeping us out.
One of the things I was unable to discuss during my review of the game was the fact that Mark freakin’ Hamill is back as the Joker. Now that everyone knows that he is in this DLC, I can finally talk about this, if briefly. I don’t know what sort of magic Warner Bros. used to get Mark back on the franchise after he claimed Arkham City was his last outing as Joker, but whatever they did (most likely heaps and heaps of money), I’m glad to hear that maniacally beautiful voice and laugh of his in this series once more. This DLC gives us more of the same brilliance that we expect from the best Joker ever (sorry Romero, Nicholson, and Ledger). The only downside of course is that you don’t get to spend nearly as much time with Joker here as you do in Arkham Knight.
Though this is the best DLC so far from this game, it still has some faults. The main one being that there isn’t much new introduced and very little in the way of variety. You’re essentially just going from place to place, beating the shit out of enemies and doing some hacking along the way. I realize that this is a DLC, but a few more puzzles or something more intricate could have been tossed in to break up the almost constant hand-to-hand battles. Also, and this is something minor, but I really didn’t like seeing Harley Quinn in her original Batman: The Animated Series outfit. While I do have a fondness for it, it just seemed completely out of place for this series. I now understand why they gave her a revamped costume in the first place.
A Matter of Family promised to let players take on the role of Batgirl and in that respect it does a fantastic job. Batgirl is so much fun to play with that I wish Rocksteady would have allowed her to be used during AR missions since there isn’t much to do after you beat this DLC other than gathering up collectibles. I would have preferred if this was a bit longer, but the time I did spend with it was enjoyable. I’m hoping future DLCs for this game take the basic template set here and expand on it since this is a solid effort overall.
This review of Batman: Arkham Knight – A Matter of Family is based on a digital copy for the PlayStation 4 which was purchased out of pocket.