Love it or loathe it, downloadable content is here to stay. At its best, DLC offers a chance for developers to expand existing titles with valuable new content. New missions, puzzles, arenas, characters and more. The kind of stuff that would be too small to sell at retail, yet worth playing for fans of the original game. But at its worst, DLC is overpriced, tacked on extras that hardly expand the core experience, let alone offer anything new. Unlock keys and horse armor, anyone?
With the slew of DLC challenge maps, gimmicky bonus characters, and various skins for Batman and Catwoman out of their system, the team behind Batman: Arkham City has finally stepped up to the DLC mission pack plate with Harley Quinn’s Revenge. Set after the cliff hanger ending of Arkham City, Harley Quinn’s Revenge promises insight into the mysteries surrounding our favourite characters, as well as potentially setting the stage for future games. So be warned, this review contains spoilers for Arkham City‘s finale.
We last left Batman cradling a recently deceased Joker in his arms, walking off into the night with an unknown purpose. The Joker’s beloved Harley Quinn was nowhere to be seen, meanwhile in-game hints implied she had a bun in the oven. Big things were brewing in Gotham City, and Harley Quinn’s Revenge does little for closure. In fact, almost none of the big questions are addressed at all. Is Harley Quinn actually pregnant? Who knows. Why is Batman brooding? Never answered. What fate is in store for Gotham City now that the Joker is gone? You’ll never know. Canonically, all Harley Quinn’s Revenge offers is a little extra story stuff attached to the end of Arkham City, none of it really substantial or interesting to Batman lore. You’ll see a mournful Harley Quinn and a moping Batman. Throw in some kidnapped cops and Harley Quinn’s Revenge could have very well been titled “Another Night in Gotham City” and you wouldn’t know the difference.
To tell what little story there is, Harley Quinn’s Revenge splits the short lived sequence of missions between two characters: Batman and Robin, the latter searching for the missing former. Robin’s move-set will be familiar to those who purchased the Robin specific challenge map DLC, and thus like Catwoman offers a unique alternative to Batman rather than a cheap re-skin. Robin lacks the health and armour buffs of Batman, as well as the full arsenal of equipment, preferring to rely on mobility and deflection techniques to dispatch foes. Flash grenades can be stealthily attached to enemies and detonated at will, and his staff can turn into a bullet proof shield. The difference in skills shows signs of promising gameplay as Harley Quinn’s Revenge tutorialises their usage in interesting ways, such as placing flash grenades on moving structures to attack out of reach enemies, and using the bullet shield to bypass automatic turrets.
Unfortunately this tutorialisation encompasses almost all you’ll ever use of Robin. Harley Quinn’s Revenge baits and teases greater, expanded use of Robin’s skills, but his play time is so short lived that you’ll only actively engage in two or three interesting, significant encounters. And these encounters play exactly like set pieces you’d find in Arkham City. Gargoyle statues, vents, destroyable walls, and so on. One encounter in particular almost directly copies the final Catwoman battle against Two Face at the end of Arkham City, while another is little more than a straight up brawl in a large, empty room. For a character that is supposed to be unique, there’s a disturbing amount of retreading and recycling of Arkham City‘s encounter design. As for Batman’s play time, well, that too is more of the same. Short lived like Robin, Batman’s missions recall numerous sequences from the core game design, from interrogation and detective pixel hunts, to disarming explosives and taking out snipers.
Structurally, Harley Quinn’s Revenge takes place entirely within the abandoned amusement park that was the Joker’s hideout, now sectioned off from the rest of the city limiting exploration. You’ll spend some brief time flying around it as Batman, then the rest indoors, pushing through linear hallways that funnel you directly towards each objective. Despite founding Arkham Asylum and Arkham City on Metroidvania-like exploration, Harley Quinn’s Revenge has almost none. The only exception to this would be a bundle of balloons to find and pop, again not unlike Arkham City, tied to nothing more than an achievement. As many of these will be found in the linear corridor running of interiors, the remainder scattered around the isolated amusement park, Harley Quinn’s Revenge stands as as arguably the most linear mission sequence of any mission found within Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.
So it’s linear, it recycles a lot of content, does little to expand the story, and fails to capitalise on interesting gameplay opportunities. To top it all off, it’s also very short. I breezed through Harley Quinn’s Revenge in about an hour and a half, with a couple of deaths included. As the missions really fail to offer any unique or significantly difficult challenge compared to Arkham City, highly skilled players may complete it even faster, and it wouldn’t be hard to chew through all achievements in the same sitting.
Despite the negativity of this review, there’s a silver lining to Harley Quinn’s Revenge. At the end of the day, for all its flaws of linearity and length, the core gameplay of Arkham City is still a lot of fun. Whether you’re expertly chaining together combos in the middle of a thick brawl, or using all your equipment to stealthily clear an entire room of enemies, the encounters and battles themselves retain the same polish and enjoyment factor that much of Arkham City did. But the complaints stand, and this puts Harley Quinn’s Revenge in a curious position. Price and value, given the length and recycling of content, as well as absence of a significant narrative, puts the DLC at the lower end of the scale. Though fun can be had, the disappointing execution of what should have been a fleshed out epilogue to Arkham City makes Harley Quinn’s Revenge an experience I can only recommend to the biggest fans, those looking for more of the same at whatever the cost.