A Disappointing Epilogue to an Excellent Game
Following in the footsteps of it's predecessor, Batman: Arkham City stood up as one of the most enjoyable action-adventure games of recent years, and arguably the best Batman game we’ve seen. With it’s fantastically empowering combat system, impressive array of gadgets, and great presentation of its world and characters, anything coming after had a hell of an act to follow. Unfortunately, Harley Quinn’s Revenge just doesn’t reach anywhere near the bar set by the main game, and comes off as little more than a disappointing piece of DLC.
Revenge starts with a premise that has a lot of potential; after the events of the main storyline conclude, the emotionally unstable Harley Quinn takes a group of cops hostage, and is predictably followed up by Batman. However, when Batman does not return from his rescue mission, Robin goes to investigate and retrieve his caped mentor. From here the focus of the game alternates back and forth between Batman and Robin, following their respective journeys.
One of the best things that can be said about Harley Quinn’s Revenge is that it gives you a chance to experience a little bit of Arkham City again. It still feels great to be a part of that grim and gritty aesthetic, and once again the hand-to-hand combat makes you feel like a badass, carries a great sense of rhythm, and by some magical quirk never manages to come off as repetitive. Unfortunately, outside of this Revenge doesn’t have much to offer, and one of the biggest flaws in the DLC is how it chooses to treat one of its central features; the ability to control Robin.
Robin adds a slight twist to regular combat, controlling like a somewhat lighter Batman, with a steel bar that it is viscerally satisfying to see and hear collide with an enemy. While he has his own equivalents to Batman’s gadgets he also comes with three of his own; the zip kick, flash bangs, and a shield. Outside of combat at least two of these don’t get a whole lot of use, but within combat they can provide a fair bit of fun.
Flash bangs can be attached to enemies and detonated to stun them, your shield can stop gunfire, and the zip kick can be used to grapple yourself towards unsuspecting foes. After being so used to fighting with Batman though, it did feel easy to forget these tools even existed. You’re given brief moments in the DLC where you’re instructed of their use and asked to try them out on a single thug, but after that it’s actually rather easy to go the entire time playing in the same style you’ve been trained to do after so much Batman gameplay.
The DLC is also stuck with the problem that for those who have played with Robin before there’s really not much new here, and for those who haven’t, the time you actually get to spend controlling Robin is far too brief. Not only does Revenge’s length only clock in at about an hour and a half, but as perspective is constantly jumping back and forth between Batman and Robin, it’s not too long after you’ve got a hold of Robin again before the reins are wrestled away from you for another Batman section. Don’t get me wrong, I love Batman, but I can play Batman anytime, when playing Robin seems such a key part of the experience, it seems a shame that the DLC gives you so little boy wonder for your buck.
Harley Quinn’s Revenge also doesn’t feature any entirely new areas. The DLC takes place in and to some extent around the Sionis Steel Mill from the main game, with a few modifications. These environments sometimes step far away from the original enough to feel like something genuinely new within themselves, but there’s the unmistakable sense you’ve played through these rooms before.
However, it’s not just gameplay and environments which have their issues in Harley Quinn’s Revenge, the story suffers too. With the surprisingly dramatic and ambitious events that take place at the end of the main game, the narrative of any epilogue DLC was always going to be rather important. Revenge manages to squander just about every facet of the potential in the story here. Despite what should have obviously been a very affecting set of events for her, Harley doesn’t seem any more or less crazy than she was in the main game, and what could have been a life-altering change for her just turns into another excuse for her to “be Harley” some more.
There’s no air of real tragedy in the defeat and capture of Batman, the reveal for how he was captured is very weak, and there’s also no strong sense of Robin rising to his own as a hero to save the supposedly superior Batman. There are a few fleeting moments of moderately interesting dialogue involving the lighter-hearted Robin, but we don’t even get a proper idea of who he is as a character. The series of “surprise” twists that hit in quick succession near the ending don’t help either. They’re executed so haphazardly, and the DLC seems so quick to pull them from its sleeve one after the other, they just come off as entirely ham-fisted.
In short, Harley Quinn’s Revenge is a letdown. A large part of what it does have going for it comes by proxy of it being attached to a much better game, and what it brings to the table itself is left sorely lacking. One big recycled environment, a serious shortage of it’s major unique asset (Robin), and a story that feels bland and ineffectual when it had the ability to be so much more, leave you feeling as though Harley Quinn’s Revenge is just an epilogue DLC for the sake of an epilogue DLC, rather than a true follow-up to the main game.
If you just want to experience more Arkham City, you’re likely to have more fun wrapping up the side-missions in the main story, and if you’re that desperate to experience Robin, you’re probably going to get much more mileage out of just buying the Robin character bundle. If, however, you’ve experienced everything the core game has to offer, and you really just want more Batman, Harley Quinn’s Revenge will at least give you about an hour and a half more Batman, even if it’s delivered in a lacklustre style.