Batman: Arkham City – Harley Quinn’s Revenge Review

At the conclusion of Batman: Arkham City [SPOILERS – of course if you’re reading this, probably not], Batman is last seen leaving the Monarch Theatre carrying Joker’s lifeless body, aptly juxtaposed against the theatre’s marquee displaying, “Joker, The Immortal”.  Nearby, Harley Quinn gasps in disbelief and horror at the sight of her beloved.  He continues out of Arkham City’s gates and places Joker’s body gently upon the hood of Commissioner Gordon’s squad car.  Silently, stoically and without pause he walks away ignoring Gordon’s demands for an explanation.   A few weeks pass and during that time, a grief-stricken Harley Quinn has taken over Joker’s old hideout in Arkham, Batman has gone missing, and Oracle is worried.

Thus begins Batman: Arkham City – Harley Quinn’s Revenge.  Rocksteady has crafted a new adventure within the Arkham City Universe that explores events occurring weeks after the conclusion of the main game.  Joker is still dead but his influence on Harley Quinn remains; she’s a raving lunatic made “loonier” by her grief and her thirst for vengeance over her lover’s death.  She blames Batman and will do whatever she can to exact her revenge.  Naturally, she sets up shop in Joker’s old hideout, recruits a variety of his old thugs, and holds some GCPD cops hostage as bait – A formulaic set-up, yes, but it works, giving players enough reason to spend a couple more hours with one of the best games of 2011.

This short, semi-satisfying slice of Arkham City DLC serves as a reminder of all the things we’ve loved and raved about in Batman: Arkham City.  The combat remains solid, the game well-paced, and the writing and voice-acting as engaging as ever.  In a nice change of pace, you start the game as Robin, previously accessible only through the challenge mode in the main game.  It’s nice to finally see him get some face time within the context of the universe.  You’re working with Oracle to find out what happened to Batman and all signs point to Harley Quinn’s hideout at the steel mill.  Later, in a nice bit of story-telling reminiscent of Halo: ODST, you play as Batman during the events leading up to his disappearance.  It’s quite good.

While there are some situations requiring a more thoughtful and less aggressive approach (using Batman or Robin’s other gadgets and detective skills), including other situations that fall back on the standard fetch-quest formula, the game’s main focus is the combat.  Again, Rocksteady delivers and Robin feels just as bad-ass as he does during the combat challenges.  While Batman is powerful, swift, and overpowering, Robin has a finesse, style, and agility all his own, made all the more exhilarating with his bo staff.

Of course, this finesse took some time to discover on my initial run; it’s been some time since I have actually played the game.  Don’t expect a ramp up period to warm you up for the combat in this DLC.  Your encounters will include a variety of different thugs, each requiring different approaches, making fluidity and rhythm much more difficult to achieve in combat.  It isn’t incredibly difficult, but it’s not exactly easy.  Playing this mission immediately after completing the main game would have been less troublesome.  However, it wasn’t too long before it all felt comfortable and familiar; hitting 20+ hit combos with little issue.  A few rounds of combat challenges as a warm-up before tackling this DLC couldn’t hurt.

Robin has his own set of gadgets, weapons, and moves during the game but a much smaller sandbox than Batman in which to use them — Robin’s storyline is confined to the more linear, indoor areas during the mission preventing you from using Robin to freely navigate Arkham City.  Regardless, you still get a good feel for him as a character, and I imagine he’d feel quite similar to Batman in terms of how he navigates the city, with their differences mainly in gadgetry (barely) and movement animations. Still, it would have been nice to traverse the city as Robin, just as you could with Catwoman or Batman, but this is hardly an egregious omission.

As expected, the voice-acting is top-notch, with Troy Baker giving Robin a calm and composed tone with a touch of sarcastic swagger.  Tara Strong is fantastic, as always, capturing the madness and heartache of a grieving Harley Quinn. Kevin Conroy is as convincing as ever as a more serious, less personable Dark Knight.  Additionally, I’ve always enjoyed how well Rocksteady injected pieces of exposition into some of the random inmate-to-inmate conversations overheard throughout the last two games.  Once again, it helps to paint a more detailed picture, assuming you take the time to listen.

The story breathes life into Robin and finally gives him a bit of the spotlight, but we only get a glimpse of his personality and not much else.  However it is interesting to witness Robin’s hint of sarcasm and Batman’s authoritative tone during their exchanges.  It alludes not only Robin’s wit, but his subtle appeal for affirmation from Batman.  Batman’s tacit concern for Robin is veiled in his stoicism and manifests only slightly at one point in the story.  Fans of Tim Drake from the comics will be able to project much more relevance into the character, adding a touch more excitement to the whole experience.  However, more could have been done to explore their relationship further.

The DLC’s biggest issue is its existence. Rocksteady, in providing another taste of the city, another lens with which to view it, and another relationship to explore has left more questions and cravings; I wanted to explore Arkham City as Robin, fight alongside Batman in combat, and get to know more about Robin’s origins. I wanted to learn more about Robin’s relationship with Batman, why Oracle and Gordon are so concerned with Batman’s behavior, and deeper insight into why Batman’s become so reclusive. Maybe that’s a larger task for a larger game and maybe we’ll get to see some of these things in the future. But it would have been nice to see a little more ambition and one can’t help but feel just a little disappointed.

Harley Quinn’s Revenge is a brief but robust adventure and will engage you throughout its approximately two-hour duration.  The $10 price tag doesn’t hurt but there are still better values to found on both XBLA and PSN. However, it remains a respectably adequate epilogue to a brilliant single-player story providing some understanding into Batman’s current state and a glimpse — albeit small —  into his relationship with Robin. However, don’t expect any huge revelations or gameplay additions.  There could have been more, its brevity and overall ambition its biggest issue, but what little we do get is good, evidence to the quality we’ve come to expect from Rocksteady and their ability to both satiate and propagate my selfishly nerdy desires.

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