I normally like these preambles to be vaguely introductory or to relay some sort of emotion I held before going in to a game, but this time I feel like it needs to be a touch different. Harley Quinn’s Revenge is a DLC epilogue to Arkham City and it feels impossible to discuss it fairly without also revealing some serious spoilers from its base game. So, a spoiler warning: from here in on, spoilers abound.
Harley Quinn’s Revenge (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Base Game: Batman: Arkham City
Released May 2012 | Developed: Rocksteady | Published: Warner Bros.
Genre: Action-Adventure | HLTB: 2 hours
Harley Quinn’s Revenge is set a few weeks after the end of Arkham City. In case you missed the bulletin, the Joker is dead – killed by the Titan formula he took at the end of Asylum, the Clown Prince of Crime spent City in a wretched state, desperately scheming for a cure while his own blood slowly poisoned him. In the end his own compulsion to manipulation and violence was his downfall as his final attack on Batman cost him the very cure he craved.
Of course, as the bad guy chatter in the City post-game hints at, the Joker’s lovestruck lieutenant Harley Quinn has not taken this well. Consumed by grief she assumes command of the Joker’s gang; clad in red and black harlequin print and with great daubs of black tears painted on their faces, the gang join her in becoming a group in mourning for the Joker and true to form she plans her revenge on the man she believes murdered her beloved: Batman.
The opening places us control not of Batman but of his apprentice, Tim Drake, or Robin. We first got a glimpse of him in City when he appeared, staff whirling, to save Batman’s life from an assassin, though he just as quickly was ushered offscreen. This time he is one of our primary playable characters – Batman has been missing for 2 days and Robin is dispatched to find him. Correctly, he suspects Harley has had a hand in his mentor’s disappearance and tracks her down to an abandoned dry dock on the fringes of Arkham City.
Part of the story also takes place in flashbacks as we play as Batman and follow the events which lead up to his capture. It’s a nice narrative choice but not enough is made of it – this is a very brief DLC, scarcely over an hour in length, and so time is at a premium. In total, we get one decent flashback sequence before returning to Robin’s quest to rescue the Caped Crusader.
Like Catwoman in Arkham City, the core gameplay with Robin is fundamentally the same as with Batman, and so he will feel instantly and perhaps blessedly familiar to returning players. He does however come with his own array of gadgets, some of which are the same as Batman’s and some of which are different. His explosive gel and shurikens (replacing batarangs) are obviously identical though I love the attention to detail put into Robin’s animations, such as throwing his shurikens with a bit more flair or the idiosyncratic ‘R’ he signs in explosive gel before detonating. Others are new such as Robin’s deployable shield, which comes in handy for blocking gunfire in the narrow corridors of the dry dock, or the snap bangs, small explosives which can be affixed to environmental objects and detonated to stun foes. It’s a shame there’s not really enough time to experiment with these toys as Robin gets a few combat sequences and one main Predator room before the DLC comes to an end.
The real point of the DLC, alongside giving us a bit more Arkham City (which is fair enough) is to explore the darkening countenance of the Dark Knight. Snippets of conversation between Robin, Oracle, and Jim Gordon imply an unfortunate change in Batman as he comes to terms with his nemesis’ death. Awkward, wary words are exchanged regarding Batman’s state of mind, and the unspoken concern and implications are clear; no-one gives straight answers when they’re asked how he is but his grim mood tells us all we need to know. When we do see Batman in the narrative he’s sharper and harsher than ever, barely registering Robin or the GCPD’s help.
It’s a frank reminder that both Asylum and City have not just been concerned with Batman stopping his greatest foe but an exploration of the relationship the two share. It’s not unique in this by any stretch – plenty of works have done the same and the Arkham-verse certainly isn’t the first to draw the parallel between the inherent madness of both – but both games together have done an excellent job of showing the complex war they wage. City in particular delves deeply into the sick and twisted personal level of their relationship as the Joker leaves constant voice messages on Batman’s comms, and the impact of the ending on Batman is clear even in the moment. It’s not a surprise then that here a comparison is offered between Batman and Harley Quinn: both are in mourning but Quinn wears her heart on her sleeve and her grief is violent and emotive. Batman is no stranger to violence but in contrast his means of dealing with the Joker’s death has been to become even more withdrawn and brooding, building up an impassable surly wall that drives him apart from even his staunchest allies.
Harley Quinn’s Revenge is, to be frank, not a great piece of DLC – the point it wants to make could probably have been done pretty easily within the confines of the base game, even if it were relegated to an epilogue cutscene or tiny playable sequence. It’s hard to justify it needing a full DLC release like this; it’s also hard to justify buying this. I would assume if you’re playing on an older console and don’t own the GOTY version that you’re still able to buy this, but it would have to be mighty cheap to be a worthwhile addition. Instead, just get the GOTY or the Return to Arkham versions of Arkham City if you want to play this. While it might not offer a phenomenal selection of gameplay, it does promise one concrete thing: times are going to get much, much darker for Batman.
3/7 – MEDIOCRE.
A game that makes you go, “Well, it’s alright…” but it’s a kind of drawn-out, unsure, and reluctant decision? These are those games. Might just be worth playing if you can get it on the cheap.