Like every modern AAA release it seems Arkham Knight had no choice but to release alongside a season pass containing a stack of additional content. As our final foray into Rocksteady’s Arkham-verse, let’s take a look into the various pieces of extra story content, collectively titled the Arkham Episodes.
Arkham Episodes (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Base Game: Batman: Arkham Knight
Genre: Action-Adventure | HLTB: 7 hours
The majority of Arkham Knight’s DLC takes the form of short vignettes, placing us in control of a character other than Batman and giving us brief – very brief – glimpses into a part of the story previously unseen. Our first one, the Harley Quinn Story Pack is an immediate prequel to Arkham Knight. We step into the deranged shoes of the eponymous villain as she breaks Poison Ivy from prison in Bludhaven, Nightwing’s principal city. It features a few combat rooms and two predator sequences, which is just about enough to play with Quinn’s toys and just long enough to get thoroughly annoyed by her squeaky voice. There are a couple of nice Harley-themed versions of Batman’s equipment, the most useful of which is the jack-in-the-box which attracts guards due to it making a noise and then can be detonated to take them out instantly. I love the touch of Quinn’s Psychosis Mode, her version of detective vision except it covers the walls with insane scribblings and even notes from her original self, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, as her conscience tries in vain to communicate to her.
The Red Hood Story Pack (another imaginative title, I promise they get a bit better) is a quick stopoff featuring everyone’s favourite murderous antihero member of the Batfamily. Set some indeterminate time after the end of Arkham Knight, Red Hood’s fatal crusade brings him up against Black Mask; a couple of instances of combat show Red Hood as an unsurprisingly more vicious fighter than Batman with wince-worthy counters and takedowns showing him brutally offing goons at point-blank range. You also get 1 predator room which is made slightly tougher by Red Hood’s limited weaponry and what seems to be a kind of buggy performance where the option to do Takedowns sometimes doesn’t show up.
Nightwing’s DLC, GCPD Lockdown, is predominantly built around the upper floors of the GCPD building. As far as settings go for a predator sequence it’s quite open-plan and with vantage points that aren’t brilliant for hiding on since large glass widows look straight onto them; this means that you’re encouraged to both use vents and corner cover liberally as well as quickly flit from floor to floor, herding goons and picking them off quickly in one of the more interesting stealth moments of the DLC packs. There’s a few quick combat sequences against some of Penguin’s goons as well though Nightwing’s moveset should be familiar to those who’ve played the base game as he was one of the playable characters there, again in missions dealing with stopping Cobblepot and his gang.
Catwoman’s Revenge is also set just after the events of the base game. This episode sees Catwoman infiltrate the Riddler’s base in order to enact her revenge on him for capturing her during Arkham Knight. Unfortunately this particular DLC is marred by a significantly higher difficulty than the others to the point of being frustrating; the initial predator sequence takes place in a cramped toy store with just slightly too many enemies to be comfortable and it also begins with the kind of instant fail state, “get spotted and you lose” that I truly despise. The combat room which follows it and ends the DLC is absurd, with a ridiculous number of Riddler robots being thrown at you while an electrified floor death trap slowly encroaches on a time limit and a set of lasers move sporadically around the field; it’s truly a marvel of ludicrously unfun mechanics and it makes this episode the only one absolutely worth ignoring.
As the title of A Flip of a Coin probably makes clear, the problem in this episode is Two-Face and it’s up to Robin to stop him. The predator room which begins this DLC is one of my favourites, with the different chambers of a waste disposal plant as your hunting ground making it quite a lot of fun to scoot about in. When Robin catches up to Two-Face though there’s a somewhat frustrating combat sequence but I think I know why it irritates me – we get the same type of endgame thugs as in Arkham Knight but Robin doesn’t have all the gear that Batman has and without it you end up taking hits you wouldn’t have in the base game. I’m not sure I agree with the difficulty of most of these pieces of DLC as once you realise you’re essentially robbed of gadgets it makes them arbitrarily harder.
The Season of Infamy pack is a series of missions added into the main game rather than being separate episodes, dealing with 4 more villains plaguing the streets of Gotham. Wonderland begins with Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter, who reveals he has captured 3 cops and secreted them about the city; though Batman hastens to rescue them, there’s a more sinister reasoning behind Tetch’s actions as he once again seeks to take control of Batman. As is usually the case with the Mad Hatter in these games his mission is a chance for Rocksteady to do some fun mind-screwy bits which are very enjoyable. I’m always impressed as well with how good a villain Hatter is made to be given in his original comics appearances he was just a daft Alice in Wonderland themed baddie.
In from the Cold is unsurprisingly centred around Mr Freeze, who we last saw in Arkham City. His characterisation in that game was a piece of brilliance as he moved from out-and-out villain to a more nuanced person with a greater focus on his grief and the lengths that drove him to. Here the militia have captured Nora, and it leads to a sparkling and poignant resolution to his arc. Beneath the Surface gives us another look at Killer Croc, who seems to be a recurring favourite of the series. Batman and Nightwing investigate a crashed prison airship only to find Croc has mutated even further, assuming a yet more bestial form, and torn the ship apart. Aside from getting to fight more in a team, the other thing I enjoy about this DLC is that traversing the airship requires you to make use of some gadgets and skills which are otherwise underused in the base game, such as the Line Launcher and launching glides off walls.
Finally, Shadow War is the most extensive mission in Season of Infamy in that it features two lengthy instances of tracking something across Gotham. Set in the middle of a civil war between assassins loyal to Ra’s al Ghul and members of a reformist faction, Batman finds himself embroiled in it when he is tasked with locating a new Lazarus Pit to revive the dying Ra’s. The mission is primarily a vehicle for a powerful and effective moral choice which makes the largely tedious back-and-forth tracking worth it.
Batgirl: A Matter of Family is the last of the additional story DLCs, and probably the centrepiece of the episodes. A Matter of Family is a prequel to Arkham Asylum, all the way back at the beginning of the franchise. In fact, it has to be set quite a while back since you play as Batgirl in her prime, Barbara Gordon before the events of The Killing Joke took place in the Arkham-verse and her spine was shot, forcing her to become Oracle instead. It’s a personal matter for Batgirl as the Joker has kidnapped her father, Commissioner Gordon, and is holding him hostage aboard an oil rig-turned-amusement park and together with Robin she goes to rescue him. The most substantial of the DLCs, this puts us in the middle of a small open world in the form of the oil rig, complete with its own collectibles to gather if you’re really bored. I was looking forward to this but I have to confess it left me quite irritated; as ever the game throws waves and waves of enemies, plus timed challenges at you, and I can’t abide it, and on top of that the dialogue between Batgirl and Robin is as flat as it could possible be – I’ve heard more emotion from a toaster.
It feels like such a whimper of a way to end my time with Arkham Knight but it is what it is. I feel sorry for anyone who bought (or indeed who buys) the season pass; I played these courtesy of the PSNow version of Arkham Knight, which is very generous for that service so I can’t say I didn’t at least get my money’s worth given I also got the base game as well. I can’t even recommend these for people who simply want more Arkham gameplay with the exception of the Season of Infamy because they’re all so short and limited. I can’t help but feel there was a real missed opportunity here, even if it had been something as inconsequential as adding the characters to the base game to run around with – most of them are already in there after all, Batgirl notwithstanding.
2/7 – POOR.
A disappointment. Best not to bother with this unless you’re desperate for a dull time.