Warning: this review contains major spoilers for the main game portion of Batman: Arkham City. Avert thine eyes if you have not yet completed it.
The Joker is dead. Two weeks later, Harley Quinn has taken over her puddin’s gang and is getting ready to lay siege to Gotham City. Batman is missing in action, and it’s up to Robin to find out what happened.
No, you’re not reading the preview for an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. This is Harley Quinn’s Revenge, the campaign expansion DLC for Batman: Arkham City. For those who have already completed the immersive story of Gotham’s sprawling prison city, the new episode touches on the main game’s strongest notes in a well-crafted couple of hours.
If you’ve already picked up the Robin DLC content (alongside those for Catwoman and Nightwing), you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the hang of playing as Batman’s partner at Revenge’s outset. While you switch back and forth between Batman and his sidekick throughout the episode, it’s Robin’s sections that feel new and surprising. Tim Drake’s more upbeat personality adds a different flavour to the usually morose Mr. Wayne, as he smirks and twirls his bo staff like a triumphant jackass after clearing a room of goons.
Despite a handful of new gadgets, Robin still plays much like the Dark Knight, and for good reason. The gameplay fundamentals of Arkham City are utilized to their fullest in Harley Quinn’s Revenge. You’ll be beating up waves of thugs, stalking them in new “predator” areas, following forensic trails, tracking down informants and generally causing havoc for Quinn’s gang. You’re confined to the Joker’s old Steel Mill locale, but new areas – some that demand specific use of Robin’s gadgets – make up for the restrictions. And given the sharp focus of the story to only one villain, the move makes sense.
The treatment of Harley Quinn, while not stellar, is the emotional core of the episode. What does a crazy person look like when their world comes crashing down upon them, adding even more cracks to their seriously damaged psyche? In the case of Harley Quinn, she holes herself up in her “lover’s” hideout and starts calling her hired goons dumb-asses.
But the portrait we get of Harley, while brief, is complex enough and raises the admittedly low bar of her past appearances (I only heard the word “bitch” once this time around). Her crimson and black makeover, complete with a dye job and veil, denote her period of mourning after the loss of Mr. J. But she’s also stepped up to the plate, in a sense, taking over the Joker’s gang – and done a fairly good job at scaring and/or beating the crap out of a number of cops. She’s at once seemingly vulnerable and dangerous, and it makes for a lone nuanced female character in the Arkham games other than the off-screen Oracle.
At roughly two hours long, Harley Quinn’s Revenge wraps up nicely, but leaves doubts as to its ten-dollar price tag (unless you’ve bought it as part of the Arkham City Game of the Year edition). Rocksteady are also clearly leading us along a few narrative threads, leaving us with unanswered questions at the episode’s completion. Unfortunately, no further story-based DLC content has been announced for the future. Without concrete news that the story will actually be completed, the value and satisfaction of Harley Quinn’s Revenge is left inherently withered.