It’s a shame that the first slice of single-player DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl: A Matter of Family – is so throwaway.
Batman: Arkham Knight is a grand game, earning a score of 9/10 in our review. Rocksteady’s magnum opus impressed not just because of the gameplay, but because it moved beyond what we have come to expect from an action game. Arkham Knight is a deft exploration of the psychology driving its principle cast, a dark tale of what happens when two unstoppable forces collide.
Batgirl: A Matter of Family, developed not by Rocksteady but by Arkham Origins‘ developer WB Montreal, displays none of that nous. A by-the-numbers romp that can be done and dusted within the space of an hour (perhaps two, if you push yourself to mop up the pointless collectibles strewn around its environments), Batgirl’s first playable outing is a singularly dull and unfulfilling exercise.
Taking place in and around Seagate Amusement Park, Batgirl: A Matter of Family serves as a prequel to the Arkham games. Playing as Barbara Gordon before she received a spinal adjustment at the hands of the Joker, it’s your job to rescue Commissioner Gordon from the clutches of Batman’s arch nemesis and Harley Quinn.
A few fist-fights and a couple of half-hearted “puzzles” later, and it’s all over – ending not with a bang, but with a resigned sigh. Lacking story, originality, and even personality, Batgirl: A Matter of Family is utterly disposable; by no means will you be missing out by not experiencing it.
Seagate may be a new environment, but it feels uninspired. An amusement park repurposed by the Joker to suit his twisted idea of fun, it feels too similar to the Amusement Mile district of previous games, and its size is too small to allow it to develop a personality of its own.
An early cable-car trip to the offshore oil rig which serves as the park’s home sets up an expectation that you’re in for something special; but once you’re there, you can glide around the entire rig in about 30 seconds flat, and have seen almost everything there is to see in the process. Oil rigs are dense, their lower corridors a veritable rabbits-warren of winding passages and nooks and crannies. Not so here.
The biggest feature of this DLC, according to Warner Bros. Interactive, is Batgirl’s advanced hacking skills. It conjures up images of clandestine network infiltration, searching for information, and piecing together information to work out what’s going on. Arkham Knight excelled in this area, tasking the player to examine CCTV footage from multiple angles, gather evidence, and manipulate electronic devices.
Sadly, for all her supposed hacking skills, Batgirl is never given the chance to flex her cranial muscles. Hacking in A Matter of Family amounts to the same analog-stick twiddling password puzzles that we’re all so used to by now, or activating the occasional switch. It’s bog-standard stuff, and nothing that we haven’t seen before.
Also disappointing is the combat. Possessing an almost identical moveset to Batman in combat, and with fewer than half the gadgets, Batgirl feels lightweight. You have the smoke pellet, batarang, explosive gel and batclaw at your disposal, but that’s it. No attempt has been made to differentiate Barbara from Batman, so instead she feels like a bargain-basement version of the Dark Knight. You’ll stab a button to send a gadget flying towards thugs in combat, only to realize that she isn’t equipped with it. In the few key encounters during this DLC’s short running time, you’re assisted by Robin – because of course a woman couldn’t possibly hold her own, could she?
There was an opportunity here to provide something interesting and substantially different from the parent game. Barbara, in her role as Oracle, has been a part of the Arkham series since the very beginning. In Arkham Knight, we’re shown how she came to be wheelchair-bound. Arkham Knight also deals with the relationship between Barbara and her father.
Had A Matter of Family explored either of those angles in more depth, it could have been something special. Instead, it feels farmed out and developed with little to no thought, thrown to the public to hoover up more cash for the publisher.
When Warner Bros. expects players to shell out $39.99/ £32.99 for a Season Pass (or $6.99/ £5.79 if you buy this DLC as standalone content), then there’s a certain expectation that what you’ll be getting is a substantial amount of additional content, produced to a high standard and adding value to the base game. There are two more story-driven expansions yet to come, said to introduce new villains, new environments, and plenty of additional gameplay. But they’ll need to be truly substantial to make up for the feeling of disappointment that Batgirl: A Matter of Family leaves in its wake.