One of the many reasons last year's Batman: Arkham City is such a beautiful experience is because all of its most pivotal scenes are gorgeous in their composition - simply look at the directorial poise of a vista like Bruce Wayne entering the penitentiary, and how it elegantly sums up the game's entire context: the outside is grim, the inside is worse. Rocksteady's clarity and understanding of its subject matter helps turn a few simple scenes into a wide and fulfilling context.
It's a bit depressing that Harley's Revenge doesn't have any of that. Released as an epilogue to the main game, the scant 90 minutes of content (and that's if I'm being generous) has you returning to Arkham City to capture Harley Quinn after she kidnaps some of the GCPD's finest.
The content also promises you Robin, but in this instance the boy wonder has certainly had his wings clipped. He's stuck inside the steel mill, unable to soar through the city because, I presume, his character has never been programmed to do so. Instead you get to play outside with Batman, and then indoors with Robin. It's perfectly entertaining while it lasts, but there's just a real sense of disappointment that such a talented studio hasn't been able to show off some of their industry-leading creativity.
Thankfully Arkham City's excellent combat mechanics help lift the disappointment, but despite these being as crunchy and satisfying as ever there's a genuine feeling that it's just not quite what was wanted - there's already a deluge of DLC for Arkham City's beautiful combat, whereas Harley's Revenge is positioned as an addition to the narrative . One of the showpiece rooms on offer here is simply a big square room packed with goons, and while that's certainly fun to play it's virtually indistinguishable from the challenge mode content you'll have already thoroughly rinsed.
When integrated into the game as a whole, Arkham City's ending is now starting to look like the closing to The Lord of the Rings, with this epilogue taking place after the pre-existing Catwoman epilogue, which also failed to add any meaningful developments to what was actually going on. Still, maybe you won't mind; maybe the promise of some new Achievements and 30 new collectibles, along with that absolutely fantastic combat, will be enough to keep you soldering on.
But, if you ask me, story-themed DLC only works when it comfortably slots into the story. Mass Effect 2's sumptuous Shadow Broker DLC was fantastic because it offered an affectionate, genuine advancement of Liara's character - filling in one of the game's main narrative gaps along the way, and ending on a strong finale that furthered a few character arcs and set things up neatly for the third game. Perhaps the biggest indictment of Harley's Revenge is that it accomplishes nothing; no characters are effectively developed, and outside of a couple of cheeky Easter eggs no plot threads are advanced. Your overall experience of Arkham City isn't affected in the slightest by what's happened here, and while the core mechanics are punchy and gratifying there's a very real sense Harley's real revenge is that she managed to get you to slap down seven quid for this.
Virgin Media verdict:
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