BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT – BATGIRL: A MATTER OF FAMILY (DLC)
DEVELOPER: ROCKSTEADY STUDIOS / PUBLISHER: WARNER BROS. INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT / PLATFORM: PS4, XBOX ONE, PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
By now, gamers and Batfans should have had time to finish and soak in the events of Batman: Arkham Knight. With the Knight unmasked, nemeses defeated and the Riddler still hiding underground in his stupid Aliensesque contraption (let’s be honest, he’ll stay there for most of us, beyond the most avid Riddle-seekers and completists), many will be looking for their next Arkham fix.
Said fix has arrived in the form of Batgirl: A Matter of Family, a story-led prequel in which Batgirl (Barbara Gordon, pre-Killing Joke) and Robin (shaven-headed Tim Drake) rescue kidnapped GCPD officers from Joker’s funland. For a dead guy, The Joker sure does get about still. It’s an odd choice of villain, given how much of Arkham Knight was devoted to putting the Clown Prince of Crime to rest once and for all, but the franchise never has been particularly imaginative with its villains.
With Commissioner Gordon (Jonathan Banks, still sounding like Jonathan Banks) in the firing line and Batman nowhere to be seen, Batgirl and Robin must battle their way through a bad-guy-packed amusement park, all the way to their inevitable confrontation with The Joker and Harley Quinn. Batgirl’s name is in the title, though, and it’s Batgirl who you’ll spend most of your time with – like he was in Arkham Knight, the Boy Wonder is playable only during the big battles, allowing for dual takedowns and quick-fire switching between characters.
A few less gadgets and a vastly decreased life bar aside though, you’d be hard-pressed to see any real difference in the gameplay. Batgirl plays almost exactly like mentor Batman, save for slightly differing animations and maybe a little extra speed. The costume looks good though (the bulky ears are a nice touch), the flowing red hair and spots of yellow consistent with how she’s generally looked throughout the years. She’s not the only one looking good: A Matter of Family brings back the traditional domino outfit for Harley Quinn – a lovely change from whatever stupid getup she usually ends up wearing everywhere else these days.
There’s no free-roaming, no side missions and no vehicles: at roughly an hour’s gameplay, A Matter of Family is short, stripped back and largely free of invention. Rescuing the cops from Joker’s funhouse contraptions is fun, but players shouldn’t expect much from the game. Even Barbara’s technical know-how is underutilised – literally all she gets to do is disarm a few bombs and set off a few traps, using exactly the same hacking device as Batman. It seems to take her longer too, so evidently she’ll need to get a bit more practice in before becoming computer genius Oracle.
Finishing on an enjoyably satisfying fistfight, A Matter of Family does what it does well enough, but that’s about it. There’s none of the father/daughter drama the promotional imagery led us to expect (Gordon pulling a gun on Batgirl!) nor any changes or additions to the Arkham mythos that might have justified this empty-headed little tale. This Bat-family affair is a story that ultimately doesn’t, well, matter.