Rocksteady’s excellent Arkham series of games have come to end with the conclusion of Arkham Knight (which as I’ve explained before, is kind of stupid). However, through the magic of DLC, gamers can enjoy a few more adventures in Gotham over the next six months. The first of these story updates was just released and players take charge of Batgirl for the first time, in the A Matter of Family DLC. Overall, the story pack delivers a solid, but underwhelming experience. A more appropriate name for the DLC would have been Batgirl: A Matter of Mediocrity.
Batgirl: A Matter of Family takes place before the events of Arkham Asylum, probably by a few years. The Joker has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon and some cops in order to lure Batgirl and Robin to an abandoned amusement park built on the remains of an at sea oil rig. Joker feels Batman has been preoccupied by the growth of the Batman Family and seeks to prune some of the limbs.
The DLC is more of the same when it comes to Arkham games. Batgirl uses regular combat to beat up groups of thugs (sometimes with team ups from Robin), then uses stealth to take down armed thugs holding hostages. Mixed in between are a few platforming puzzles and time trials where you have to beat up everyone then deactivate a bomb (though why these people are fighting Batgirl when they too are by the bomb that’s going to explode is beyond me).
Though the basic concepts are the same, Batgirl does play differently than the Caped Crusader. This is one of the first annoyances people will notice about the Batgirl DLC. Batgirl plays like Batman lite. She has fewer gadget and can do none of the moves added in Arkham Knight (couldn’t she have had a prototype or something) and she has a smaller move set than almost any other playable character before. For example, she can do a combo takedown, but there’s no multiple combo takedown (e.g. multiple batarangs) nor a distraction-based special move (like Batman’s bat swarm or Catwoman’s whip trip). So playing the combat sections are like playing with a handicap.
Though she is similarly disadvantaged in predator rooms, Batgirl’s tech skills let her remotely access items around the park. This means you can do various environmental takedowns that Batman couldn’t. The developers made sure to put in a bunch of things that can be used, so you don’t miss the features they removed during the predator sections. Interestingly, the goons in this DLC are smarter than they should be. They know to stick grenades into the vents which is something enemies didn’t learn to do until the Arkham Knight showed up.
The story for the DLC is a mixed bag. The main story, as outlined above, is pretty dry and to the point. The most we get in character development are a few awkward moments between Tim and Barbara. However, the story works well enough and has fewer plot holes than the main game. The best part of the DLC story is actually hidden. There are four secret minigames and an unmarked office. Beating the minigames unlocks a recording that explains the story of how the park came to be built and how Joker gained ownership of it. This portion of the story also ties the game back to the events of Arkham Asylum. I didn’t discover the minigames until near the end of the game, but once I heard the voiceovers, I became committed to finding them all and hearing the entire story. It reminds me of what Warner Brothers Montreal did in the one part of Arkham Origins where trace down the plaques that unlocked the story of Cyrus Pinkney.
The sounds you hear in during A Matter of Family are also really disappointing. For example, the music is forgettable in some places but the main theme is just awful. I believe they were going for an eerie feel, but it ends up being a 30 second of loop of this ear-piercing squeals. At the end of the game, when you’re heading to fight Joker, the game will keep making Batgirl say things about going to find Robin and Joker. This kept up even as I was fighting the Joker. I would be fighting Joker and she would randomly say, “I need to go find Joker and end this.” Hopefully, this will be fixed in a patch.
Similarly, the dialogue in general is often uninspired. The goons have little to say that’s interesting and the Joker’s dialogue for most of the game is tame. Even some of the easter eggs were anti-climatic. When I found all of the collectible jack-in-the-boxes, Harley’s voice says, “Well aren’t you full of surprises,” and that’s it. I was sorta expecting a little more.
Batgirl: A Matter of Family is not perfect, but it’s a solid story mission that will provide players with a few additional hours of fun with the Arkham Knight disc. If anything, this DLC suffers the most from the high expectations we’ve come to have for the Arkham series, including the DLC. A Matter of Family is good, but not as good as Harley’s Revenge from Arkham City or Cold, Cold Heart from Arkham Origins (the difference in quality from the latter is especially striking since it was made by the same people).
If you didn’t get the Season Pass and had to wait to download Batgirl: A Matter of Family, don’t feel too bad. It’s a good experience, just not something worth making a big fuss over.