Batgirl Rises: Batman Arkham Knight "A Matter of Family" DLC (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
The first piece of fully fleshed out Batman Arkham Knight DLC is also the first major piece of content to come out of the season pass. In this new adventure, Barbara Gordon is Batgirl, taking on the Joker and his clown forces at a derelict amusement park atop an oil rig after the Joker kidnaps her father. “A Matter of Family” takes place before the events of Arkham Asylum, with a pre-crippled Babs and a younger/psychotic Joker… complete with Harley Quinn in her classic BTAS outfit.
The map is big but never overwhelming. There’s enough to explore without getting lost while keeping exploration of the oil rig amusement park more intimate. The entire map is anchored with three main attractions; a ferris wheel, merry go round, and a ghost ship set under the main stretch of booths. While tracking down your dad, you’re also tasked with saving GCPD’s boys in blue while also diffusing complex bombs. During a few key moments, Robin joins you in dual-play combat segments but sadly never in any predator encounters.
Combat is swift and brutal, she controls much like Batman with many of her combos mirroring that of her mentor. The biggest change from controlling Batman to Batgirl is the increased emphasis on hacking. During key moments, you can hack various objects to either distract or takedown Joker’s goon squad. The most memorable moments involve hacks that shut out the lights or startle your foes. When you shut out the lights, you can sneak up on unsuspecting goons and take them out with silent takedowns leaving their buddies none the wiser, when you startle your opponents, Batgirl goes into a mode similar to Batman’s fear takedowns; turning every attack into an instant takedown. I had a blast with the game’s predator encounters and wished there were more, though Batgirl’s arsenal isn’t nearly as fleshed out as Batman’s, the multitude of ways to take down foes made every encounter feel like a game of chess. Babs is graceful yes visceral, it’s a shame the vanilla game didn’t come with a challenge mode… but I won’t dock the DLC “daughter” for the sins of the “father.”
Storywise, though short it was wonderfully streamlined. Much like how the “Harley Quinn’s Revenge” DLC from Arkham City flowed well from room to room, “A Matter of Family” flowed wonderfully from objective to objective. While this wasn’t the “Killing Joker Arkham Edition” the folks on reddit were predicting, I feel the more original story story made sense. What doesn’t make much sense to me is why Tim Drake was Robin… even more so why he was in his Arkham Knight character model. When the initial trailer was released, I was hoping that Robin would be either Dick or Jason… preferably Jason. It was jarring and pulled me out of the immersion during much of the Robin moments. Since I had the New 52 skins unlocked on my game, I played it a second time with the New 52 Robin instead… it’s funny what a slight visual tweak can do for you, I found it much less jarring… despite the fact that he was “Eminem cosplaying as Robin” during the cutscene. Personally, I wish that this DLC pack came with an Arkham City Robin skin, at least to help sell having Tim there with a better excuse than reusing Arkham Knight assets.
There were some points in the game that I felt needed some extra polish, some of the dual-takedown moves seemed to either glitch out or look straight up off. One such moment I can think of is doing a dual-takedown move where Batgirl swings Robin onto an downed thug with his staff, while this looked great with Batman, Batgirl looks like she was using “the force” to manipulate Robin, never really connecting with his staff. Slight cape glitches were minor but never really pulled me out of my immersion. While the score was mostly good, there were moments when the music was outright painful, with a high pitch tone that seriously gave me a headache when listening to it. This was the score they’d use during “danger” moments, but as I traversed the oil rig, hunting down collectibles, this one musical score forced me to mute background music all together.
What also puzzles me was how Batman’s upgrades never reflected in the DLC chapters, not just for Batgirl but also in the pre-order bonus missions featuring Red Hood and Harley. Babs has to rack up a combo of 8 or higher to unleash a takedown maneuver, regardless of whether or not Batman was upgraded. Batman’s upgraded armor also doesn’t reflect in the DLC as well. In Arkham City, these upgrades transferred to most of the playable characters (save for Catwoman who had her own skill-tree). This made Babs feel a bit “chewier,” forcing me to play more conservatively than I would have if I say had stronger armor. The lack of Babs being able to do a blade-dodge takedown along with much of the Dark Knight’s other special attacks (like anything with an AOE) made Babs feel less powerful than her mentor. While I was puzzled that among Joker’s army of goons, none of them were Brutes, I guess I was glad I didn’t have to tangle with some of Batman’s more dangerous thugs.
The best part was the final moment, after Arkham Knight threw me into tank battle after tank battle in place of traditional boss encounters, I would have lost my mind if during the final showdown Babs said something like “Joker built himself an armored Jokermobile! I better use the Bat-Pod’s 30mm Gatling Gun to pierce his defenses.” I’ll admit, I enjoyed the vehicular mayhem in Arkham Knight, but felt it was too much. I am so glad that “A Matter of Family” closes with an all-out dual-play brawl against Joker, Harley, and a gaggle of Joker thugs. That, along with some of Batgirl’ hacking techniques made me wish those were in the core game.
“A Matter of Family” adds some much needed time with Batgirl. After spending much of the previous games with Oracle confined to comm-chatter, it was nice to finally get hands-on with Babs and lay down some patented Bat-Family justice on one of Gotham’s most heinous criminals. Though short, it was the perfect mix of exploration and combat. “A Matter of Family” is an absolute must play for anyone who has this game, and for those who pulled the trigger on purchasing the season pass… you my dear Bat-fanatics get it before everyone else.
+ be the Batgirl
+ great story
+ hack the planet!
- Why Tim Drake?
Story 4.5/5: A well designed, straight forward story that would have been PERFECT if not for Tim Drake being Robin…
Graphics 5/5: Gorgeous visuals! Looks as on-point as Arkham Knight!
Audio 4/5: While not as impressive as Arkham Knight, it had its moments… save for the high pitch “danger” score…
Level design 4.5/5: Nothing felt wasted, every bit of the oil rig worked well for whatever task was at hand.
Polish 3.5/5: Slight bugs but nothing gamebreaking, though they could have worked on more unique dual-play takedowns rather than just adapting what Batman did with Robin.
Controls 5/5: Perfection at its best! Free-flow combat is a bloody delight!
Gameplay 5/5: All that I loved about Arkham Knight without the oversaturation of vehicular combat… though still puzzled that Batman’s upgrades woudln’t transfer over…
Extras 4.5/5: There are tons of Easter Eggs and the collectibles never felt overwhelming… A+ on extras!