Review: "Harley Quinn's Revenge" - Blowing Up the Bat

***Spoilers for the ending of Batman: Arkham City to follow.***

In spite of my overall issues with the execution of Arkham City—the ineffectiveness of villain Hugo Strange, how it may have been a little overstuffed with characters and plot for its own good—I did appreciate the deliberate messiness of the ending. In contrast to the decisive victory of the first game, even after upending all of the Joker's plans in Arkham City, Batman effectively "lost," unable to prevent his nemesis from dying, making the game's ending a triumph for nihilism.

The "Harley Quinn's Revenge" DLC (also included as part of the packed-to-the-gills Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition) takes place in this potentially story-rich territory, taking place days after the events of the Arkham City's campaign and putting the Gotham City PD, Batman, and Robin right in the crosshairs of the Joker's grieving moll Harley Quinn. Unfortunately, while the superlative combat and a couple of interesting challenges crop up, Harley's revenge feels like more of a tantrum than an evil, daring master plan.

THE BASICS

As the Gotham City PD starts the task of dismantling Arkham City, Harley takes several of them hostage, and Batman, still reeling from the deaths of the Joker and Talia, heads in to save them. Or at least, we're told he's still reeling from the events of the campaign, although we never actually see this in practice in the story.

Clocking in at about an hour and a half, "Harley Quinn's Revenge" alternates between Batman's attempts to free the police and Robin showing up to save Batman while Harley executes her slow moving plan to kill them both. The thing is, Harley Quinn is such an interested and complicated character, a mix of 20's gun moll and Dark Knight Returns' naive Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, and she represents a smart mind taken in by a vicious, predatory one. But both the character and her plan are one note in "Revenge," and never get beyond trying to blow up Batman and Robin (explosives figure prominently in her revenge).

With a less-than-intimidating foe, and no real payoff to the constant chatter about Batman's emotional state, "Harley Quinn's Revenge" ends up feeling like a quickie side mission instead of a full-fledged conclusion to the expansive campaign.

WHAT'S GOOD

Just the right length

At hour and a half of play time—two if you have a poor sense of direction like yours truly—this expansion doesn't wear out its welcome, and feels like a good coda to the game.

The Joker shrine

The whole thing takes place in the Sionis Steel Works, where Joker made his base of operations in the main story. Harley has since refit one of the rooms with a shrine to Mr. J that I won't spoil, but it's one part statue, one part death trap, and it speaks to the weird intelligence her character has (when did she have the time to build that) more than anything else in the DLC.

It's still the same terrific Batman gameplay

Did you like the Arkham City combat? Good, you've got more of that here.

WHAT'S BAD

Harley is exasperatingly one note

"Revenge" only really uses her in the stupid/crazy girlfriend role and as such there aren't a whole lot of opportunities to explore the frighteningly smart/dangerous side of her like the aforementioned Joker shrine. The way she's presented here, it's implausible that she would ever be a threat to either Batman or Robin, drawing all of the tension out of the story.

THE VERDICT

It's a shame the story for "Harley Quinn's Revenge" wasn't stronger. Rocksteady and WB Interactive say that this will be the last piece of DLC for the game, and that too is a shame, given that a whole open space still filled with lunatic killers and criminals would make a spectacular playground for Batman. What's worse, though, is that it doesn't really do anything interesting with the ending of the main campaign, ultimately making the whole thing feel like an excessive, extra chapter.

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