Platforms: Xbox One, PS4 and PC
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Developer: Warner Bros. Montreal
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Given how her role in Arkham Knight’s campaign was limited almost entirely to being kidnapped and how little we actually know about her despite being in Batman’s ear throughout the Rocksteady trilogy I was actually really looking forward to the first chunk of Arkham Knight DLC where we get to step into Batgirl’s boots for a change. It’s a chance to mix up the gameplay a little and explore Rocksteady’s take on not just Batgirl, but Robin, too, especially since they were revealed to be in a relationship during Arkham Knight.
That’s what the DLC could have been, and really should have been, a chance to check out two of Batman’s closest allies while indulging in a slight twist to the standard gameplay formula that we’ve come to know and love. What we’ve actually got, though, is a chunk of boringly designed content that lasts less than an hour. As the very installment of DLC in the expensive Season Pass it’s not a reassuring start, and as potential standalone purchase for fans looking for a little bit extra it’s frankly not worth the effort of downloading.
The package wastes no time setting the stage as we’re greeted with a pre-Arkham Asylum Batgirl at one of Gotham’s numerous abandoned amusement parks. She’s attempting to rescue her father, Commissioner Gordon, from the Joker, who has specifically stated that if Batman shows up Gordon dies. Aiding Batgirl is none other than Tim Drake, A.K.A. Robin, whose soul job is to help out in a few fights and locate bombs.
Yup, bombs. Here’s the mission structure of the entire DLC: rescue some hostages, defuse bomb that Robin has found, rescue yet another bunch of hostages and then defuse a second bomb that Robin has found, and then rescue a third set of hostages before heading off for the final boss fight which is merely a standard brawl with piles goons and Joker and Harley Quinn thrown in for good measure. It’s incredibly rote design, and the only reason it’s even remotely fun is because the Predator sections and Freeflow combat is so damn good.
Batgirl barely differentiates herself from the Dark Knight himself, which at least fits in thematically since she was trained by him and thus would tend to use the same fighting style and tricks. She has a far more limited selection of gadgets, but does have a heavier emphasis on hacking at range, including a neat idea where the game let’s you temporarily turn the likes out, sending an area into pitch darkness and giving you the opportunity to take out several goons in quick succession. There tends to be a fair extra hackable objects thrown in for good measure as well to help make Batgirl feel different. It’s not enough, though. Some unique combat animations are a nice touch, certainly, but you can’t shake the idea that you’re really just playing as a reskin of Batman, with even less gadgets to play around with.
At least Robin gets involved in a couple of fights for some tag-team action, but it’s a shame we don’t get a Predator section with both characters involved as we did in the main Arkham Knight campaign.
All of this takes place within a small, confined area that boasts the same impressive technical levels of detail that the main game boasts, too, but that is an otherwise unmemorable location for the most part, although the giant metal shark and brief wander through isles of metal fish are kind of neat. Once the main “story” is complete, though the world “story” may be giving it too much credit, you’re put back into the small world so that you can clean up the collectibles scattered around and uncover a couple of little secrets, including a nod to the Justice League, and an interesting bit of backstory that tells the tale of the amusement parks’ dark origins and proves to be more interesting than the actual main storyline.
Speaking of which Batgirl gets maybe a dozen lines throughout the course of the storyline, and Robin gets even less to say. It’s a waste of two characters, to be honest, and there’s really no storyline to speak of. What storyline there is riffs on an idea recently seen in Snyder’s Batman storyline, A Death of the Family, and deserved to get fleshed out much more. We know so little about the Batgirl and Robin of Rocksteady’s universe that it seems like a massive shame to have a piece of DLC featuring them that gives them so little dialogue and that tells almost nothing about who they are. Still, the voice acting is solid, Mark Hamill still kicks all sorts of ass as the Joker and it was nice to see Harley Quinn sporting the original red and black harlequin costume. Seriously, I’d like rev up the harley any day. Bonus points if you get the reference. And don’t judge me.
Aside from that there’s no side-missions or VR missions to enjoy, and neither Batgirl nor Robin can be used in to free-roam around Gotham city or in any of the main VR challenges. Which means there’s now a grant total of four playable characters (Harley Quinn and Jason Todd got their own special pre-order bonus missions) who cannot be used outside of their respective, short segments. C’mon guys, really? Batgirl is ready to go!
I’m honestly saddened to say that A Family Matter is such a let-down, from both a story perspective and a gameplay perspective. It offers no compelling narrative nor any insight into Robin or Batgirl, and features an incredibly dull mission structure that is only passable because of how damn fun the core Batman: Arkham gameplay actually is. The final boss fight is anti-climatic and crap, the environment is tiny and lacking in much personality and it barely lasts 45-minutes, not counting grabbing collectibles and uncovering the Edward Burke backstory, which proves to be the only genuinely good thing about this entire package.
It’s interesting to note that this DLC wasn’t developed by Rocksteady and it shows. I can’t but wonder if the reason of Arkham Knight’s planned DLC, which will apparently span six months, will be developed by Warner Bros. Montreal as well. Regardless, this isn’t a promising start to an already controversially expensive Season Pass that promised some rather vague content. As for anybody who doesn’t have a Season Pass and is simply contemplating buying A Matter of Family separately, it’s seemingly small price-tag may be alluring but it really isn’t worth it unless you’re absolutely desperate for just a little bit more Arkham action.