I rewatched Batman: The Animated Series maybe five years ago, and one of the best (and also one of the most neglected) subplots was the Batgirl one. In the show, Batgirl wanted to take the law into her own hands and looked at Batman as a role model. She didn’t seek his approval to be a member of the Bat Family, though. She just made a costume and went out and fought crime. Batgirl was great. She brought some additional fun to the dark demeanor of the show. Her subplot lasted for three or four episodes before the show’s significant tonal departure in season four.
In the comic book, the Killing Joke, the Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). She still wants to help Batman, so she becomes his tech assistan and goes by the name of Oracle. In the first two Arkham games, she’s basically your guide. Arkham Origins explored how she met Batman, how she saw his motives, and how she developed an opinion of him.
So Barbara Gordon, despite being paralyzed for three games, has been a very prominent character. I was very excited to hear that Batgirl would be a playable character in Arkham Knight. As of writing this review, this is the only way to play as Batgirl. My longstanding complaint, which was mentioned in my main Arkham Knight review, was that fully developed characters aren’t utilized well enough. In Arkham Knight, there were two batches of side content in which you played as Harley Quinn and another as the Red Hood. I spent about 30 minutes on those each, and I am happy to say that the Batgirl content is a much fuller experience.
I feel it’s unfair to gauge the length of this DLC to any other content besides another Arkham game. In Arkham City, there was a pack called Harley Quinn’s Revenge in which you played as Robin and had to save Batman. It was very beefy and had a lot of content, both as Batman and then again as Robin. In Arkham Origins there was a Cold, Cold Heart DLC which dealt with the origins of Mr. Freeze. It had a good amount of content.
In Matter of Family with Batgirl, there isn’t nearly as much content as those other DLC packs listed. The entire mission takes place in one area and takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete. In scale, it feels smaller than the other two, but it still gives you the same satisfying feeling. I think it’s a breath of fresh air because the entire content doesn’t require the use of a vehicle, and it feels like the games I grew to love and less like a tank fighter game.
The basic story of the game is that the Joker has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon and said he will kill Batman if he sees him. So this means the sidekicks have to help fight the clown. In Harley Quinn’s Revenge you played as Robin, who is also in the main story of Arkham Knight, but you don’t really get a sense of his personality until you see him paired with Batgirl. It’s great seeing how his attitude changes when he is working with someone less gloomy, as Batman is a bit too serious for his own good sometimes. There’s not a lot of relationship building stuff. It’s just a general vibe between the two, and it feels sincere. You can tell that they have feelings for each other, and it doesn’t need to be explained beyond that. The Joker has other members of Gotham’s police force held hostage, so while you, as Batgirl, attempt to save them, Robin finds the bombs. All of this takes place in an amusement park built over an abandoned oil rig, so it’s pretty fun to look at and seems like the kind of nightmare environment where the Joker would build his stronghold.
The driving force between these Arkham games is the relationship between Batman and the Joker, and how they affect each other as characters. The Joker is always testing Batman, and Batman, with his moral code, always refuses to kill him. This means the Joker has the freedom to do whatever he wants, knowing that the worst that will happen is he gets locked up in the asylum. In the main story of Arkham Knight you dive into the psychology of Batman, as interpreted by the Joker, and it makes for an interesting dynamic. In this DLC, the Joker is the villain, but in less of a big picture way, kind of like how other villains are treated in the main game. It’s great to see him step into a lesser role for once while still remaining incredibly important.
Batgirl is basically a weaker version of Batman in nearly every way. She’s maybe as fast as Catwoman or Robin, but ultimately her punches don’t hurt as much. All of her gadgets are the same as Batman’s, with one exception. The only difference is that she can use the Remote Hacking Device in an amplified way; to make more things explode, or to turn out lights, etc. Because I felt deprived of my classic Arkham experience with Arkham Knight, I was excited to play a game, basically as Batman, in an environment and area, like the ones I was used to playing in. Robin joins the fight in a few places using the Dual Fighting established in Arkham Knight and it works well. As I mentioned earlier, Batgirl’s relationship with Robin adds some well-appreciated chemistry, and their back and forth banter during combat is fun.
The main Arkham Knight game didn’t have a true boss battle. The closest it had was a fight against Professor Pyg. This content has about the same level of boss detail as that fight did. It was the boss and a swarm of enemies, but ultimately, the boss was just a beefed up enemy. I feel that it’s no spoiler to say that Batgirl and Robin fight the Joker and Harley Quinn. It’s advertised everywhere you research this, and let’s face it, when we see nostalgic designs, we expect the developer to do something with them. I’m mostly referencing Harley Quinn’s design and how it’s 100% accurate to the animated series she was born from.
My only complaint is: as a fan, I’ve been waiting to see Harley use her classic suit this whole time, and it’s incredibly short lived. You fight her and the Joker in a boss battle. They have more life than regular enemies and require some slight cinematic beat-down scenarios, but once they’re done, they’re done. It would have been nice to have, at the very least, the scene where Batgirl and Robin catch up to the clown duo be a little bit more fleshed out. I would have loved to have had an extra scene entirely where maybe they’re teasing you with this giant battle before you reach it. If Rocksteady ever does add the Challenge Maps, fans will have a new skin to go nuts for (if they make a few maps for Harley).
Overall, the fight did feel like the start of what should have lead into a follow-up fight, and for all the work I put in to get to the end, it felt a little cheap. I’m not saying I want a giant stereoid-fueled Joker fight, but something a little more involved, and a little more carnival oriented would have been great. It would have really hit home where I was and who I was up against. As I said, the Joker is Batman’s number one rogue, so for him to just brawl with these two sidekicks and not have a trump card up his sleeve besides this giant swarm of henchmen, made me feel disappointed. I can appreciate the Joker taking this lesser role, and my desire for a bigger end-game fight might be because I’ve been used to them in the other games. Arkham Asylum had Titan Joker, Arkham City had Clayface in two forms, and Arkham Origins had Bane in two forms as well. Harley Quinn’s Revenge had a fight where you took her down, similar to this fight, but in a Predator styled mission, and then there was another threat later.
Make no mistake, this content is still great. There’s a lot of solid stuff here and a lot to do. There are lots of Easter eggs to uncover, and I did get quite excited when I came across the Joker Fish. If you can’t tell, I am a giant fan of the Animated Series. I made a fan-game in 2010 and it basically revolved around these fish, which was a story taken from the cartoon itself. So when I found this Joker Fish I was thrilled. Upon reading other reviews, I saw one person had found Starro, the Justice League bad guy that leeches onto its host and takes over their body. There was an awesome episode of the Justice League cartoon in which there was a bad future that used Starro. He’s much larger and much creepier here, like the Joker Fish.
I read, in anticipation of this DLC, that Warner Bros. Montreal (the studio that made this and the Arkham Origins game) made Matter of Family as a love letter to fans and that is pretty evident. The simple fact that I am not forced to use the Batmobile and have a classic Arkham experience felt great and like a breath of fresh air. Other reviews I read said that the maps felt empty or boring, but in the heart of the story, everything feels great. I mean, it’s an abandoned amusement park, it’s got as much as you’d think they could physically construct on top of an oil rig to begin with. A little extra detail, like more with Joker and Harley would have secured this content a higher rating with me, but what is here is great.
If you bought the Season Pass and haven’t played this content, well what are you waiting for?! If you were skeptical about the pass, this content is available for everyone on 7/21/15 for $7. It’s worth the seven bucks to play as a new character, in a large map, with new trophies/achievements to strive for, and loads of fun content.
If Rocksteady ever makes the Challenge Maps, it will be fun to have another character to play as. I played them on and off for a couple of years and I loved the variety of the objectives needed to complete the challenges. Arkham Knight has Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Azreal, Batgirl, Harley, and Red Hood on its list of developed characters. Arkham City had four playable characters, so having a roster twice as full and not utilized just seems horrible. This complaint, in no part reflects my thoughts towards the DLC, and I am hoping that they can fix this for the Season Pass.