It seems like a long time since the Arkham franchise gave players something satisfactory in the way of downloadable content.  As great as it was, Arkham City gave players little more than a few skins for combat trials – still the best part of any of the games in my opinion – and a less than stellar Catwoman side story.  Arkham Origins felt lacking with its interesting, albeit weak, Mr. Freeze and Bruce Wayne add-ons.  Though while the most recent installment of the series is by no means the best of the four, Arkham Knight has provided gamers with what is almost assuredly the single best piece of DLC of the bunch.

On the heels of two of the most overpublicized and universally panned pieces of filler with the Harley Quinn and Red Hood “episodes,” today Warner Bros. released Batgirl: A Matter of Family.  Set on Valentine’s Day before the events of Arkham Asylum, you play as Barbara Gordon as she tries to free her father, who has been taken hostage by Joker and Harley.  Teaming up with Tim Drake, she infiltrates the Seagate Amusement Park, an original area teeming with Joker goons.  Unlike previous DLC, this is a rather large map complete with the attractions one would find in an abandoned amusement park.

The story is a simple one: save hostages, stop Joker.  WB Games Montreal, the studio that developed the DLC, doesn’t go for anything crazy or unorthodox.  It feels like a one-shot or two-part comic, with the sidekicks teaming up without a supposedly preoccupied Batman.  Joker is solid as always for the choice of villain, providing commentary through television sets similar to Arkham Asylum.  There are several throwbacks to Asylum and City, with collectibles hidden around the Park to collect (without those awful Riddler trophies).

Barbara comes equipped with her own arsenal of tools and can perform many, though not all, of the same combat techniques as Batman.  There are simple puzzles to solve, predator takedown scenarios, and beat-em-up fight sequences that are staples of the Arkham franchise.  One of the key bonuses of this DLC is that just like the other Arkham games, there is endgame playability.  Even after completing the main missions, which does not take more than two hours if you take your time, players can continue to explore the Park in search of collectibles.  From the genuinely engaging, if shallow story to the well-produced scenery and beautiful cutscenes, not only does this DLC run well, but it looks great too.

I’ve sunk about $140 into this game at this point between the Limited Edition and the Season Pass, and I have to say I hadn’t felt like I had gotten my money’s worth.  At only $6.99 this will not put a dent in your wallet for a few hours of strong gameplay.  With this DLC and the promise of six months’ worth of content coming, featuring a slew of classic villains and iconic allies, I hope that more follow the path of A Matter of Family.  Maybe, just maybe, everything that’s come before this has just been a bad case of fear toxin.

Spoilers Follow for In-Game/Story Material

Spoiler

  • After the final fight, Barbara saves Tim from being shot by the Joker.  Before the Clown Prince parachutes to safety, leaving Harley behind, he says to Babs, “The next one’s for you.”  A clear nod to The Killing Joke, it brings up the question of whether or not the Joker knew of Barbara’s double-life.
  • There are a number of park games that can be played to access audio logs from the park’s creator.  I found it interesting that Harley was a friend of the oil magnate before her transformation.

Recommended If…

  • You want a strong Barbara Gordon story.
  • Playing as Batgirl seems like an awesome idea.
  • You want something that actually feels like added content.

Overall:  A worthwhile venture for any Batman fan, especially for those of Barbara, A Matter of Family is the downloadable content that Arkham fans both needed and deserved.  I just wish it were a bit longer or came with combat maps to really put Barbara’s skills to the test.

SCORE: 8.5/10

Batgirl: A Matter of Family is available now for fans who have purchased the Batman: Arkham Knight Season Pass and are connected to the Internet. It can be purchased separately on July 21 for $6.99 on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE online entertainment network from Microsoft.