Arkham Origins was a curious game. On the one hand, it had everything that has made the Arkham series of games so successful – open world environments, the joy of gliding over the Gotham skyline as Batman, free flow combat and a great roster of villains. But surprisingly, the game felt a bit tacky in its execution.
The story took too long to get going, and certain missions seemed like an excuse to get you to spend more time in the game. By the time the fantastic third act of the game rolled along, a lot of gamers had made up their minds about it. It also failed to utilize the stellar Batman rogues gallery in a way that felt organic. With the new Cold, Cold Heart DLC, developers WB Montreal have delivered a game that corrects some of the missteps of its predecessor. While the campaign only takes a few short hours to play through, the solid storyline, some interesting new locations and a tighter pace make it well worth the journey.
Mr. Freeze is one of the more interesting villains in the Batman universe. Notwithstanding the incredibly campy and goofy Batman and Robin portrayal of the character, Victor Fries is a complex person. His wife is literally frozen in a block of ice, and for all intents and purposes, is dead. Except Mr. Freeze doesn’t think she is. His entire persona is shaped by the intense guilt, grief and anguish that he feels about her condition and this makes him a very relatable character. By using his origin story as the driving force for the major narrative, and using plot elements from the fantastic ‘Heart of Ice’ episode in Batman: The Animated series, Cold, Cold Heart sets a somber mood right from the get-go. It’s an interesting conflict for you to play through, because even though you have to stop Freeze before he runs wild and turns Gotham into a frozen wasteland, discovering parts of his story and understanding how he came to be what he is, draws out a lot of sympathy for him.
The DLC ensures that you’ll be spending most of your time in the new locations that have been added. You’ll attend charity functions at the opulent Wayne Manor, make your way through the seedy nightclubs owned by Mr. Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, and also take a trip to the GothCorp offices. If you’ve watched the animated series, you’ll definitely have moments of déjà vu here. Gotham, as a city, takes on a meatier role here than it has in some of the other Batman games. But even the DLC suffers from a few questionable storytelling decisions. While the story has a decent pace through most of its run, when it enters the home stretch, things slow down a bit. Towards the end of the game, when you unravel the mystery of Mr. Freeze’s past, the action takes a backseat. In another mission that evokes memories of the ‘collect x items from different corners of the city’ missions from Arkham Origins and Arkham City, you have to collect pieces of a drill to get through a wall of ice in the GothCorp offices. And of course, all of the pieces of the drill are scattered a long way away from each other. This kind of mechanic seems forced, and it’s a cheap ploy to lengthen the duration of the campaign. It’s high time Arkham games, and games in general stopped doing this.
The Game Play:
Arkham City’s Mr. Freeze boss battle was a fantastic, tense affair, and probably the best boss fight the series has done so far. Unfortunately, the boss fight you have with Freeze in Cold, Cold Heart is almost similar to that previous battle. It feels cheap and you’ll be left wondering what the game could have been like if the narrative reached a crescendo with an epic boss fight. Thankfully, fighting thugs on the street is slightly different now since a few of them are armed with freeze rays. The game keeps you moving through the sequence of stealth, action, analyzing crime scenes and exploration in a way that doesn’t allow the pace to slack off too much, until you reach the very end. The end isn’t the most satisfying, but the journey to it certainly is.
The campaign in Cold, Cold Heart does away with a lot of Arkham Origin’s flaws. The singular focus on Mr. Freeze makes the narrative more streamlined, and visiting new locations as a part of this journey is exciting and fresh. Gotham looks as great as ever, and the frozen vistas make it seem like a much grimmer place. Even though the ending boss battle isn’t the most inventive, this DLC is definitely worth a play through to soar through Gotham’s skies as Batman once again.