Friday, September 26, 2014

Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart review

    Batman: Arkham Origins and its first major DLC have something in common. They're derivative of much better stories and an attempt to cash-in on them. My review of Origins (here) talks about how it had potential but failed to live up to it. I was looking forward to this DLC but found myself disappointed for reasons other than the ones which troubled me in the main game.

    The premise of Cold, Cold Heart is more-or-less identical to the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Heart of Ice." Ferris Boyle is being given the a Humanitarian of the Year award when Mister Freeze breaks in with a gang of thugs to kidnap him. We discover that Ferris Boyle is not really that much of a humanitarian and Mister Freeze is more sympathetic than his robotic suit might attest.

    Cold, Cold Heart screws up this premise in every conceivable way.

The visuals are impressive in this DLC, so there's that. This is damning with faint praise, though.
    The first problem is, of course, it's a straight retelling of an already-famous show's most famous episode. There's no surprises or twists here for even a causal Batman fan. The second problem is it's a BAD retelling as it adds a bunch of things in which undermine the episode's fundamental message.


    Well, Mister Freeze kills about a dozen people upon his entrance to Wayne Manor, callously freezing or blowing them up. Even if you assume it's harmless freezing, there's still the people who died in the initial explosion. It's hard to care about the message about Mister Freeze being misunderstood when he slaughters a dinner party on his way in.

    I was willing to forgive this element so long as the gameplay was fun but it's not. Cold, Cold Heart is basically the same as the rest of Origins, except in the main game you might enter a room with six guys holding machine guns. In Cold, Cold Heart, you enter said room only there's like sixteen. This doesn't ratchet up the tension but slows things down. It's what I like to call "Fake Difficulty" and it's something which coats most of the missions here.

Penguin's presence in the DLC is solely there to pad it out but, unlike most of the padding, it's quite enjoyable.
    There's some decent elements to the story. The opening at Wayne Manor is well-designed with our short glimpse of us giving us a sense of the immensity of the family legacy. I also liked the depiction of Penguin's club.

    The Penguin's presence in the DLC is an unnecessary complication but I liked how it showed Oswald Cobblepot's seething resentment of Bruce Wayne. Really, I think a better DLC might have been made of his revenge plot.

    All of this, of course, leads up to the final fight against Mister Freeze. Sadly, this where this DLC disappoints the worst as it's just a retread of the original one against Mister Freeze in Batman: Arkham City. That was a great Boss Fight, don't get me wrong, but it feels somewhat insulting just to throw it into this game.

    About the only thing I liked in Cold, Cold Heart's gameplay was fighting the cryogenic weapons-wielding enemies. The fact they can zap their own guys was greatly entertaining. If this had longer-term consequences than just halting them for awhile, I might have enjoyed it more. It would have added a valuable strategy element to gameplay--but it's just a quirky addition to the combat.

Bruce Wayne letting the mask slip just a bit.
     There's a segment at the start, too, where you are forced to fight as Bruce Wayne rather than Batman. Deprived of your body armor and gadgets, Bruce Wayne has to deal with a number of thugs at a drastically reduced capacity.

     While I think it's improper for Bruce Wayne to ever fight thugs due to his secret identity, given they were threatening Alfred I think it was appropriate. I liked this section of the game and wish it was longer.

    In conclusion, there's two words to describe Cold, Cold Heart. Derivative and Padded. It doesn't do anything horrible and it's still based on Arkham Asylum's excellent combat system as well as Batman but it's not really all that fun.  Play it if you're really-really bored.



  1. The problem with Arkham Origins story is that with as corrupt and violent we see the GCPD is, there is no way the Joker survives the story with the amount of cops he killed. Rather he would of gotten two in the back of the head for 'resisting arrest'.

    1. While no actual substitute for realism (who wants that anyway?). I always had the reason the Joker wasn't killed because he had a lot of corrupt cops intimidated, bought off, or blackmailed. Ditto judges (which is why he's declared insane rather than sent to Blackgate or sentenced to die). I also think the Joker has cultivated a kind of attitude Batman has for the regular populace. "Citizens are a cowardly and superstitious lot."