The new DLC featuring one of my favourite Bat-characters is the best iteration of a bad formula.
Story spoilers follow for plot points in Batman: Arkham Knight, including the ending.
The latest Arkham Episode designed to extend players’ relationship with the 2015 Bat-game has the same flaws as the Harley Quinn, Batgirl and Red Hood episodes before it. It’s short. It doesn’t really have a story. It’s mostly a retread of the design features of the main game.
That said, the GCPD Lockdown DLC does a better job of telling you where it happens with regard to the events of Arkham Knight. It’s set after the end of the main game and has Nightwing trying to thwart a jailbreak that would free the Penguin from captivity. The thugs that you beat up on refer to Batman as being dead and Nightwing talks about his former mentor in the past tense.
Aside from a brief interior sequence in Bludhaven (Nightwing’s base of operations after he moved away from Gotham) most of the gameplay happens in or on top of the Gotham City Police Department headquarters building. The office layout environments are tighter and less open, so this predator stealth combat on this map felt more challenging than that of the other DLCs. Finishing it up all up took me closer to two hours instead of one so, again, a small improvement on what’s come before.
For me, the most compelling reason for playing any of Arkham Knight’s DLC has been the promise of narrative revelations or well-done character moments. GCPD Lockdown does better than its predecessors in that regard, mostly. Dick doesn’t show anything by way of grief in this short extra chapter (which might just kick off more speculation about the game’s 100% ending) but Rocksteady’s dialogue does a good job of channeling the cocky personality of Batman’s first sidekick. With Alfred missing along with Bruce Wayne, Nightwing’s offsite co-ordinator for this op is Lucius Fox. Their banter is fun and reveals a tad more about the cast’s lives after the game, like the fact that Tim Drake (Robin) and Barbara Gordon get married.
The end of the DLC features a moment where GCPD officer Cash asks Nightwing if he’s sticking around Gotham. The hero replies by saying that this visit “isn’t permanent”. That quick exchange highlights what’s been so frustrating about Arkham Knight’s DLC. It seems like Rocksteady, Warner Brothers Games or some combination of the two either don’t care about creating new narrative in these add-ons or are scared of even trying. It remains a shame that superhero characters that have such long rich histories in comics feel like they’re getting short shrift in video games.