Downloadable Content (DLC) is difficult to get right, especially when the release is meant to add to the narrative rather then simply adding maps or weapons to multiplayer. Most, unfortunately, tend to produce middling results, put forward more to fulfill the contract of a Season Pass then add anything substantial to the game or its story. Every so often, with The Last of Us: Left Behind being the most recent, a piece of extra content manages to encapsulate the spirit of the original so completely that the main game can not be thought of as complete without it.
Cold, Cold Heart, the first and most likely last piece of narrative driven content for last year's Batman: Arkham Origins, does a decent job of continuing the rogue packed holiday season of the Dark Knight's second year as Gotham's protector. Hanging out in the odd, three-quarter space between Left Behind's transcendence and the not bad, but no where near as good as it needed to be DLC of, say, Darksiders 2, it tells the origin story of Mr. Freeze and the circumstances that bring him into conflict with the World's Greatest Detective.
Captured for the first time in the Emmy Award winning episode “Heart of Ice,” Cold, Cold Heart is Batman: The Animated Series story in reverse. Starting at the Wayne Foundation's Humanitarian Award ceremony, held a week after the events of Origins' main story, the DLC is quick to introduce Victor Fries and his quarry, humanitarian and GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle. With the party at Wayne Manor interrupted by an ice gun and a handful of Penguin's goons, and in possibly the best sequence of the DLC, Bruce makes a hasty exit, taking out some of the unwanted party guests on the way down to the Batcave. Reminding me of Mr. Wayne's walk to his “panic room” in Nolan's The Dark Knight, it's a blast watching the dichotomy of man in business suit vs. man in batsuit play out with clueless thugs as the backdrop.
From there, the story proceeds more or less how you would expect, a few free flow fights, a few predator encounters, and lots of ice. To combat vast amount of frozen liquid, Bats has a new suit waiting for him. Dubbed the “XE,” or Extreme Environment, suit, Bruce's newest edition to his ever growing line of crime fighting looks big and bulky. In fact, were it not for a throw away line about special alloys and stretchy webbing keeping the suit light and flexible, I wouldn't have believed Batman capable of moving at all, much less leaping from crook to convict during free flow combat. In addition to mass, the suit also a thermal overlay, switching the Electrocutioner's confiscated gloves from electricity to heat. It's a contrivance to be sure, but well within the Batman fiction of allowable coincidence, as outside of pure will, Batman's only real super power is being prepared for just about anything.
What I wasn't prepared for was jumping back into Origins's semi broken world. Presenting a much smaller section of Gotham, gliding through the open world seems even more a mess of muddy textures and frame rate drops then even the main game did. Criminals still litter the streets and roof tops, making it seem like no time has passed since the events on Christmas Eve. Did everyone finally just give up and move out of Gotham, or has the level of insane crime simply reached such a peak that Joe Q. Gothamite doesn't step foot outside once the safety of the sun's light drops beneath the horizon?
I also found it surprising, that with the work put in on the Batman/Joker storyline during the main game, as well as introductions that differed from some of the established canon, WB Montreal would play it safe with this DLC. While the story is fantastic, it also was fantastic when I saw it the first time, and put up against what's easily Arkham Origins's best feature, it feels like a cop out. That being said, Cold, Cold Heart is hands down a better DLC outing then Arkham City's Harley Quinn's Revenge, which felt shallow after the gut punch that was City's ending.
A classic Batman story in some less then stellar trappings, Cold, Cold Heart is worth your time if you are in the mood for more of the Dark Knight. Depending on your feelings towards Origins's quirks and flat out gameplay failures, this may or may not be an immediate purchase. However, like the main game itself, there is enough here in the way of charm and set pieces to enjoy, even if the overall package leaves you yearning for something more.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!