I’ve got some massive spoilers for Arkham Knight and it’s DLC lined up, so best to avoid all the words underneath if you prefer not to know what goes on in it.
Last week, the latest bits of Batman DLC rolled in the thoroughly underwhelming Under The Red Hood and Harley Quinn level packs. Offered as pre-order incentives to begin with, players who somehow managed to find a copy of the game without these included have the chance to squeeze a bit more out of Arkham Knight by stumping up some cash. Well, a bit more is an exaggeration, as combined they offer 35 minutes worth of gameplay. That’s less than an episode of Gotham or a head-scratching Riddler challenge.
There’s not a lot to get into and what there is will disappoint you. Under The Red Hood is literally three scenes separated by loading screens. Hope you didn’t want to explore Gotham with ol’ Toddy, because the closest you going to get to that is a weak predator map that’s a quarter of the size of the ones on Stagg’s blimp.
Not that the pure combat portions that the predator section is sandwiched between is any better. Red Hood’s only interesting aspect is that he has guns (which isn’t particularly noteworthy in modern gaming, but soosh). Still, after Batman’s sort of non-lethal takedowns, there’s a grimly satisfying feeling of actually finishing off some goons, but it’s not enough to distract the feeling a broken arm animation has just been replaced with a point blank execution. You don’t feel like Red Hood, you feel like a re-skinned Batman.
Basically, it’s balls.
But what’s so frustrating about Under The Red Hood is that the germ of a really exciting epilogue to Arkham Knight’s story is in the final minute. The whole ordeal revolves around Red Hood hunting down Black Mask, making a bit of a pointless return from Arkham City. When you finally get to confront him, Jason proves to have a bit more of a totalitarian view to justice and straight up murders him. Chucks him out of a window and tells him to give Joker his best.
It’s a brief jolt of energy in a level that doesn’t deserve it. It gives a rather blunt end for a character who had been somewhat present throughout the series, but more importantly it gives Red Hood a chance to get the showdown with Batman he deserves.
With Bruce seemingly Knightfall’d, Jason has his run of the city. Encounter Batman, you were spending a few months on a hospital ward; bump into Red Hood and he’ll give you a one-way ticket to the afterlife. Does the Red Hood represent Bruce’s desire that a symbol harsher than the Batman rise up to take over his mantle? Jason is quite happy to break the cardinal Batman rule, so how long can Bruce and his allies allow him to?
I’m not sure what Rocksteady have planned for their season pass, but I know what I would like. Have the remaining DLC packs slowly build a more psychotic and aggressive Red Hood who becomes too merciless to ignore. Force the player to get increasingly uneasy with the methods of Red Hood and have Bruce come back to stop his former Robin to round the series off.
Now Jason sort of got to fight Bruce in the main game, but it was really a minor detour in a finale that placed more emphasis on the whole Batman/Joker split – as it should have done, as that was easily the most interesting part of the main story. But, using the DLC to explore Arkham Knight/Red Hood operating in a post-Batman world would give the character a chance to evolve from the slightly whiney obsessive from the story, while giving fans of the series a chance to see the darker side of Batman’s worldview.
As I said, the final minute of Under The Red Hood hints at a story I would gladly buy a season pass to get stuck into. As good as the Arkham Knight’s “City Of Fear” story is, there’s plenty of Jason Todd’s tale left to explore, with or without a Bat-vention. Under The Red Hood completely fails to even get close to that, but there’s still time for Rocksteady to capitalize on the one thread left dangling.