Batman: Arkham Origins – Cold, Cold Heart Review (PlayStation 3)
WB Games Montreal's Batman: Arkham Origins will hardly go down as the most memorable game in the Arkham franchise, but it's wasn't all bad. The core game had some moments of clarity, but was otherwise a rather uninspired retread of elements done better in previous entries. With the Cold, Cold Heart add-on, there was a chance the smaller, focused content could allow the best of the Arkham Origins experience to shine. That's true enough, to an extent, but we were foolish to expect anything besides more copycatting.
Things start off rather interestingly, with players allowed to play as Bruce Wayne sneaking through Wayne Manor, fending off Mr. Freeze and his invading goons. The villains arrived during a New Year's Eve humanitarian charity event, with the intent to capture Ferris Boyle, head of GothCorp and Freeze's former boss. The ease back into Arkham's gameplay is nice, as it's been a while since we visited Gotham and needed the crash course in how to be Batman again. Traveling through the manor's halls was nice, too, and we got to see slightly more of the human side of the Batman in these opening moments.
Of course, you're not playing to see what it's like to be Bruce Wayne, and before too long you're back in the suit, kicking ass and taking names. Before exiting the grounds, you'll have to complete a Predator map, and then defeat one of the new enemies armed with a ice cannon. These new bad guys add an interesting element into the fold, as you can be frozen in place if you stay in the beam's path. Fortunately, you can dodge and avoid the beam, and if you time it right, you can get the ray to freeze other foes in place. It's a nice dynamic changer, and easily the best part of the DLC. It certainly makes some combat situations markedly easier when everyone is stuck in place.
It's not long before you can finally get your hands on the new XE suit, made to withstand the extreme temperatures Freeze is capable of creating. With the XE suit, you can free frozen civilians, open new areas for exploration and even heatcharge Batarangs to strike icicles, and use them for environmental attacks. Beyond that though, virtually every other aspect of combat and exploration remains the same as it was in the original game.
Disappointingly, Cold, Cold Heart is riddled with bugs and glitches. There are massive frame rate drops frequently when exploring Gotham. Indoors at GothCorp, where a surprising amount of the DLC takes place, enemies often disappear into walls or vanish off the level geometry all together. We had to restart checkpoints multiple times because we were unable to proceed through locked Predator rooms thanks to the game thinking there were enemies patrolling that were no longer on the map. Frustrating doesn't begin to describe it. The Unreal Engine has always had problems with texture pop-in, but there were times we'd be running around Gotham, and many buildings just never solidified beyond grey and black blobs.
Where the downloadable content really runs into trouble though is in the final boss fight. When we first fought Mr. Freeze back in Arkham City, it was a delightful and engaging bit of combat. The design of the battle was focused entirely on environmental attacks, and it was strikingly different from everything else we'd seen in the series to that point. In Cold, Cold Heart, the fight against Freeze is almost identical, save for the addition of thugs on the battlefield as well. You have to use the environmental takedowns to whittle Freeze's health down as he stalks around the lab. We know Origins is heavily inspired by Rocksteady's work on Asylum and City, but this element goes far beyond paying homage.
Perhaps it was unfair to expect Cold, Cold Heart to bring anything new or exciting to the table when Arkham Origins could barely do that itself. Like the main game, this add-on has a tiny bit of interesting elements, but it's mostly just wash, rinse, repeat. It's short, it's simple and it's pretty boring. Even if you're a die-hard Batman fan and/or trophy hunter, there's barely any reason at all to check this add-on out.
This review is based on a purchased copy of Batman: Arkham Origins Cold, Cold Heart for the PlayStation 3.