One of the biggest questions surrounding Rocksteady’s “Arkham universe” was if Batman’s collection of orphans existed in this new continuity. And if so, where are they? Finally, those questions are answered, and as a huge fan of both Nightwing and Robin, very little could have pleased me more. But these DLC packs are still far from perfect.
The most fun part about these Boy Wonders is how unique their styles are from Batman and each other. Most noticeably being their use of weapons. Though the button layout for attacking hasn’t changed, the feeling of taking enemies down is absolutely fresh. It’s obvious that the developer, Rocksteady, took the time to study exactly how Nightwing’s trademark Fighting Sticks and Robin’s Bo staff are to be expertly used. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re a master with these weapons after only a few rounds of combat challenges.
Gone is the familiar fist-meets-flesh sound we’ve become accustomed to by fighting as Batman, and a satisfying steel-bashing-skull thud replaces it. With Nightwing’s fighting sticks, also doubling as cattle prod tasers, comes a static charge with the occasional blow, adding a pinch of salt to your foe’s wounds. Robin will rapidly twirl his staff to stun his enemies, and effortlessly ram it into their jaws for ground take downs, or choke them out with it silently.
Along with new melee weapons comes new wonderful toys — some of which Batman isn’t even packing. Most interesting is Nightwing’s wrist darts that you fire out of his gauntlet first-person-shooter style. Scoring a headshot will instantly take down your target. The Batclaw, Line Launcher, Disruptor, and custom Batarangs (referred to as “Wing-Dings,” which sounds super silly) make up the rest of Dick Grayson’s arsenal, along with Electrical Blast — stomping the ground with your Fighting Sticks to send out a shock wave, stunning close range enemies — and a more unique usage of the Fighting Sticks: throwing them at a target and bouncing them off walls and back to your hand Daredevil Billy Club style.
With no cape to glide with, Nightwing has a pounce attack, and the name says it all with that move. Overall, playing as Nightwing is pretty fantastic. The only thing that confuses me is his unique Detective Mode. Enemies appear all in lavender, and there is no differentiating armed and unarmed enemies, which is really annoying. Not specifying armed or unarmed goons makes sense with Catwoman’s version of this, because her technology shouldn’t be as advanced as Batman’s. But for Nightwing to not have it is lame. And for some reason his Detective Mode comes with a small radar, showing enemy proximity. At first it looks cool, but then you find out it’s pretty useless when you can clearly see where any bad guy is on the map at any given time.
Robin’s Detective Mode, however, is exactly like Batman’s, but his utility belt inventory is much different. Smoke Pellets, Explosive Gel, Batclaw, Shuriken (instead of Batarangs or Wing-Dings), and Remote Controlled Shuriken are our familiar gadgets, and the Snap-Flash and Bullet Shield are our Robin exclusives. The Bullet Shield — a group of metal plates that fan out from your staff — is very handy, but the Snap-Flash is not so much. So far all it’s useful for is stunning enemies, but you have to sneak up behind them, place it on them, then detonate it…but why would I go to the trouble of sneaking behind them just to stun them when I can take them out completely with a silent takedown?
Other than the confusing Snap-Flash, Robin is probably my favorite of the two.
These DLC packs come with more than just a new character and weapons; two new challenge maps each are also included, and I was blown away by Robin’s very special Freight Train map. It’s by no means your ordinary combat challenge. It actually plays like an old school side-scrolling beat-em-up, complete with the “GO!” signal between waves. As the name would imply, you’re on a moving train, passing from car to car, taking on enemies to get to Black Mask! Not only was the classic arcade style of the map very interesting, it was exciting taking on a whole new villain we hadn’t faced in the game’s campaign. And if you die, you get an all new death message from Black Mask himself.
Robin’s Predator Challenge, titled “Black Mask,” takes place in another new factory environment, and both of Nightwing’s maps take place in Wayne Manor. The size and depth of the Wayne Manor challenge map is very nice, but I would have liked to have seen a bit better decor. How many bookshelves and suits of armor does one mansion really need? Bruce apparently needs more than anyone else on the planet. And Alfred as the map’s hostage would have been really cool.
Long before Batman: Arkham City was released, we caught a glimpse of all the different alternative skins we’ll get for each character, and my favorite was without a doubt the Batman: The Animated Series inspired skins. However, as a huge BTAS purist, I’m very much disappointed that Nightwing’s skin is missing the beautiful mullet he rocked in the fourth season of the show.
Neither character has much of a voice, aside from a few grunts from getting hit, which I was saddened by. Batman always has some kind of arrogant (and rightfully so) proclamation of pain before he takes on his hordes of henchmen. It would have been nice to see Nightwing and Robin do the same.
Non-Nightwing and Robin fans will find these DLC packs nonessential, but for the fans of the comics, they are an absolute must play. Aside from the few nitpicks, spending time on each map with each character was a joy. The rumors are Rocksteady will release downloadable episodes for further play in Arkham City, and though I’m a bit of a dreamer, hopefully we’ll see these two playable on the prison streets. At $6.99 each, both packs are totally worth it. I just hope these aren’t the only two extra characters we ever get. I can’t be the only one who wants Batwoman DLC.
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