As the first piece of post-release story downloadable content, Cold, Cold Heart is an exceptional way to highlight the strengths of the Arkham series. Batman: Arkham Origins suffered from being more of the same, and that detracted from what I think was one of the best stories in the Arkham canon, at least in terms of an emotional payoff. So who is more fitting than Victor Fries a.k.a Mr. Freeze to star as the villain in a piece of DLC for Batman: Arkham Origins? His plight to cure his wife Nora of a terminal illness, by freezing her in order to give him time to find a remedy, is one of the most heart-wrenching tales in the Batman universe. And that is what Cold, Cold Heart portrays, as it sets up Mr. Freeze as the major villain that he later becomes in Batman: Arkham City.
Taking place after the events of Arkham Origins, Ferris Boyle is about to receive a humanitarian award at Wayne Manor. That is, until a man in a large, hulking suit shows up and starts tearing up the place. Bruce Wayne is forced to don his batsuit and try and take down Mr. Freeze, as well as uncover what the scientist-turned-villain wants with Boyle. And that’s it. Cold, Cold Heart prides itself on having a simple premise, but what appears simple on the surface can become more complex as Wayne looks into Victor Fries’s motivations. The plot is exceptionally done, and there were few qualms that I had with its execution. That being said, there was a moment when the simplistic detective mode from the core game reared its head for far too long and began testing my patience. It’s something that hurts the pacing, especially since it comes closer to the end of the DLC when the momentum has been building up considerably.
By including the detective mode though, Cold, Cold Heart shows that it is not skimping on content. Far from it, in fact, as the DLC adds more than enough to justify the purchase. The most significant addition is a new batsuit – called the EX Suit – which essentially replaces the shock gloves with thermal gloves, and allows Batman to handle subzero temperatures. Seeing as how this is Mr. Freeze, there are tons of situations where the EX Suit comes in handy. One such situation is in one of the new collectibles: frozen police officers. There are twenty of these to find, and you have to use your thermal gloves to thaw them out, but the benefit to doing so is a new upgrade for the batsuit. The Anarky tags from Batman: Arkham Origins make a return, and there are also riots from Anarky’s followers, which if all are broken up will also result in a new upgrade.
Cold, Cold Heart acts as something completely separate from the core game, so while it shares the same setting of Arkham Origins, it also limits itself to a smaller scope. This takes form in a couple of ways: for one, there are fewer upgrades available. The glue grenade is explained away by Alfred letting Bruce Wayne know that the compound turned out not to be as durable and stable as previously believed (which also explains why Batman does not have the gadget in Batman: Arkham Asylum). The map is also smaller, limited to only two of the several districts that were in the basic game, making it feel more like the first game in the series, than the sprawling Gotham City which seemed daunting in Arkham Origins. Despite the segmented map, the story itself only takes place in a handful of locations with a little bit of traversal in between them.
All the concessions which this piece of downloadable content makes is more than welcome if it means a tightly-wrapped package that offers more of that signature Batman-flavour. The presentation is still the same dark and brooding style as the other games, but it gets a little more flair because of its icy villain. When Batman has to traverse those less-than-optimal temperatures, ice particles will appear on his cape and stay there until thawed. On top of that, the screen itself begins to freeze, making you truly feel out of your element. They are nice little touches that continue the series’s efforts for a grounded and stylish presentation, that still gets to dabble in some of the more bombastic parts of the Batman canon.
By far, the highlight of Batman: Arkham Origins for me was the unique boss battles that I felt were much better handled than any of the other games, with the exception of a few encounters. One of those encounters was Batman: Arkham City‘s Mr. Freeze battle, which saw the player forced into using the environment as well as the wide array of gadgets available to them. It is with relief that the boss battle in Cold, Cold Heart is similarly cunning, and intensifies the feeling of being Batman, for which the series has become so well known.
Then the game also adds a new element to the combat, besides the thermal features. A new enemy type is introduced that consists of a henchman wearing a suit able to freeze enemies with a cold blast. It adds another layer of strategy to the already robust combat system, forcing the player into deciding which enemy should be dealt with first. Keep in mind that the new enemies can also freeze your other enemies by accident, so it sometimes pays off to keep them around until the very end. If Batman winds up frozen in ice, then you have a small window of time where you need to break out of the ice and evade a grenade that is almost-always thrown in your direction.
Those who already purchased the season pass for Batman: Arkham Origins will be more than pleased with what Cold, Cold Heart delivers, and those who haven’t should definitely look into picking up this piece of content. In terms of story-based DLC, this is one of the finer ones in recent memory. It isn’t too short, but I finished it in one 3 hour sitting along with some of the extra content as well. With its smart boss encounter, immersive presentation, expert storytelling, and new additions to Batman’s arsenal, Cold, Cold Heart is an exceptional experience that will leave any Batman fan pleased.