This review was originally written for a website I briefly served as Senior Editor, but was ultimately not published. It's presented here for the first time.
Six months ago, WB Games Montréal delivered Batman: Arkham Origins: a prequel game in the highly popular Batman: Arkham game series first created and developed by Rocksteady Studios. For a lot of people who loved the series' original two entries, there was reason to be nervous about whether or not a new developer would be able to step onto the shoulders of giants to create a new game experience without the creators' involvement. By and large, while there are certainly some valid criticisms to be had, the new developers turned in a largely worthy addition to the series as a whole, especially in regards to the story it told.
As the life of Arkham Origins winds down, and we get ready to see Rocksteady's return to the series they made famous later this year (2017 Update: Batman: Arkham Knight was originally slated to release in the Fall of 2014, but wasn't finally released until June 23rd, 2015.), WB Montréal returns for one final crack at the Dark Knight in what's likely the final expansion for the prequel game: "Cold, Cold Heart," a new story-based DLC pack that takes us back into Gotham City once more during the early goings of Batman's war on crime.
Taking place only one week after the main story in Arkham Origins on New Year's Eve, Bruce Wayne is hosting a party to celebrate the occasion at Wayne Manor, which also features noted Gotham City businessman and philanthropist Ferris Boyle, head of "the people company" GothCorp, accepting the philanthropic Wayne Foundation's award for "Humanitarian of the Year." It's not long before all hell freezes over, as one of Batman's most powerful destined enemies emerges in his powerful mechanized refrigeration suit, crashes the party, freezes several attendees into solid blocks of ice, and kidnaps Boyle. Bruce has to first fight off the thugs that have invaded his home (be sure to take your time looking around the fantastic recreation of Wayne Manor) before he descends into the Batcave, and finally heads back out into Gotham to stop this new enemy, Mr. Freeze, from wreaking havoc throughout the city and ultimately killing Boyle (at least, that's what Batman thinks is Freeze's intention).
Fans of the iconic and timeless Batman: The Animated Series should find this story familiar, since the broad strokes of it were first explored in the now classic and game-changing episode "Heart of Ice," written by original Arkham Asylum and Arkham City scribe Paul Dini. That is, hands down, one of the absolute best episodes of that influential series, and may even stand as one of the best Batman stories ever told. Because this DLC pack is using that classic episode for all intents and purposes as its source material, it already shows that it's aiming high right out of the gate.
In the end, the story in "Cold, Cold Heart" is not a direct adaptation of "Heart of Ice," but it's definitely worthy of its main purpose in establishing a familiar origin for Freeze in the context of the Arkham universe's continuity. Perhaps the biggest beat present in the new content is when Batman reconstructs the crime that actually created Mr. Freeze: it's a really good marriage between a story that many seasoned Bat-fans know so well, and some of the welcome new mechanics brought to the series' table by Arkham Origins specifically. On top of this, voice actor Maurice LaMarche reprises his role as Freeze from Arkham City, and he's the heir apparent to the greatness we got from Michael Ansara.
Gameplay-wise, "Cold, Cold Heart" is a pretty direct and limited expansion of the base Arkham Origins game. Since Freeze makes the already frigid Gotham City even colder, the story calls for Batman to don a new uniform, dubbed the "XE (which stands for 'eXtreme Environment') suit," which allows him to resist the cryogenic attacks he has go up against now. Overall, the XE suit doesn't really change the way you play as Batman, and the addition of heat-centric gadgets doesn't really alter the way you play too much, either. This isn't really a bad thing, since the core elements of Arkham gameplay are well-preserved, but some people looking for more from the slightly steep asking price may end up being a little disappointed.
There are a couple of new side quests active in the more limited fraction of the original game map that the new content plays with, but they're pretty basic: save some people trapped in ice, stop some fights, and locate new tags around the districts created by the young villain Anarky, along with a fun new interaction with the Penguin. You can probably get them done in 30 minutes, or perhaps even less if you're a series veteran. The final confrontation will also likely feel very familiar to players of Arkham City in particular, but since I personally call that game's fight with Mr. Freeze my most favorite boss fight in any video game I've ever played, you won't see me complaining much about that.
Overall, "Cold, Cold Heart" is a worthy addition to players' digital collections if they've already scraped the barnacles off the bottom of the content that the base Arkham Origins game has to offer. It adapts a classic Batman story, deftly incorporates it into the canon of the Arkham universe, and shows off some cool new locales with some great character interplay along the way. If you're already inclined to absorb each new adventure with the Dark Knight, then you could do a lot worse than playing a solid, dark rendition of a classic Batman story.
Beyond that, I didn't even tell you the best part: there aren't any freeze puns to be found!