“Cold, Cold Heart” is set less than a week after the conclusion of Batman: Arkham Origins, Bruce Wayne is hosting Gotham City’s Humanitarian of the Year Award at Wayne Manor on New Year’s Eve. Not long into the evening Mr. Freeze captures award recipient, Ferris Boyle, leaving Wayne Manor in a horrific mess. It is then up for Batman to swoop in, save the day and uncover all he can about this mysterious new villain, Mr. Freeze.
Right from the get go, this game feels cold, even before Mr. Freeze appears the cavernous mansion that is Wayne Manor just feels draughty and chilly, which is perfect in terms of setting the tone for the cold progression of the game.
Visually, “Cold, Cold Heart” is what you’ve experienced before, the recycled snow storm from the main campaign’s Christmas Eve night is used as expected with a few frozen assets in various places to add to the frosty destruction. These include such things as people or cars, but perhaps the most awe-inspiring piece off the icy mayhem is the glacier that devours the Gotham City bridge. (Thank God, we don’t have to waste time crossing it again.)
Inside the other few buildings you enter, things feel just as bleak and desolate. Doors are frozen over, rooms are filled with cryogenic vapour as a deterrent for The Dark Knight, and lift shafts are totally encased in ice and barely navigable.
Voice acting is brilliant once again; Roger Craig Smith doesn’t skip a beat reprising his role as Batman, portraying a younger Dark Knight. Maurice LaMarche again represents Mr. Freeze perfectly. Nolan North takes the reigns of Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) and Alfred is none other than Martin Jarvis. The class of all these brilliant. individual and talented voices combines to produce again some of the deepest and true to lore Batman experiences that can be had. On a personal note, it was brilliant to see Bruce give Alfred a little more respect rather than acting like a stubborn teenager toward him, just six days ago (in game time).
“Cold, Cold Heart” allows players for the first time to really explore Wayne Manor with a few rooms for combat and predator encounters; which fans of Batman will enjoy, even if the mansion is extensively cavernous for some architectural reason. Mr. Freeze brings along with him a new type of henchman, a freeze-ray wielding thug. Whilst not overly difficult to overcome, they do add another element to take note of during your free flowing combats. A distinctive click can be heard before the gun fires. Simply evading the beam will suffice, allowing for any other enemy caught in the crossfire to be frozen stiff until subdued.
During Freeze’s terror spree he has frozen over access for most of the districts, allowing Batman to openly explore roughly 50% of the southern island that was available in the main game. It might sound like a restrictive move from Warner Bros. Montreal but the available area is more than enough to encase this story. As is tradition with all games in the Arkham series, there are a few side missions ready for the player to tend to at their own leisure.
Perhaps the biggest focal point of the frozen world Batman must survive is the introduction of the X.C. Batsuit (which stands for extreme conditions). A bigger, bulkier, internally heated suit that looks similar to a miniature Transformer, you may expect such a thing to weigh down the Bat but it doesn’t, movement is still as fluent with the suit on. After donning the X.C. suit, a few subtle mechanics change your gameplay, batarangs become heated by holding your aim which dislodges ice stalactites to obliterate the opposition. Batman can also generate a heat force strong enough to unfreeze victims of the freeze-ray and melt the ice over doors or vents. Also rather than continuing with the shock gauntlet combat power-up, they become thermal gauntlets; the name is different but results are the same. A quicker, unblockable power-up for free flow combat, which I always try to avoid as I feel it takes away from the excellent free flow combat experience.
The boss battle with Mr. Freeze from Arkham City is held in high regards for its inventive nature and fresh approach. Whilst the concluding battle for "Cold, Cold Heart" isn’t as definitive as the original it does take an approach not seen before.
I think Warner Bros. Montreal may have found their true calling in terms of video game development. This episodic chapter has been created perfectly. Taking a strong world and re-working it ever so finely, resulting in something that feels extremely fresh. If Rocksteady Studios choose not to produce any episodic content for Arkham Knight, WB Montreal are more than capable of accomplishing that for them, if given the permission to do so. Just look at the proof in "Cold, Cold Heart".