The Red Hood wears a Bat-symbol on his chest but goes around killing bad guys. He’s a character that fans are supposed to love to hate. Too bad his playable appearance in Batman: Arkham Knight is so terribly bland.
Story spoilers follow for plot points in Batman: Arkham Knight, including the ending.
He’s the star of a 30-minutelong expansion to Batman: Arkham Knight, a good game that has already gotten two other uninspired, short expansions. This one was first offered as a pre-order incentive, but is now available for people who’ve bought Arkham Knight’s season pass. You play as Red Hood in this one. In the others, you played as Batgirl or Harley Quinn. My disappointment with Arkham Knight’s other two add-ons had the weird effect of setting very low expectations for the Red Hood offering. I was prepared for short playtime and story beats that only scratched the surface of the multilayered histories of Bat-family characters. Somehow, to my surprise, the Red Hood’s turn in the spotlight felt even worse.
The Red Hood has long been an intriguing character who should be able to translate intriguingly into a game. The Red Hood is Jason Todd, the second-ever Robin who was a jerk and who fans voted to kill back in the 1980s. He had returned to life with a grudge against the mentor who dared move on. Even when he’s been written as a crimefighter, Jason in his Red Hood persona hasn’t bothered to uphold Batman’s code. He uses guns to execute criminals in cold blood.
This DLC involves Jason Todd shutting the gun-running operations of Black Mask in a rundown mall and loading dock, with a final showdown in the crimelord’s offce. None of the character’s seductive qualities come through in these missions. Jason Todd’s Red Hood identity is supposed to be a taboo retort to Batman’s moral code, one that says “yeah, Gotham might be better off if the masked guys killed all criminals.” But, he needs Batman—or at least the looming metaphorical specter of the Dark Knight— as a counterpoint to be interesting. He doesn’t get that here.
The Red Hood just shows up and starts beating up/killing thugs. Cool gameplay gimmicks? Not really. There might be a little tingle when you fire off a few rounds from his handguns for the first time but that quickly wears off.
He has some new moves. His flashbang that stuns and blinds enemies is all function and no flair. Same goes for his zipline kick attack. Some of the thugs you’ll face in the add-on’s middle stealth section are bulletproof, so you’re forced into up-close takedowns. But that’s really about it for variety.
Storywise, you can barely tell when in the game’s continuity this chapter is happening. In the main game’s story, players find out that the mysterious Arkham Knight is really Jason Todd, who Batman had thought dead after being captured by the Joker. Only the slightest context is given, and the timeline still feels indeterminate, even if you’ve finished Arkham Knight’s story campaign.
The Red Hood is just framed as a new vigilante with a beef against Black Mask. The Batgirl DLC at least made a point of establishing a connection between the character’s civilian identity and the plight of Commissioner Gordon as emotional stakes. And that add-on also had carnival minigames that told an embedded subplot if you won them. Nothing that ambitious happens in this extra chunk of game.
It’s a shame, really. Jason Todd is the nasty prodigal son of the Bat-family, the returned protege who slaps away Bruce Wayne’s entreaties to come back into the fold. Hurt at being replaced, he says he doesn’t care what Batman thinks but flaunts his murderous brand of vigilantism to get the Dark Knight’s attention. But, probably owing to fear of endgame spoilers, his history with Batman barely even gets mentioned. And as he’s sketched out here, the character doesn’t seem confused or haunted by his history. The Red Hood just seems like a trash-talking, hyperviolent jerk who gets off on killing. Unfortunately, this DLC doesn’t come close to the character’s best iterations.
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