It wasn't the brawling or the stealth or the grappling and gliding around environments that held Batman: Arkham Origins back from being a good entry in the Arkham saga. These aspects are tried and true; they are necessary components of any Arkham game. Where Origins stumbled was in its pacing, trotting out its expected components in a meandering fashion rather than giving those components the supportive context they deserved. Cold, Cold Heart, the new downloadable content for Arkham Origins, is better about this. It takes only a few hours to complete, but thanks to its strong narrative, a few great locations, and a more focused structure, it's pretty good while it lasts.
Victor Fries' wife Nora is "alive" but not really alive; like too many women in comics, she exists not as an individual with her own value but serves only to fuel the anguish of a male character, and because she is literally being kept frozen, she gives slightly different meaning to the phrase "woman in a refrigerator." Still, his anguish over her fate makes Mr. Freeze perhaps Batman's most sympathetic adversary, and by using his origin story as the basis for its narrative (lifting many elements directly from the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice"), Cold, Cold Heart takes on a melancholy mood. You know you have to stop Mr. Freeze, but you come to understand his desperation as Batman learns that the truly coldhearted one is the ruthless industrialist whose actions made Freeze what he is.
Most of your time in Cold, Cold Heart is spent in new locations created for the DLC. The game opens at a charity gala at Wayne Manor, and later takes you to the offices of GothCorp, whose grand entry area evokes the feeling, familiar from The Animated Series, that Gotham is a city stylistically trapped in 1920s sensibilities. You also pay a brief visit to a dingy nightclub owned by the Penguin, but it's here, as it nears its conclusion, that Cold, Cold Heart starts to lose the narrative focus that has thus far had you hot on the heels of Freeze and putting together the pieces that explain how he came to be and what it is he's after. After making your way deep into the GothCorp facility, you encounter a wall of ice that you can pass only after collecting the pieces of a drill from the nightclub and a few other spots around the city, at which point you then have to return to the wall of ice in GothCorp. It's a diversion that sacrifices narrative momentum to increase the chapter's duration, and the trade-off isn't worth it.
What's more, the boss battle with Mr. Freeze that awaits you back at GothCorp plays out a lot like the battle with him in Arkham City. That's the best boss fight in the series thus far, but still, this is such a straightforward copy of it that it prevents Cold, Cold Heart's climax from having an identity of its own. There's no surprise in store, just a repeat of an encounter that you've probably already experienced. But the brawls with thugs throughout Cold, Cold Heart feel just different enough from those in the main game to set them apart, since some criminals are now toting freeze rays whose beams encase you in ice if you're not careful. And for the most part, the DLC's structure has you alternating between brawls, stealth encounters, crime scene analysis, and environmental traversal in a way that keeps the pace moving. It doesn't finish strong, but Cold, Cold Heart is still a satisfying sliver of Arkham storytelling.