This edition of the Villains post will serve as two parts, the first part will serve as a review of the new DLC Harley Quinn’s Revenge and the second part of the review will serve as the primary article of the Villains series.
First up is the long overdue review of the new Arkham City DLC Harley Quinn’s Revenge. To play this DLC, as I am sure many of you already know, you either buy the Game Of The Year Edition of Arkham City or you can buy the DLC through the online version of your console. For people who are fans of the Arkham series, this game is something that has been long waited for. The latest version Arkham City has previously only offered players additional characters to play outside of the story of the main game, and Harley Quinn’s Revenge is the first DLC to be offered as an additional story.
As far as playable characters go, the story splits itself between B-man and Robin (who actually is not a bitch, but rather like the updated Raven character in the Metal Gear Series). Having two playable characters, at least in this game, works extremely well. You ultimately really do not care which of the two characters you play as, unlike Metal Gear Solid 2 where you find yourself wishing that Snake would just come back…
The gameplay of the DLC, which really is not what this article is about, is solid. As always, Rocksteady has delivered a solid B-man & Robin game, which will leave gamers fully satisfied. I do have two questions about the DLC that keep bothering me. The first is where does Harley Quinn keep finding Titan induced henchmen? The second is: why does the game not show Robin taking Harley Quinn into custody at the end of the DLC? Do they just let her go??? Moving onto the story, and how Rocksteady went about Harley Quinn in this DLC…
But how good of a story is it? I have intentionally pushed off a new Villains post for a long time, simply because I wanted the newest version to be on Harley Quinn. And much like Catwoman & Bane, I did not want to write a Villains post on Harley Quinn just to have to write a new, updated version, a few weeks later. So, I have waited for Harley Quinn’s Revenge for a very long time, eagerly.
When the story picks up, you find that B-man has been captured and it is up to Robin, with the help of Oracle, to go in and free him, along with the remaining police officers that Harley originally captured to gather B-man’s attention in the first place.
I do not really want to get into much as far as what Robin or B-man has to do beat by beat in the story for two reasons. The first is that I do not want to spoil the entire DLC for those who have not played it yet, and the second is because this review and Villains write up is really about Harley Quinn, not Robin or B-man.
Early in the story there is a blatant Easter Egg that adds to the story left from Arkham City. I am going to spoil this Easter Egg because it really does add a lot to this post. The Easter Egg is a ton of NEGATIVE pregnancy tests around a crib with a mock up of the Joker. The mock up happens to be Scarface, another B-man villain. This adds a nice touch to the story and had given me a lot of hope for the DLC because it helps show what is wrong with Harley Quinn in this game.
The ultimate tone of the game is that Harley Quinn is in an EXTREME emotional state following the death of the man who, well frankly, turned her insane, or who brought out her true self, depending on who you talk to. The Easter Egg helps add to that extreme emotional state that she is in by showing with the death of her lover she has become so distraught, so anxious, and so hurt that she has had a miscarriage. The assortment of negative tests also was a nice touch because it shows her reluctance to accept the truth of said miscarriage. By having it so early in the game it really gives the viewer an outline of what is to come whenever you do encounter Harley (I hope she does not mind me calling her that…), and that is a woman who now truly has nothing to lose.
As I have already said, the entire purpose of B-man going back to Arkham City to capture and detain Harley is because she has kidnapped three police officers and is holding them hostage. She gives an open invitation to B-man to come and save them, which really should have been a red flag to the Dark Knight, but as the loner he is, he goes at it alone. This is beside the point though, let’s look at that purpose for him going back to Arkham City more in-depth…
Harley has kidnapped three police officers. So, now B-man must get involved. I mean, it would be hard for the caped crusader to just let Harley go and three police officers die, but in terms of villainy, she could have done better. Let’s compare this to how the other villain’s of Arkham City have gone about their business. The Penguin had kidnapped five cops and killed at least one and the Riddler had kidnapped a handful of police officers and medical staff and put them all in elaborate traps. Harley, well she only managed three and just tied them up, in some way; one was in a chair in the middle of the room!?
Now, I will give it to Harley that by doing so she was able to really capitalize on one of B-man’s weaknesses, which he is willing to rather die than allow an innocent person. When B-man goes to save the last officer Harley was waiting in the corner with her henchmen. She aims to shoot the cop, pulls the trigger, and B-man intervenes by throwing himself in front of the bullet… Again, I will give it to Harley that she has a much bigger gun than before, but it all begs the question, why does this one pistol round take B-man out of the game, when one round from a sniper rifle only put him on his butt for a moment?
So, let’s give her the doubt, let’s say that that oversized gun she was using was enough to put B-man out of the game for a bit, at least enough so that she was able to subdue him until Robin arrived. This will also beg the question, why would Harley wait for Robin to arrive, and even if she was not waiting for Robin, what is she waiting for? She has done what the Joker was not able to do, she has taken B-man out of the game. In that time that he was unconscious, she could have found SOME way to unmask him. Why did she not? Furthermore, she could have also found SOME way to just go and kill B-man, but again, she choose to not. This is one that I really do not understand; because B-man is the person that she feels was responsible for the Joker’s death, why did she not simply take her revenge then and there? The absolute LEAST she could have done was tied him up, waited until he woke up unmasked, and had a gun placed right between his eyes. She could have had her revenge right then are there. So, is she really looking for revenge at this point? Or attention?
Moving on to Harley’s personality in the DLC. This, again, was Harley’s time to shine! She had no restrictions, no one to impress anyone, and a bottle full of rage to take out on one city, and more particularly, one man. The developers at Rocksteady had the chance to reinvent Harley Quinn for this DLC. I mean, they have done so with her outfit three times over, so why not dive into her personality a little here? Instead of reinventing her, they kept her the same ole Harley Quinn. She may be a woman scored, but she is still the same old ditzy Harley Quinn, the shipyard message that she delivers throws this into the gamers face. Honestly, this was what I found to be the most disappointing part of Harley Quinn in this game.
Ultimately, Harley Quinn’s Revenge is a game you do not need to be told to play. Either you decided long ago you will play everything in the Arkham Series or you decided you were done with it. However, as far as the story of the game goes, it falls very short. Harley is not being herself in the story; but rather she is playing the part of the widowed wife. Which could serve well as a story, but the game is about her revenge, it is in the title for God sake. Instead, it feels more like a crying widow beating on the chest of the man who scorned her, screaming out “it’s not fair!,” than taking any true sort of revenge against the man she blames for her husband’s death.
Harley Quinn is ultimately best served when she has the watchful of of the man she thinks loves her overlooking. Which gets us to our new Villains article and the ultimate question, where does she serve at her best?
Well, from the picture above, the answer to that question is quite clear now. Harley Quinn best serves as her villainess self in B-man: Arkham Asylum. In Arkham Asylum, Harley’s character is a fully flushed out Harley Quinn. It is almost as Rocksteady made her an art of what she has always been meant to be portrayed.
The reason why Harley Quinn’s Revenge was not the best, and the reason why Arkham Asylum Harley Quinn is at her best is one in the same. If you are not going to completely reinvent Harley Quinn to be her own, independent villainess, than you need to make Harley Quinn a villainess with a severe case of co-dependent disorder. Arkham Asylum does this magically.
Here, she is the right hand of the Joker, and the only other person to know his entire plan for B-man. Since she does know the Joker’s endgame, she is better able to fuck with B-man throughout the game. She, taking orders from Mr. J, gives Harley a sense of purpose, and when she is in such a small, secluded place, as Arkham Asylum is, her orders are not too much for her to carry out. She knowing Mr. J’s plan also concedes her the knowledge, tolerance, and acceptance, that she is essentially the bait for B-man. As I just said, she is OK with this, it is a part of her co-dependence disorder, and honestly, I think she enjoys being in the trenches. If she does not enjoy the trenches, she is at least blinded by this love to tolerate them, as long as she thinks there is praise on the other side.
Again, as the right hand of the Joker, Harley is the one that has B-man literally running around Arkham Asylum, to what she believes, as a chicken with its head cut off. Basically, she becomes the Joker’s physical presence of villainy. Even though she is not exactly the most skilled fighter, as B-man shows us time and time again, nor the most intelligent person, as she shows us time and time again, the Joker trusts her enough, or finds her enough of a sucker, to be that physical presence. And again, she is OK with this.
Unlike Harley Quinn’s Revenge, or even in Arkham City, Harley can rationally think to her fullest potential. Even if there is not much potential, she is not distracted in Arkham Asylum. In Arkham City Harley serves more so as a nurse to the Joker, rather than a villainess. This might not be what the Joker desires, but because of her disorder, she feels the need to take care of her love in what she feels is his time of need. In Harley Quinn’s Revenge, as I have already stated, she has lost all of her rational, she has become reduced to that scorned lover beating on B-man’s chest. To prove my point here, Poison Ivy is not on the Joker’s “party list,” (i.e. she is not in the plans for B-man’s downfall) but Harley Quinn did make the executive decision, well it was really a decision made on a whim than anything else, to free her to add to the fun or in her words: because “she is a good kid.” This decision to free Poison Ivy becomes an important decision in the game, as anyone who has played the game knows. But, my point here is that she did not need the Joker to tell her to free Poison Ivy, but, because she did free Poison Ivy, the plans were altered for the better. Also, it becomes the only time in the Arkham Series, which I at least can remember, where she actually does break from her co-dependent disorder.
However, as I have said, it is when Harley Quinn is taking orders from the Joker is when she is at her best. When Gordon is kidnapped and being held by Harley Quinn, the Joker gives her the orders to assassinate him if B-man’s shadow shows up. At this point in the game, as the gamer, you feel a certain tension. You feel like you really cannot screw up, even in the smallest way. You go around that room taking out henchmen hoping that no one spots you. Even though it is only a video game, as a gamer, you really fear Harley Quinn killing Gordon. However, this is not the only time that Harley has Gordon in the game. He is a hostage for a while. The entire time that he is a hostage you know that Harley Quinn is not a woman to (pardon my language) fuck with. AND, Gordon is not the only victim of as he calls her “this crazy bitch!”
We see Harley running around with Frank Boles early in the game. He is actually the person who kidnaps Commissioner Gordon for her and the Joker. However, eventually he, as they say, outlives his purpose. So, with that said, Harley escorts Boles to her lover who then, well let’s say has his life shortened. However, his life is not only shortened, his body is made an example of when found by B-man. Harley also kills a security guard in front of B-man. He was not quick enough to get off the pad and is subsequently electrocuted by the electric floor, showing just how ruthless she truly is.
Even with all of that, her ruthlessness does not stop here. At the start of the game she and B-man have a go on an elevator. She leaves B-man with the choice of either capturing her or saving a potential victim. When she blows out the elevator it starts to fall, with a victim in its sights, it would surely kill him. However, she does not give half of a crap about our victim here, she really only wanted him to serve as a distraction for B-man while she grabs the other elevator’s cord to rise up the shaft. Of course, B-man makes the decision to save the would-be prey, saving her for later.
Finally, she takes the suave actions when taking revenge on the Warden of Arkham. Quincy Sharp is bound and gagged, as pictured above, and Harley’s personal victim. B-man attempted to retrieve Sharp and detain Harley before anything serious happened to him, but was unsuccessful. Now, as Harley hostage, the Warden is in a bad way. He appears over the monitors of Arkham Asylum and over the intercom being tortured by Harley Quinn, but not before being beaten in the head so hard that she actually breaks his own cane over it. Quincy Sharp is forced to say such things as:
“All Arkham guards must now immediately unload their weapons. I recommend…unloading them into your head!”
& if he would refuse to do so, she would electrify him, which happens quite a few times to her delight.
Just like in Harley Quinn’s Revenge, the Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum is still a ditzy psychotic. She has her blonde moments you can say. But, as I scathed this in Harley Quinn’s Revenge, I am praising this in Arkham Asylum. This is because she is able to be ditzy here. She has her Joker to fall back on when she does have a blonde moment. There are two heads to Harley here, but in Harley Quinn’s Revenge she is forced to only think on her own, with no orders from Mr. J. This makes her blonde moments unacceptable in Harley Quinn’s Revenge, but, yet, acceptable in Arkham Asylum. In Harley Quinn’s Revenge she needed to “man up” and think for herself and not react like an emotional train wreck.
With all of this amazing grace towards Harley Quinn it would be wrong of me not to point out what the elephant in the room was in her Arkham Asylum. There is a small issue. Throughout both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City the gamer is treated to recordings of how our villains became who they are, or a recording of another significant portion of their lives. The five recordings that were for Harley Quinn, in my mind, fall a bit short. They are meant to highlight her transformation from a well minded, good intentioned, psychologist into a homicidal psychotic that there is no classification. But, these tapes do not really give the listener a well throughout portrayal of insanity. Rather, they just skip from this white queen to the black queen, giving the listener not much to connect the dots.
Arkham Asylum is no doubt an amazing video game, and its portrayal of Harley Quinn is pretty much spot on. She is best shown as that right hand to the Joker but at the same time, throughout the video game, she knows how to take matters into her own hand. Harley Quinn’s Revenge had the opportunity to make Harley Quinn a villain in her own light, but, as we have seen, she is not able to step into her own light yet. But this deficit does not make her any less the AMAZING villainess that she is. In fact, she is so high on my favorites list that in the coming weeks I am actually getting a Harley Quinn-esk tattoo as a centerpiece on my sleeve.
How do you feel about Harley Quinn? Have I left anything important in these two games out in this article? Did I completely swing and miss the most modern and intimidating version of Harley Quinn? Please, let me know your thoughts in the comments!!