Mindless Diversions Extra: Gotham Knights First Impressions

Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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18 Responses

  1. Reformed Republican
    Ignored
    says:

    From my understanding (and I have not followed closely), GK is more of a spiritual successor. The actual sequel is “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.” You do not play as Batman. You play as members of Suicide Squad trying to stop the Justice League who are being controlled by Brainiac. It also takes place in Metropolis, not Gotham.Report

  2. DavidTC
    Ignored
    says:

    You know what? Harley Quinn was not only treated poorly by the Joker, but by the writers. They made her be a doormat.

    Not just that, but an _irrelevant_ doormat. It started in the very first game, where she flips forward to attack him and he just throws her to the side trivially in a _cutscene_. And then we get this as her ‘boss fight’ in Arkham Knight: https://youtu.be/j63K0QqhL9s?t=61 (Note that video gets weird and confusing and has story spoilers if you keep watching past the fight.)

    It’s especially absurd when you _do_ fight Joker. (Not talking about the superpowered one.) Admittedly, he’s not much better than a normal thug, but Bats does have to at least punch him half a dozen times, and he brings all his henchmen to the fight, so basically it’s just a big gang fight with the Joker in it…and IIRC the Joker is fast and does some weird stuff and won’t stay down.

    Harley is better at physical combat than Joker. He relies on stupid tricks like joybuzzers and guns and acid spray, she is a pretty good athlete who has near-olympic-level gymnastics in her backstory. Every other piece of media understands this, from the movies to the comics to the DCAU where her character originated. She often played the heavy to Joker, the person standing behind him and idly swinging a baseball bat to back up his threats!

    But we don’t fight Harley at all. She’s taken down in either a cutsceen or a scripted takedown and then you fight her goons.

    I’m not saying she could beat Batman (The amount of people who can beat Batman in fair combat are, like, 100 in the entire world.), but having him just shrug her aside..twice…is extremely disrespectful to the character. As is the fact she seems, um, kinda stupid. Harley is one of the more intelligent of the ‘normal human intelligence’ characters out there…she’s no Riddler, but she probably beats Joker in that too. (Not that he would ever let her use it.)

    Joker even had a line in Arkham Knight when she took the fight to one of Batman’s hideouts. “It’s like someone was holding her back!”

    Technically, that’s Batman’s hallucination of Joker, so it’s really Batman who thinks that.

    In any other continuity, he’d be right. Here…I’m not sure he is.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
      Ignored
      says:

      I didn’t see that Joker as a hallucination of Joker but an encroaching cordycept (as demonstrated by Albert King, Christina Bell and Johnny Charisma).

      I think that those three had voices in their ears for a short while prior to flipping the switch.

      So, too, here.

      Anyway, I don’t mind them taking Harley and making her something closer to Hannibal Lecter kinda character who is able to run accurate psychological profiles on any non-Joker criminal mind within minutes of ending a short conversation.

      I minded the scene where it was explained that she was more formidable than He Who Will Go Unnamed in front of Barb and Jason.

      That’s an assertion that needs to be *SHOWN* rather than *TOLD*.

      I suppose the possibility exists that, later on in the game, one of the characters will say something like “argh, she’s in my head!” or something and that will, at least, move the ball in the right direction… but as it stands, it felt like Alfred saying “THIS AIN’T YOUR GRAMMA’S ROCK RADIO STATION!” right before playing Imagine Dragons.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t know what you mean by cordycept, but what I mean is that ‘That Joker is actually Batman’s brain running an approximation of how he thinks the Joker would act’. Instead of ‘Joker’s thoughts have somehow gotten inside his brain’.

        OTOH, this is the DC universe, and I’m entirely willing to accept the idea that his consciousness did that. There are a few places where the imaginary Joker seems discombobulated by stuff, like in Batman’s hallucination of Joker’s funeral. (And how weird is it that Batman is hallucinating multiple, different, things at once.)

        Anyway, I don’t mind them taking Harley and making her something closer to Hannibal Lecter kinda character who is able to run accurate psychological profiles on any non-Joker criminal mind within minutes of ending a short conversation.

        I mean, that’s what she’s supposed to be!

        It’s why I’m loving the Harley Quinn show…she’s done that repeatedly. The show goes out of its way to show she actually is a competent therapist and intelligent women, the sort who could have legitimately been assigned to Joker at Arkham, which has to be one of the highest profile positions imaginable in the psychiatric world. She just got pulled into an abusive relations with the Joker because…she’d been playing a role her entire life. What she actually wanted to do was run around stealing things and hitting people with a baseball bat. And he let her do that.

        Which I know sounds silly, but people can be very smart and yet have simple…um…hobbies.

        The thing that kinda gets me about these games is that Harley becomes a much more interesting character after she leaves Joker…and in these games she didn’t ‘leave’. Or, at least, in the Arkham games…don’t know about this new one.

        I minded the scene where it was explained that she was more formidable than He Who Will Go Unnamed in front of Barb and Jason.

        On top of that, it’s damning with faint praise. Literally any of Batman’s rogues is more ‘formidable’ than the Joker, who is extremely self-sabotaging. (Well, the Riddler is just as self-sabotaging, but makes up for it in raw intelligence.)

        I mean, Joker actually tortured Jason to (near) death but apparently didn’t even bother to _figure out who he was_. Because Joker didn’t actually want to know who Batman is.

        But, yes, you don’t tell _those two_ that…although I will point out that, generally, Harley is assumed to be part of Jason’s ‘death’ so Jason could already hypothetically feel that way about her, depending on how exactly those events went…but it’s not Alfred’s place to explain that.

        I suppose the possibility exists that, later on in the game, one of the characters will say something like “argh, she’s in my head!”

        If she’s supposed to be genius, it probably will be revealed that she’s actually behind some plan or another. I don’t know, I haven’t gotten this game yet, although I certainly will.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
          Ignored
          says:

          You’re in for a treat. Here. Cordyception is, in a nutshell, when a particular fungus takes over a particular kind of ant and starts driving the car in such a way that the ant acts in a way to propagate the fungus, even at cost to its own life, instead of propagating the ant.

          Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, commonly known as zombie-ant fungus, is an insect-pathogenic fungus, discovered by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1859, and currently found predominantly in tropical forest ecosystems. O. unilateralis infects ants of the tribe Camponotini, with the full pathogenesis being characterized by alteration of the behavioral patterns of the infected ant. Infected hosts leave their canopy nests and foraging trails for the forest floor, an area with a temperature and humidity suitable for fungal growth; they then use their mandibles to attach themselves to a major vein on the underside of a leaf, where the host remains after its eventual death. The process leading to mortality takes 4–10 days, and includes a reproductive stage where fruiting bodies grow from the ant’s head, rupturing to release the fungus’s spores. O. unilateralis is, in turn, also susceptible to fungal infection itself, an occurrence that can limit its impact on ant populations, which has otherwise been known to devastate ant colonies.

          In the case of the Joker, the Joker’s blood acted as a prion disease that carried with it Joker’s memories… that included the memories involving Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd. So while the Joker in Batman’s head may not have been the “real” Joker, it was from the same genus/species.

          As demonstrated by Henry.

          I mean, that’s what she’s supposed to be!

          I have no idea about “supposed”. She wasn’t that in The Animated Series and she wasn’t that in Origins or City. By the time she was in Knight, she was someone who wielded Joker’s authority and demonstrated that she was smarter than the goons (but it was also demonstrated that it wasn’t tough to be smarter than the goons). She wasn’t that in the first Suicide Squad either. I dunno about the new one or Birds of Prey.

          I don’t mind them doing a heavy retcon. Seriously.

          But jumping straight to pretending to have done one is different than actually doing one.

          The thing that kinda gets me about these games is that Harley becomes a much more interesting character after she leaves Joker…and in these games she didn’t ‘leave’. Or, at least, in the Arkham games…don’t know about this new one.

          So far, it’s like they’re saying “Harley is a much more interesting character now!”

          But not doing the work. Just expecting me to nod along. She’s different, that’s for sure. I don’t know that she’s much more interesting yet. (But I haven’t finished the game.)

          Harley is assumed to be part of Jason’s ‘death’

          That’s one heck of a retcon. I’m only familiar with the original Death in the Family and the version that evolved into Arkham Knight but I am not familiar with Red Hood’s current origin. Was Harley officially involved with that now?

          If she’s supposed to be genius, it probably will be revealed that she’s actually behind some plan or another.

          Well, without getting into spoilers, she gives you a book and she establishes a scheme.

          I don’t know if it qualifies as a plan, quite yet… but there are a lot of canonical Batman villains that have backgrounds in psych and degrees in it and everything and this fits into one that could have been pulled by any given one of them… so far.

          But, again, I’m barely 20% into the game.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            I have no idea about “supposed”. She wasn’t that in The Animated Series and she wasn’t that in Origins or City. By the time she was in Knight, she was someone who wielded Joker’s authority and demonstrated that she was smarter than the goons (but it was also demonstrated that it wasn’t tough to be smarter than the goons). She wasn’t that in the first Suicide Squad either. I dunno about the new one or Birds of Prey.

            You have managed to somehow see every single piece of media of Harley being under the abusive control of Joker and none of the media where she is not. 🙂 Including the comics for quite some time now.

            Harley Quinn acts like an idiot for Joker. He’s an abusive boyfriend who doesn’t like anyone to outshine him. And..she keeps acting like that in the Arkham series even without him. For some reason.

            Everywhere else, once she leaves him, she is fairly competent as a ‘villain’, and does indeed use her intelligence to figure things out. She’s incredibly astute about the actual psychological problems people have (Including herself) which obviously serves her well being in Gotham where everyone is crazy.

            Although ultimately she’s not particularly happy with the entire premise of being a villain and becomes first an anti-hero and is now just a plain hero at this point working with the Bat family in the comics.

            I don’t mind them doing a heavy retcon. Seriously.

            But jumping straight to pretending to have done one is different than actually doing one.

            This isn’t actually a sequel. It isn’t in the same universe…Barbara isn’t paralyzed, for the most obvious point. So it’s not really a ‘retcon’ to put her more at a comics version of Joker-less Harley. If they did that. Instead of just claiming they did that but didn’t.

            That’s one heck of a retcon. I’m only familiar with the original Death in the Family and the version that evolved into Arkham Knight but I am not familiar with Red Hood’s current origin. Was Harley officially involved with that now?

            That’s only a retcon in the sense that Harley Quinn has by now been retconned into the DC universe much earlier than she was introduced the first time around. Whereas she literally didn’t exist when the 1988 comic originally came out. But we’re several reboots and retcons past that, and she logically would have been with Joker at that time.

            I don’t know that the _comics_ have revisited that and shown her there, but one of the Suicide Squad movies (I forget which one) has her there for the murder of Jason in flashbacks, and the watered-down version of that story we got in The Animated Series had Harley there. (Although she’s actively protesting killing Jason.)

            The Arkham series has Harley apparently _not_ there for that, and Joker makes a weird comment about liking to work alone…and, like most of their decisions about Harley Quinn, I don’t get this, and their timeline doesn’t even make sense. But, again, this game isn’t part of the Arkham universe.

            So far, it’s like they’re saying “Harley is a much more interesting character now!”

            But not doing the work. Just expecting me to nod along. She’s different, that’s for sure. I don’t know that she’s much more interesting yet. (But I haven’t finished the game.)

            I mean, Harley _is_ a much more interesting character basically everywhere else, but a) I have no idea if they’ll manage to convey that in this new series, and b) she’s only much more interesting when she actually gets over the Joker and starts living the life she wants to live, which mostly isn’t being a villain.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, remember the new Spider-Man game? Getting into it and playing it, the average player will find out that Pete and MJ have broken up. They’re still cordial! They still hang out! But they were together in the Raimi movies!

              (And the game came out prior to Spider-Man showing up in the Avengers universe.)

              If someone asked “When did Pete and MJ break up? I thought they got married!”, there is a simple and elegant answer!

              Well, when Marvel did this thing where they pivoted away from “THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT IS *EVIL* PERSONIFIED!” to “You know, if there was someone who was able to blow up a school bus by clenching their buttcheeks… maybe we should write that down?”, they had to figure out how to make the latter obviously silly. So they came up with a couple of teams and put all of the authoritarian butt-kissers on Team Write-It-Down and Peter was one of them. They had him remove his mask and everything! Well, they got sick of that after about 20 minutes and so wanted to go back to “secret identity” and so they had Mephisto show up and Aunt May was dying and Peter sacrificed his entire relationship, including the memories of it, to the devil to buy his beloved Auntie another few months of life.

              But the real reason is Joe Q.

              “So they broke them up for the video game too. I’m glad they seem to be back together by the start of Miles Morales!”

              “Yeah. Well.”

              Anyway, when it comes to Harley, it’s fine to say that they broke up. It’s fine to say that she’s much more formidable than you thought and she’s not just some bimbo! If you’re going to argue that she’s badder than the Joker, you’re going to have an uphill climb if the best you can point to is that she’s a skilled medical professional.

              The best you can reasonably hope for is someone to say “show, don’t tell” and keep plowing through.

              Above, RR points out that this isn’t a direct sequel but a spiritual sequel.

              The spirit is willing, I guess. They’re going to find themselves having to deal with people complaining that their new direction isn’t as good as it used to be.

              We’ll see what happens with Suicide Squad.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                We’ll see what happens with Suicide Squad.

                All that’s really required of Harley in the Suicide Squad is for her to be a good fighter. She doesn’t have to be a criminal mastermind or successful supervillain in that, she just needs to be able to do Arkham-level combat.

                I mean, they haven’t personally shown her as that in _their_ games, which is obviously one of my complaints, but at this point I think we can assume people have seen her fight in other media.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                She fought in one of the pieces of DLC for Arkham Knight.

                I remember a couple of Predator maps, which struck me as a good idea. Her “detective vision” showed some of the reasons that she was “crazy” rather than merely “malicious with a tendency to date toxic people”.Report

    • KenB in reply to DavidTC
      Ignored
      says:

      I forget, are there *any* females in the video games that Batman fights directly (like a normal thug, not some fancy boss battle)? I wonder if it’s not so much an insult as a lingering sense of chivalry, that it would make people feel uncomfortable to be Batman beating up a woman like he would a man.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to KenB
        Ignored
        says:

        Do Talia’s personal guard count as “normal thugs”? They aren’t named characters. You beat up a decent number of them.

        Same for Lady Shiva’s ninjas in Origins.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to KenB
        Ignored
        says:

        Women antagonists in beat-em-up games have a difficult history, to the extent that in one case a character was made canonically trans to avoid the issue.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
          Ignored
          says:

          Well, one thing that oughta be pointed out in Gotham Knights is THAT AIN’T A PROBLEM HERE!

          All of the gangs are inclusive as heck. You will beat the crap out of female members of the mob, and regulators, and freaks. Some might be enby as well.

          “It don’t matter ’bout your glands, you’re still gonna get these hands.”

          (The upgrade between a Godmother and a Godmother (Veteran) strikes me as something that might have benefitted from a sensitivity advisor but, hey. It’s 2022.)Report

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