Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: As Harvey Dent takes on Mayor Hill in an upcoming election, Bruce Wayne finds himself wrapped up in a political struggle which brings him face to face with Carmine Falcone.
Telltale have a strong habit of making games tailor-made to fit me. The Walking Dead put me on the front-line of the zombie apocalypse, Game of Thrones brought my favourite show to life and now I get Batman, as anyone will know is my all-time favourite comic book hero. Therefore, I was queuing up to get my hands on the latest Telltale product to hit PS4.
Surprisingly, there is less focus on Batman and more a study of Bruce Wayne, the struggling alter ego of Batman, who tries to keep his private vigilante life a secret, while doing as much good as he can as a powerful, influential family in Gotham. The story throws us into the middle of an electoral debate. The corrupt Mayor Hill, who keeps Gotham’s police force corrupt and gangs powerful for as long as it fills his pockets, finds himself up against the White Knight of Gotham himself, Harvey Dent, trusted DA. Dent is a strong beacon of hope for Gotham, bursting with charisma, integrity and the will to do the right thing, but needs to garner support for his campaign. This is where we join Bruce Wayne, offering financial support for Harvey, as well as putting him in the room with the wealthy voices of Gotham. And this is where Batman becomes a far more political game than we expected. As Carmine Falcone struts onto the scene, do you play nice to him for votes, or come up against him as the vigilante in you wants to? But will this cause trouble further down the line? A lot of this episode is juggling the Wayne legacy, while keeping your vision of what Batman should be. There is enough re-inventions of the character (especially with the latest DVD release of Batman’s darkest knight yet), to give Telltale enough leniency in the character you want to play without losing touch with the source material. It does take liberties with the supporting cast, namely the villains. It works for Harvey Dent, the audience unsure whether he will become the Two-Face in this version, which keeps the suspense flowing from that side of the story. Another iconic Batman villain shows up, as a promise for things to come in the next few episodes, but he is totally unrecognisable. Time will tell with that side of the story. Telltale throw you head-first into a political intrigue mystery, as scandals arise in your name and you have to figure out who the nay-sayer is. It was a different kind of story that we were expecting, but thrilling all the same. You have always appreciated the Batman side of things, but never before have you realised the challenge in being the playboy billionaire who has to balance his life as Batman and a voice of the people.
Then there is the Batman side of things. There are three main set-pieces that see you become the Bat. The first is a great introduction to the character. Juxtaposed with a lecture from Alfred, as Bruce cleans his wounds, we see a group of armed robbers storm into Mayor Hill’s office for a ‘Macguffin’ and Batman swoop in to save the day. He is every inch the awesome icon you want him to be and after the close of the Arkham series, it is wonderful getting the chance to be him once again. The sequence ends with a great punch-up between the Batman and one of his most iconic nemesis (odds are the publicity for the game will give away who). The second set-piece is by far the most interesting in what this series can be. Batman uncovers a crime scene gone horribly wrong (scenes like this are far more violent than you expected they would be from the game), and you get to piece together what happened via a clue-solving segment. You analyse each clue and then try and find connections between everything to figure out what happen. It is like a cross between Cluedo and Dot to Dot. Jokes aside, it does make you feel like the World’s Greatest Detective and scenes like this are Telltale’s strong point. It could even steal moment of the episode, perhaps topping the action finale which makes up set-piece number three, starring the Bat. The action is divisive, but the jury is definitely in favour of the cinematic approach to the fights. There is never any boredom in seeing the Batman dominate his opponents in a battle, swirling cape and grizzly threats always giving this Bat-Fan a thrill. And there is a shocking twist to boot, which promises that Telltale have four more action-packed episodes to go, with a habit of twisting expectation and remaining unpredictable until the end.
However, throughout the entire game, you are aware of the big elephant in the room. Telltale have always been clever at picking their projects. Game of Thrones had no other way of bringing their story to the gaming world, without using Telltale’s dialogue heavy methods. The Walking Dead had games to its name, but they weren’t much cop. However, with Batman, you are always aware that the game is constantly being compared to the Arkham series and the Arkham games are winning by a long shot. The main problem is in the combat. While the visuals are stunning, Telltale’s fights are clunky. There isn’t really a way to fail a battle, just mis-time a punch. It creates a low risk atmosphere and means that the fights in Telltale Games’ Batman are more of a narrative means to an end, rather than a necessary addition to the story. Nothing comes close to beating the smooth style of Arkham’s battles. It’s not just that though. Arkham had Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for the voice acting. Troy Baker tries to match his Batman to the icons of the past, but he is only really good enough. The robotic snarl of the Bat doesn’t come close to the cold logical tone of Conroy or the iconic snarl of Bale. On the whole, these things don’t matter. Arkham has come to a close and the voice acting doesn’t really hurt the experience. It is still a cleverly written, fun experience. It is just something I am going to struggle to get past, as the episodes are released.
Final Verdict: Telltale’s latest Batman focuses on areas we didn’t expect but as a result comes out with an unexpected rich adventure for us to sink our teeth into.