- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PS3, 360, PC, Mac, iOS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Players: 1
- Site: https://telltale.com/series/batman/
When it was first announced that Telltale were developing a Batman series, we jumped around in glee. There’s absolutely no reason why a Batman game that concentrates on talking rather than action can’t work. That’s exactly what the comics do, after all; and some Telltale games have been fantastic. Having now played the first episode, well… we have mixed feelings about the execution.
Let’s get the ugliness of the technical issues out of the way first. It’s already well known that many users have major problems running the PC version, with some unable to get it up and running at all; leading to a tidal wave of negative Steam reviews. We can tell you that the console versions aren’t free of issues, either. As we played it on Xbox One, the frame rate stuttered with disappointing regularity, and the game froze on us completely once (mercifully, mere seconds after an autosave). Far from a flawless experience, but not one that overshadowed gameplay itself.
Gameplay is largely what we’ve come to expect from Telltale adventures, with a few twists in a nod to the license. Action sequences work slightly differently, in that the button prompts come at you faster, mimicking the rhythm of an intense fist fight. Although it doesn’t seem to matter much if you miss a prompt or two, it works really well, generating a feeling that your reactions are important to success. There’s also recognition of Batman’s detective side, primarily through a simple yet enjoyable crime scene sequence where you piece together what happened.
The story sets this up as yet another reboot/alternate take on the Batman tale. Although the game begins when Bruce Wayne is already settled into running around Gotham in a silly suit, it sees Wayne supporting Harvey Dent in his bid for the mayorship. Not only is Two-Face not yet on the scene, Catwoman makes an appearance as a brand new character unknown to Batman. Slightly disturbing is the reimagining of Oswald Cobblepot. Here he’s a childhood friend of Bruce’s, his own family’s fortune somehow squandered away. He’s lanky, clearly a little unhinged and, worst of all, seems to have gone to the Dick Van Dyke school of “British” accents.
Telltale want to make Batman their own here, and that’s fine. The net result however is that, well… it only partially feels like it belongs in the overarching Batman universe that we all know and love/fear. The atmosphere overall leans more towards 50s noir than the unique grimy menace of Gotham. This is only reinforced by the presence of the ganster-by-numbers Falcone. And while the acting here is very good – especially Laura Bailey as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, who is also superbly written – Troy Baker does not make a good Batman, or even a good Bruce Wayne. Sorry guys, but he brings nothing to either role, projecting his lines as they should be but with absolutely no depth. Kevin Conroy, where are you when we need you?
Still, Telltale’s trademark choices element is well implemented here. On multiple occasions, you get to choose just how brutal Batman is while on the job; and the episode’s ending ties seemingly unrelated moments together in a very clever way which will make you instantly regret or feel vindicated for those choices. As always, there’s no way of telling how much impact your actions might have on the rest of the series, but the thought that’s gone into this first episode is promising.
It’s good, but it’s not really as good as it should have been. Comparisons to The Wolf Among Us (prompted by a tab on the main menu) are not flattering. There’s plenty of room for the story to grow though and, going by what we’ve seen so far, it just might blossom into a tale that will be remembered long after the series has come to a close.