- 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/
- Game code provided by the publisher
What you sometimes see in these episodic games, when the quality isn’t consistent, is that they get off to a strong start and then wobble in the middle, threatening to continue a downward spiral. Batman: The Telltale Series is however doing the exact opposite. Episodes one and especially two were huge let-downs, with the series suddenly seeing an immense improvement with episode three. Now, with episode four… things have improved still further.
EPISODE THREE SPOILERS AHEAD
As we (and many of you, we suspect) correctly predicted, Lady Arkham’s true identity was revealed to be that of an established canon character; Vicki Vale. As a result, her backstory has been almost entirely rewritten, and she acts enormously out of character (including some brutal violence). This feels like a bit of a cheat, but it’s not exactly the first example of Telltale using artistic license in their interpretation of the Batman universe. Thanks to her ambush at the press conference, this episode starts – as shown at the end of the last – with Bruce Wayne committed to Arkham Asylum.
Back in our review of episode two, we told of our pining for Mark Hamill’s Joker to pop in in order to spice the experience up a bit. Minor spoiler here, but we can’t praise his introduction correctly without naming him… none other than Joker is introduced (though not given that name, or any other than John Doe) during Wayne’s time at the asylum. This isn’t Hamill’s Joker, though. Not in terms of actor, appearance, voice, or even laugh. “John Doe” is immediately recognisable, but he’s still his own character.
He isn’t played by Hamill, nor by Troy Baker (who’s already present as Wayne/Batman, and disappointingly aped Hamill’s performance for Arkham Origins). He is instead played by the relatively unknown Anthony Ingruber, who does an excellent job of portraying the enigmatic madman balancing on knife-edge emotions that’s been written for him.
Although John Doe plays an important part, he isn’t the centre of the episode. Once Wayne gets out of Arkham Asylum (which of course he does), Doe fades into the background. It’s a while before he’s able to completely kick the effects of the drug he was injected with, which repeatedly brings his well of normally dormant anger to the fore. This sort of thing is of course a familiar theme for Batman tales and so, for the first time in the series, the whole thing actually feels Batmany.
The fight sequences feel less demanding – and therefore less involving – than those in previous episodes, and the detective sequence of linking pieces of evidence feels more simplistic – arguably pointless – than ever. Yet somehow, this only works to the game’s benefit, keeping the story flowing while affording an illusion of player agency. Our main criticism is that Selina (easily the most immediately engaging character) is relegated to little more than a cameo; but the introduction and delivery of John Doe makes up for that.
Amusingly (but in a good way), there are two opportunities for you to see Alfred acting like a badass. One of these opportunities relates to the last major choice you get to make in the episode. In fact, what happens at the end has the potential to have a significant effect on the path the final episode takes. As ever though, it’s a case of ‘wait and see’; and experience tells us to not expect too much.
While it’s a shame the series got off to such a weak start, things have been really rather good lately. If Telltale can make the finale at least as good as this, they will have redeemed themselves.