I love Batman. Or should that be loved Batman. My affection for the Caped Crusader is as needlessly complex as the whole DC comics whenever they choose reboot their universe. On the one hand I enjoy the pulpy mix of Sherlock Holmes meets Zorro that inspired the character from his earliest days but have come to resent the more prevailing interpretations of the character being an amoral thug whose wealth gives him a license to do as he wills (and in the most recent cinematic incarnation, to kill) I was close to giving up on the whole character until I finally got the chance to play Telltale’s own interpretation of the Dark Knight, bringing to life the character (as well as Bruce Wayne) in a way not even Rocksteady’s Arkham series has managed to achieve thus far.

Bruce Wayne is brought low in a way no bullet, blade or acid-laced custard pie could ever inflict

Bruce Wayne has always been, to me, the real mask that Batman wears, he’s a gifted actor who knows what is expected of him in the role of Billionaire Playboy with a surname that built Gotham.When allowed to take on that mantle for myself,Bruce is modest, self-effacing, trying to keep the spotlight on Harvey Dent, a man who given the chance could make real change in Gotham. I let this modest mask slip an inch during my brief chat with Carmine Falcone, mostly because he was incredibly irritating and trying to intimidate Bruce into chalking his pool cue (no, not a euphemism, but by god it felt like one). My time with Bruce became even more interesting when something happened to him that could never happen to Batman: he was intimidated (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHOY). While at a press conference,the press started asking Bruce all manner of awkward questions about his family, forcing an off guard Bruce  to abandon the stage. It was the moment I’d been waiting for for so long, where Bruce Wayne is brought low in a way no bullet, blade or acid-laced custard pie could ever inflict.This interpretation of Bruce and the Wayne family, being crushed under the weight of public opinion is one that hasn’t been explored in too much depth in the past and one I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out (particularly if it explores how flawed the Waynes were before their deaths)

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Telltale have also begun reinventing one of Batman’s oldest and most iconic villains in the form of the Penguin.Typically Oswald/The Penguin has always been to me a bit dull, an odd gangster with trick umbrellas and a comical appearance. Telltale have done what they typically don’t do and reimagined the character almost entirely from the ground up. Where once they faithfully recreated Bigby and Snow White from the Fable series, here they’ve created a new Cobblepot with a far more interesting feel about him. Gone is the malformed grotesque  once brought to life by Danny Devito, instead we’re given a peer of Bruce Wayne. Another heir of old money and a family legacy of helping Gotham. But where the Waynes left Bruce enough to stay in Bat-pants till the end of time, the Cobblepots wasted their wealth, leaving only status and plaques for their son. He’s the Abercrombie & Fitch version of the Penguin to be sure. It’s a change I’m sure purists won’t care for, gone (two episodes in) is his visually distinctive style in place of a character who could just as easily be Thomas Elliot (another childhood friend of Bruce turned supervillain), but under Telltale’s wing Oswalt could easily inhabit the old role of the Penguin, but without the troubling shorthand of ugly/malformed being the root of his evil

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One member of Batman’s rogues gallery I’m glad not to see yet is the Joker. Batman’s arch-nemesis eclipses everything else with just a maniacal laugh and the anticipation of carnage soon to follow. The Joker becomes a defining part of any Batman story, casting every other villain to the wayside to make more time for the character the writers clearly wanted to write more of. Such adoration made the Arkham games (especially Arkham Origins) just that little bit weaker, allowing potentially interesting characters like Two-Face to become cameos when they could have been so much more. We have, in a fashion, seen Telltale’s version a Joker-like character in the form of Ramsay Bolton in their oft-maligned Game of Thrones series (granted, most of the maligning was done by me), an agent of chaos whose own motivations are completely unknowable to any rational human being. To fall back on the crutch of Joker is an understandable but boring thing to do with the opportunity that Telltale have been given.

Telltale saved us having to see the Wayne’s getting shot, they’re still repeating every other tired story beat.

The biggest issue facing me as I play through each episode is a personal one and one I’m not sure many others will face: everything is new to Batman, but not to me. I’ve sat through countless hours of reading, watching and playing Batman-related fiction, so as a ‘veteran’ of the caped crusader I’ve seen many of the same story beats that Telltale is currently playing. A new vigilante on the streets is sending the mob scared, pushing criminals in Gotham to new extremes and creating a power-vacuum that only the most dangerous can fill. For years geek-film lovers have complained that we kept seeing the same origin stories of certain characters again and again, and while Telltale saved us having to see the Wayne’s getting shot, they’re still repeating every other tired story beat.

As I’ve said I’m not going to be the typical player of this game, coming to the world of Batman with a loose understanding of who is who and what is what. I’m a full paid up Bat-nerd who spent hours on wikipedia looking up character biographies in school when I should have been studying (I know far too much about each version of Clayface). My expectations of what a new, interesting Batman story are probably wildly different to most people’s. Where they want a taut crime-thriller with some guys in make-up, I’m just begging to see Batman get into a wrestling match with Manbat before choking out Calendar Man.

 

About The Author

Contributor

All round song and dance man. Best known for his use of expletives, casual quoting of Jeeves & Wooster and his love for all things Timesplitters. Host of the Played Out Podcast and proud victim of five different gypsy curses

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