It’s been less than a year since Telltale wrapped up the first season of their Batman series, but already the caped crusader is back for more in The Enemy Within. Crime never rests in Gotham. While that’s no good for Bruce Wayne, it’s all the better for us. Based on the first episode alone, The Enigma, this is an improved experience that takes everything that worked beforehand and applies slight upgrades. There are still things that are lacking, most noticeably the absence of any real challenge, but that has become par for the course when it comes to Telltale’s modern output. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to both brawl as Batman and battle public perception as Bruce Wayne, this debut instalment tells an intriguing tale that sets a solid stage for what’s to come.
It starts out harmlessly enough: A suave man kitted out with high-tech gadgets is scouting a casino floor. No, this isn’t James Bond, though it’s an obvious comparison to make. This is Bruce Wayne, keeping an eye on the plump Rumi Mori, a magnate who made his money through arms dealing and has now diversified into biotech. With his trusty butler and surrogate father Alfred talking into his ear from the Batcave, our protagonist is here to try to find evidence of Mori’s shady dealings, and you do some light detective work by clicking highlighted objects to get Bruce’s thoughts on them.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for everyone in the casino to get more than they bargained for when a man in a green hood and domino mask bursts onto the scene posing the question: “I begin and have no end. And I end all that begins. Who am I?” The answer to that conundrum is Death – or as you’ll come to know him, Riddler. Portrayed countless times across comics, television and film through the years, this take on the enigma-obsessed villain is a great one. With his greying hair, growling voice and metal-hooked cane, we learn that the Riddler terrorised Gotham in the past, only to suddenly disappear. He’s clearly wanting to make strong impressions upon his return, immediately slashing throats and destroying buildings to wreak havoc. This is a violent, scary portrayal of a man who may not have Batman’s strength, but has an equal amount of ingenuity.
There’s no time for polite introductions. With the threat level red, Bruce switches into his alter ego and dons his powerful black suit. The last Batman season had superb action sequences and it’s no different this time. With the music beating in the background, Batman jumps, kicks and punches seemingly with ease. From a gameplay perspective, the fights mostly consist of pushing the right buttons when prompted, though there’s a neat new element that lets you make tactical decisions on the fly, like choosing how to protect a hostage or take down an enemy. Previously this was planned in advance, leaving you to watch the results play out, but doing it in the moment is much more effective and maintains a stronger pace.
What particularly stands out during these combat sequences is the audio-visual presentation. These scenes make constant but effective use of slow motion, holding on a stylish shot while you push the corresponding on-screen buttons. Every bit of physical contact is keenly felt, the flying blood and loud thuds lending authenticity to the pain. And thanks to quick (yet never disorientating) camera switches and spins, along with Batman’s penchant for gadgets and his repertoire of fight moves, these encounters never grow stale. There are only a couple of these full-blown action sequences in this first episode, but they’re a joy to behold and engaging to play.
Riddler isn’t the only foe you’ll encounter. Sticking its nose into everything is a mysterious and unnamed agency, helmed by the no-nonsense Amanda Waller. This stout, middle-aged woman has her fingers in many pies, gathering intelligence not only on Gotham’s scum, but also on Bruce and Batman. She rubs Commissioner Gordon the wrong way, overruling him and taking over his cases. Her agency’s presence proves interesting in a subversive way: here is an entity that proves threatening for Batman because of the information and power they hold, and how you respond to it will impact your relationship with Gordon. It’ll be exciting to see how this plays out, especially after a key exchange you share with Waller.
Still on the periphery is John Doe, the green-haired, wild-grinned young man we were introduced to at the end of last season, now free of Arkham Asylum. He’s clearly going to become the Joker, unless Telltale pulls the rug, but here he’s not yet a mass-murdering lunatic like the character is traditionally portrayed. Instead, while slightly unstable, John is more socially inappropriate than anything. His wide eyes suggest menace, as does his unhealthy latching onto Bruce, but there’s no solid proof that he’s up to no good… yet. Thanks also to strong voice acting, which sounds like a man who could fly off the hook at any moment, I really like the character of John. I’m crossing my fingers that he doesn’t progress down the obvious route, turning evil from the rejection of Bruce, but we’ll hopefully be seeing much more of him soon.
As is standard for Telltale’s gameplay, you guide most of these encounters by selecting one of four dialogue options against the clock. It’s certainly nothing new at this point, but I still find it an enjoyable way to experience the story. For example, you can choose whether to be coy, direct or threatening, and those you’re engaged with will react accordingly, but your responses often only impact the next couple of lines. Then there are those choices that hold greater weight: Do you lie to a loved one or tell them the harsh truth? Do you choose to reveal key intel to Waller? Such dilemmas often demonstrate immediate consequences and could even impact future episodes too. You’ll ponder and overthink every one of these decisions, which is a credit to the strong characters and world-building on display.