E3 is a busy, busy place, but what Telltale Games’ booth (segregated in the Concourse Hall) might have lacked in size compared to the main show’s square footage was more than made up for in style and charm. There was a reason they were already receiving marks from across the editorial board. I was there for something special as the company that helped invigorate The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones would tackle the most iconic of all superheroes: Batman.
Entering the booth was not unlike entering Bruce Wayne’s private office; the walls plastered in appropriate Gotham decor of family friends, complete with a flatscreen displaying a fake news show covering the latest reports on Wayne enterprises including a scroll along the bottom mentioning Batman’s vigilantism.
A bartender was on hand to make me a delightful Dent-inspired drink before the doors closed and the nearby clock shifted to the side. Behind it was a pale blue glow becoming us inside to the Bat cave. A large almost cartoonish super computer donned the back wall opposite a dozen leather chairs for everyone to watch. At this point, one of Telltale’s developers walked in to start the demo and lead us through the first half hour of episode one.
It begins quite literally with a bang, as a bank guard is executed at his desk. Robbers walk past him and start working on the vault while talking about whispers of some kind of Batman showing up and putting people in body bags. Naturally, they find out first-hand as the caped crusader swings through a window and begins dispatching the criminals one at a time. Here we see the signature QTE style of Telltale games as combat and acrobatics are prompted with button presses and d-pad swings.
The robbery is halted, but things get a bit more complicated as Catwoman appears to steal some type of hard drive. A quick chase leads them both to the roof where a more intense fight ensues, Leiutenant Gordon and cops watching along the side. The Dialogue tree kicks in here as Batman and Catwoman shout out some snappy one liners regarding what exactly Batman gets out of being a “hero”. The hard drive is secured, but Catwoman gets away in true seductive style.
A nice beat of black screen switches gears for us as we see Bruce Wayne enter the main ballroom donned in a suit and tie. The developer prompts us at this point that playing Bruce Wayne is at times more important than playing Batman, as the politics of being a billionaire can intrude just about every aspect of Bruce’s life. In this case, a fundraiser for Harvey Dent, looking to be elected Mayor and have a real impact on Gotham’s corruption.
Combat and dialogue switch places here now, as the developer makes well over a dozen various choices as to where Bruce’s loyalty lies among the crowd. Side with the wealthy benefactors that have respected the Wayne family for decades, or stick to Harvey’s side and reinforce his message of trust and a new future for the city?
As If that wasn’t enough, the party is quietly interrupted by Carmine Falcone, the alleged crime boss of all Gotham. Bruce is clearly disturbed by his arrival, only to find out Dent is hoping for his support as he has most of Gotham’s influential people under his thumb. Of course, Telltale forces the first major choice here on the player as a private conversation with Falcone dictates Bruce to either “play ball” with Falcone or face some dire consequences. Fade to black.
For one thing I was impressed at the visuals, as Batman is clearly the most impressive looking Telltale game to date. The developers assured everyone that the engine used is the same as all previous titles, but that new upgrades and improvements had been implemented to take it to the next level. Also new was a type of combat gauge in the shape of the Batman symbol in the bottom left corner. Certain maneuvers, when executed correctly the first time, would gradually fill up the bar. When full, a small prompt would appear prompting the player to execute a finishing move.
The developer did this twice, both cases in which Batman put down his opponent for good in some brutal combat fashion. He would elaborate if this gauge was used for other purposes or if it could be filled during dialogue sequences. Telltale went on to describe the story as a brand new tale in the Batman universe, one that draws from the 75-year history of the caped crusader, but still crosses new thresholds no fan has seen yet.
While Harvey Dent was clearly not Two-Face yet, developers were tight lipped on appearances from other iconic villains. They did leave us with a tease suggesting “during the demo, there was a very important villain show up that you probably didn’t notice”. Holy intrigue, Batman!
Ultimately the 30-minute demo for Telltale Games’ Batman was very fast-paced but overflowing with action, something they promise us will last throughout the entire adventure. All 5 episodes of Batman are due out by the end of the year, with episode one expected to launch by the end of Summer.
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