Video Games Review: Batman: The Enemy Within – Ep. 1 (PC, 2017) sets a grim, complex tone for Season 2

I am still waiting for my dream Batman game to materialise. This non-existent game would essentially be LA Noire and the Batman IP draped over it, steeped in the World’s Greatest Detective side of the character moreso than the Caped Crusader. I am fully aware that it would probably sell about four copies. Throughout Batman: The Telltale Series, and here again in the first episode of its sequel, Batman: The Enemy Within – The Telltale Series, it feels at times like that’s the Batman game Telltale would quite like to make too.

Batman: The Enemy Within‘s first episode, The Enigma, picks up a short time after the previous series’ conclusion. Catwoman has left town, the triple threat of Two-Face, the Penguin and Lady Arkham has been put to rest and Bruce Wayne has all but restored his tarnished image following a stint in Arkham Asylum.

When The Riddler arrives in town, crashes a fancy casino and launches a grisly attack on a local arms dealer named Rumi Mori. The Riddler’s attack is so barbarous that it attracts the attention of Amanda Waller and The Agency, who descend on Gotham immediately to slow Commissioner Gordon’s roll and take over the investigation.

If you didn’t complete or perhaps never played the original, you can have the game automatically generate a “Previously On” sequence that randomises major decisions from Season One or you can pick through them yourself to rebuild a lost save and tailor current state of the story to your liking.

As in Season One, The Enemy Within tries, when it can, to let you play its events out the way you’d prefer to. If you feel you can get more done as Bruce Wayne than as Batman, certain sequences will allow you to play as one over the other. I actually prefer playing as Bruce when I can because there’s a certain mental judo involved in getting hardened criminals, people who have survived because they are wily and evasive, to give up information you want. This occasionally leads me to believe that the game is granting me slightly more agency as a player than it really is. In one scene, I agreed to a large sum of money being transferred to a particular gangster. The money would allow them to fly by night from Waller’s clutches and in exchange I would receive the valuable information on the Riddler I was seeking. The whole time I was making this deal, I was planning ahead. “I can think of a couple of ways to pin this on the gangster if Waller finds out.” But, can I? Can I actually do that or am I assuming way too much? I won’t know if my actions have stitched me until future episodes roll out.

For most Telltale fans, this is part of the fun. Make your move and try to anticipate how the ripples they create will effect future interactions. But what if I’m thinking entirely differently to the Telltale writers and they go a different way? Have I just screwed myself? What I’m saying is that Telltale are very, very good at making the player believe that the choices they’re making are fluid and unique, but you can’t really plan anything in advance. You really are led to quite a lot of your decisions.

The scenes in The Enemy Within‘s debut episode that I enjoyed the most were the ones that most resembled the dream game I brught up earlier. They all involved gathering information on each part of the Riddler case and piecing it together. Using the Batcomputer to explore a new lead, linking parts of a crime scene together using the cowl to paint a picture of what happened there, it’s all stuff I want more of, it’s all stuff I want to see Telltale expand upon. Right now, like the handful of puzzles the game throws at the player, these scenes left me wanting something a bit more substantial.

These are my nitpicks and they are many, but there’s a lot about The Enemy Within that I really do like. Telltale are making the most of their new engine, providing character models with more detail and expression than ever before. The maniacal John Doe from Season One returns, his rictus grin wider than ever, his mannerisms more convincingly animated than before. Telltale have also put together one of my favourite Batsuit designs in years. Utilitarian in design, as is the standard in the post-Nolan era, but also evoking the feel of Batman: The Animated Series with its broad shoulders and glowing eyes.

The Enigma is a solid first episode in what promises to be another stellar Telltale series. It gets its hooks in early with a great villain, some interesting new characters, plot twists and the makings of an engaging series arc. I was ready to move onto to Episode 2 the moment the credits rolled, which means they’re definitely on the right track.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Solid writing; Great character designs; Breezy running time
Lowlights: Dead simple puzzles
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC, Android, iOS
Available: Now

Reviewed on Windows PC.