First announced last year, Batman: The Telltale Series will arrive on Xbox One, PC, and other platforms very soon. We recently checked out the first half hour of the game, which definitely captures the look and feel of traditional Batman stories. As for the sound... Well, read our detailed impressions to find out!
Batman's big adventure
Batman: The Telltale Series will consist of five downloadable episodes that tell a single serialized story, much like other Telltale titles such as Tales from the Borderlands and Minecraft: Story Mode. After the first episode launches this summer, the following installments will be released at irregular intervals throughout the year.
The game is set early in Batman's career, before he has met many longtime foes. It opens at night in the lobby of a multistory building. The security guard looks up from his reading only to immediately get bloodily shot in the forehead. His head hangs back, limp, as a team of masked crooks proceeds past him. This is one example of the game earning its M Rating, although the blood splatter sets a tone too grim for my liking.
The criminals soon begin working to drill through a door. They function as an efficient mercenary team. One crook worries that "he" might show up to spoil the plan, but their leader dismisses the objection. "We'll be out of here before anyone can stop us." Sure you will!
Soon the thieves have successfully gained entrance to the inner depths of the building. The Gotham City Police arrive, led by a gruffly-voiced Commissioner Gordon. He scowls at the sight of the dead security guard and orders his mean to move in. They push the button for the elevator, which Gordon quickly realizes contains a bomb on it. He shouts for everyone to get out of the way, which they do just as the explosion goes off in the lobby. The cops survive and take the stairs instead.
Soon Batman arrives on the scene. Standing atop a neighboring roof, he peers down at a thug who walks by a glass window. This is the first moment of interactivity for the player. Batman must fire his grappling gun at the building and slide across.
As with most Telltale games, action sequences like this take the form of QuickTime Events (QTE). Players simply press the right button to make the hero perform the only action available to him. The difference here comes from the presentation. In Batman: The Telltale Series, the on-screen QTE prompts have been integrated into the actual scenes in a fairly stylish manner. If the camera is looking at the action from an extreme angle, the QTE prompt will match that angle. It really helps the QTEs feel more organic, and should make the game a little more fun when you're watching someone else play it as well.
Having successfully pressed the QTE button, Batman slides across his grappling cable and kicks through the glass window. He quickly dispatches the crook on the other side, again through QTE battles of low complexity. The fight choreography here is more advanced than anything seen in previous Telltale titles, though, which certainly fits an expert martial artist character like Batman.
As we enter the large office space in which the remainder of the gang is working, we experience a series of flashbacks involving Bruce Wayne and Alfred. The beloved butler warns that Bruce can't keep going out as Batman. People will keep him in their crosshairs until he gets "shot out of the sky." Batman retorts that the criminals of the city need something to fear.
Alfred also cautions, "In trying to create a myth, be careful you don't turn into a monster." These exchanges are fairly common in Batman fiction, but perhaps a bit overdone by now. Think of Batman's origin – we see that scene played out so many times across various forms of media, it loses the power it once had.
Cutting to the safe the remaining baddies are currently drilling into, a lithesome female has somehow already gained entry. "My my, you're a big one, aren't you?" Catwoman remarks as she steals the MacGuffin.
Batman stealthily dispatches the thugs standing guard on the office floor. He picks a couple of them off in isolation, exactly as you'd expect from the Caped Crusader. They eventually get wise to him, but not in time to stop him from knocking out or capturing the batch of them. Again, this involves some fairly cool QTEs and well-dramatized action.
As Catwoman attempts to escape from the rooftop, Batman appears in front of her.
"I was wondering if we'd cross paths," she remarks.
"You broke the law. Here I am." It's the first time we hear Batman speak. His voice is not good – more on that shortly.
"Cut the ****. The law? Don't tell me that's why you do all this." Catwoman does her part for the game's M rating.
After some additional banter, the hero and antihero battle for the first time. The police close in during the fight, a chopper attempting to get in closer to snipe at them. On the rooftop itself, Commissioner Gordon stops an officer from shooting. Clearly he already sympathizes with Batman at this early point in the World's Greatest Detective's career.
Just as Batman recovers the mysterious stolen object from Catwoman, he takes a bullet to the side. The gun-toting officer got trigger-happy! Catwoman uses the opportunity to grab her treasure back from our hero and take off. Batman pursues her and the two end up hanging precariously along the side of the building. She slashes him with her claws and escapes to steal and banter another day.
Harvey Dent's fundraiser
Batman: The Telltale Series spends nearly as much time with Bruce Wayne as it does his alter ego. We'll get to know Bruce as a person and understand his relationships with other inhabitants of Gotham City. That includes Harvey Dent, who is currently running for office, presumably to be re-elected as District Attorney.
The scene opens with Harvey Dent addressing attendees at a fundraiser taking place within Wayne Manor. Bruce walks in towards the end of Harvey's speech, at which point players can select his opening line. Will you play Bruce as polite and chivalrous or cold and aloof? This is a Telltale game so the outcome will be pretty much the same no matter what, but it's still nice to have the choice.
After Harvey concludes his speech, he quietly reminds Bruce that the sooner they "make nice with the donors," the sooner everyone will leave him alone. Bruce explains that he was "just working the night shift," of course. The two have an easygoing friendship, though Bruce seems to require a lot of encouragement from Harvey to stay in the light and do his part as a public face for the campaign.
Bruce and Harvey share a brief conversation with two wealthy Gothamites who knew Bruce's parents. Although their support is necessary for Harvey's reelection bid, they seem to support him solely because Bruce does. "Old families like ours should flock together, you know."
The wealthy couple don't think highly of Batman, either. As the conversation concludes, we learn that Bruce and Harvey plan to replace the "dangerously insecure Arkham Asylum with a state of the art mental health facility." We'll see how that works out!
Next, Harvey gets the brush-off from Vicki Vale, a reporter (and historical love interest of Batman's) whose sole interest in the fundraiser is its news value. He asks her to leave, but Bruce steps forward in her defence. Vicki promises to keep the night's conversation off the record. She notices some blood on Bruce's shirt, which he dismisses as the result of a shaving nick.
Finally, Alfred informs Bruce that he'll want to greet a recently-arrived guest personally. It's Carmine Falcone, a reputed mobster who Dent has been hitting up for funds. Bruce questions this alliance, but Harvey believes he needs the votes that Falcone can get him. He claims it's a necessary evil, and pleads for Bruce to hear Falcone out before kicking him out.
Falcone jokes to Bruce that he has been in the market for a new house, suggesting he'd like to buy Wayne Manor. After a curt remark from Bruce, the two men glare at each other until Alfred suggests they adjourn to the parlor for further discussion. Falcone agrees but has his thugs bar Harvey from entering the room. Players can choose whether to agree to the private meeting or stick up for Harvey. Fail to stand by Harvey and he'll remember that, as Telltale games are fond of telling us.
The conversation goes just like you'd expect. Falcone wants an alliance with Bruce, which surely would involve illegal business dealings. He throws his weight around, reminding our hero what he can do for Harvey's campaign and how many pies he has his fingers in. Our hero simply won't have it, though: Bruce quickly shuts the mobster down. Carmine leaves with the threat that people don't say no to him for very long. He also withdraws his interest in the house because "the owner's a prick."
What we can expect from Telltale's Batman
Thus ends the first half hour of Batman: The Telltale Series.
Graphically, this Batman works very well. The art style is an evolution of the one seen in Tales from the Borderlands, and it perfectly captures the look of a Batman comic come to life. Motion capture continues to be a weakness, as characters sometimes move through environments in a floaty, artificial manner. But Telltale's proprietary engine has at least been updated to include improved lighting as well as cloth simulation for Batman's cape, a first for the studio.
On the voice front, Telltale has largely recruited from its usual stable of voice actors, including Troy Baker as Bruce Wayne, Laura Bailey as Selina Kyle, Erin Yvette as Vicki Vale – all recognizable voices from Tales from the Borderlands. Other voices include Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent, Murphy Guyer as Lieutenant James Gordon, and Richard McGonagle as Carmine Falcone.
The ladies all sound fine in their parts, as does Willingham as Harvey Dent. Guyer is perhaps too gruff for Commissioner Gordon, but I got used to him eventually.
The real sore spot is the dual lead role, that of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Although Troy Baker has played Batman before in the LEGO Batman games, he just doesn't sound like Bruce Wayne to me. All I hear is Troy Baker, exactly as he sounded when he played Rhys in Tales from the Borderlands.
That wouldn't be so bad, but Telltale didn't even let Baker do a distinct voice for Batman – something with which he actually has experience! When Batman speaks in this game, it's with a horribly modulated voice a la Oliver Queen's disguised voice on TV's Arrow. The voice modulator might make a superhero's ability to maintain a secret identity more believable, but it just sounds awful. Every time Batman speaks here, we're subjected to that horribly artificial modulation.
Will the worst Batman voice ever derail Telltale's Batman? We'll find out when the first episode launches and the public gets to hear it for themselves.
Coming soon to an Xbox (and hopefully UWP device) near you
One very nice thing about Telltale is how platform-agnostic the developer is with its games. Pretty much every Telltale adventure nowadays comes to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam, Mac, Android, and iOS. Minecraft: Story Mode also made its way to Windows 10 thanks to the Universal Windows Platform.
Now that the Telltale engine supports UWP, we expect Batman: A Telltale Series will make its way to the Windows 10 Store as well. Of course, that leaves several questions like whether the Windows 10 version will launch alongside other versions this summer, and whether it would be cross-buy. Minecraft: Story Mode is not cross-buy, but that functionality (dubbed Xbox Play Anywhere by Microsoft) is still very new and seemingly hasn't become available to third-party developers just yet.
For now, Batman: The Telltale Series has only been announced for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam, Mac, Android, and iOS. The first episode will arrive this summer and should ring up in the $5-10 range. From what we've seen, Batman fans have an exciting and authentic tale to look forward to. I just wish Batman himself sounded better!
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Really should stop calling these apps/games "universal" if they dont include a mobile version.
UWP = "Universal Windows Platform" only because phones don't get it, doesn't mean it wouldn't be part of the platform. so no, they should call them Universal, because that's the name of the platform, even if companies don't care about taking full advantage of it.
UWP is the official term for the apps made for Windows 10 irrespective of the device which it is available on.
Bad naming by MS doesn't mean it can't be worded better. When "Universal Platform" doesn't mean universal within your platform, it reeks of failure.
The key thing is the platform suports to be bale to run on all devices, but it involves two other factors, one is willingness on developer and publisher part and anotehr is hardware capability of the mobiles! UWP is nto like one exe for all, its rather one codebase that can enabel devs to easily amek for all devices!
The key thing is the platform suports to be able to run on all devices, but it involves two other factors, one is willingness on developer and publisher part and anotehr is hardware capability of the mobiles! UWP is nto like one exe for all, its rather one codebase that can enabel devs to easily make for all devices!
Im too lazy to go to the feedback page, but build 38 is all over the place when loading articles. Every time i refresh it loads a different set of old and new articles
Thought it was just me. But you still should take the time to report it, otherwise your comment might not help.
So Troy has voiced both Joker and Batman now. Interesting!
Could they afford to have brought back Roger Craig Smith at least Haha. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android (V10 or Nexus 5X)
Considering Bale's Batman voice was awful, I shudder to think how this sounds if this is being considered the worst
Surprised at that Troy f'ed this one up I'll have to try the first episode for myself and see, could just be someone's bad opinion. Never no
It's not his fault they're using a voice modulator. That's on the developer.
Does it allow you to skip dialogues and cutscenes? The unskippable dialogues and cutscenes in Telltale's previous games make replaying a pain in the ass.
I was interested in this initially, but I might have to pass if the voice is that bad. The description given in the review makes it sound like fun, though.
Wow this is a long review, I love story telling games, too bad lately I'm too devoted to neverwinter, might buy the collection in future :)
Looks like a decent entry into the Batman universe of games. I'll have to check it out.
I find it odd how little I dabble in anything related to this (Telltale, superheroes, QTE-heavy pseudo-games), yet I'm still fatigued by it. I was intrigued by Tales from the Borderlands until I saw how Telltale games work--little real action and slow pacing. I do like their A.I.-like style of having actions influence the future, but not at the expense of being engaged in actually playing a game. And I'm just 50 miles over superheroes. Too many movies, games, and general media. It's all really stale to me, even as a very casual observer. Lastly, I absolutely hate the episodic style of games. It feels like they just break up the pricing to get you to forget how much you're paying for these games (Hitman being the far extreme of being almsot crowdfunded in its release style, arguably the same for Killer Instinct). Of course, those are the opinions of someone not interested in these things. If you want a game more about plot than action, and you've liked Telltale stuff in the past, you'll likely be set for a while. If you're into Batman, especially the story behind him, Telltale's never been bad at pulling off stories, from what I've heard of their games (though when I watched my cousin play The Walking Dead, I didn't care for its story). If you like being methodical in your discovery and observation of the world, you'll be right at home. There's a clear demographic for all of this stuff, given the Batman movie/comic franchises and the constant stream of Telltale content. It's just not something I have any interest in.
Wont be playing it. Troy baker is a horrible voice actor for batman games and its not Kevin conroy voicing batman. Also Theres no joker. So basically its going to be a dull game, without "the killing game" set in a world where generic and boring voice actors voice our fave superheroes..badly
Nobody knows whether or not the Joker is in it, nor which other villains will be in it. Silly to make that prediction at this point.
They did confirm 6 villains at e3. And for a 10 hours episodic game that's enough tbh.
They didn't confirm which villains will be in it other than the ones mentioned in the article. At least, they wouldn't tell me anyone else when I asked.
Fair enough :D but I think if joker comes up, it will be dull, since dc characters and the villains are deep, and havin 6 villains already would ruin the narrative. Joker needs development and so need do the others. Guess for that season they have their cast. And unless they want everyone in there an have a superficial character experience like arkham origins, they stay with what they have.
also still no kevin Conroy as batman.. So sad..
Kevin Conroy would've made the game so much better. But you'll miss out on lots of great Batman games and stories if you only watch the stuff he's in. It's possible they will sew the seeds for additional characters to appear in sequels in this game. I imagine they hope to do a second season if it sells well enough.
I know.. And you're right, but if all batman he is my favorite. And well. Tey baker is nice to have, but telltale is really overusing him.
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