It’s time for yet another episode of Batman: The Enemy Within, the Telltale Games adaptation of Bruce Wayne’s double life cleaning up the toxic streets of Gotham. As this is the penultimate episode, “What Ails You” has the task of delivering both a continuation of the terrific momentum gained so far and a suitable set up for a big finale. Is Batman ready to pull off this incredible feat in what has been a smashing series to date? Let’s don the cape and find out.
Last time, things got a little complicated for Bruce upon the arrival of Catwoman as another member of the already villain-filled gang, The Pact. Given that Catwoman knows about his night time antics, it made a tough undercover role even harder. Meanwhile, Waller and Gordon cause unnecessary hassle in their bitter power struggle. Waller and Gordon were causing unnecessary hassle in their bitter power struggle, and we had John Doe playing the fool, doting on Bruce and Batman, to become a valuable ally within the group. Unfortunately, Harley Quinn caught on to the ulterior motives and the cover was blown just before the big job occurred, which led to Bruce being placed in a cryogenic chamber like contraption to die. The odds are against him as he begins to freeze to death, but this can’t be the end of Batman, can it?
Of course not, and the knowledge that there’s another episode to come really affected the impact of such a life-threatening moment. I won’t spoil how, but Bruce survives and the main narrative of episode four is to stop The Pact from getting their hands on a lethal virus. The Agency also wants to procure it for themselves, so you’re really stuck in between a rock and a hard place. First on the agenda is to track down The Pact, which isn’t difficult as they’ve left absolute carnage in the wake of their presence.
Consequently there’s a ton of action to get the player engrossed early on, with Batman getting a long overdue run out to deliver the justice required. The gruesomeness depicted on the bodies of The Pact’s victims sets the tone that they mean business. But so does Batman. With a little bit of stealth thrown in to the mix, he takes on a trio of deadly villains – Bane, Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn – in a battle to remember. It’s both exciting and surprising what occurs during what is a hard fought contest. In terms of QTEs, there are multi-button pressing types, single buttons and directional inputs needed, and most importantly the choice based actions. Being able to change up the choreographed moves a couple of times mid-fight really helps to provide a sense of control to the player.
Naturally, a bit of downtime follows such a monumental confrontation, but it takes a while to get back to those heights. Assessing what’s gone on, Batman formulates an idea of where any escaping members of the group will end up. There are conversations with Waller and her agents; however, it confuses me how attitudes change far too quickly whilst chatting. One minute Waller is angry, and the next she’s talking you up for having good ideas. Being that mentally unstable doesn’t cut it for me and it’s what I’d expect from a former Arkham inmate, not the head of a government agency.
Speaking of the mentally unstable, John Doe is an absolute star in “What Ails You”. There have been many little signs that all is not right with Bruce’s ‘best friend’, and just when you think he’s about to rise to infamy as the greatest villain ever, he tugs on the player’s heart strings to make you forget how devious he is. I adore the relationship John perceives to have with Bruce, but it’s officially peaked and the writers have done a superb job at developing it. The voice acting is simply perfect too.
One of the highlights involves a visit to a funhouse, a wonderfully designed location to set the scene for an incredibly intense chapter. Creepy looking dummies are all over the place, the pictures across the wall are freaky, and the whole vibe is ridiculously sinister. I can’t lie, I genuinely shrieked at one point when something jumped out at Bruce because it was a flawlessly timed jump scare. It’s arguably the best environment I’ve seen this series, and well suited to the manic character found within.
Aside from this, we also get an insight into the motives of the other villains throughout and it’s interesting to find out why they are so intent on fulfilling their evil scheme. There’s even a worrisome moment involving Alfred, where it becomes apparent that this life of crime fighting is taking its toll on him. But everything pales in comparison to the aforementioned John Doe stealing every scene he‘s in – and leaving a lasting impression to keep him on your mind until he next appears.
In episode four, “What Ails You”, Telltale have created a fine balance between fisticuffs, chit chat and intense situations. The same balance exists in the struggle of letting Batman deal with things or giving Bruce a go at negotiating a problem. I actually contemplate the few decisions presented to me because I care about the characters. There’s a battle of epic proportion, a confrontation that’ll give a whole load of satisfaction to the players, and plenty of storytelling to fill in some of the blanks. Sure, there are a few moments that could’ve been handled better – Bruce’s life on the line came an episode too soon – and there could have been a tad less filler in places, but on the whole this is 90 minutes of pure enjoyment you shouldn’t miss out on.
What ails me is how Telltale can top off such a refreshing take of DC Comics’ leading hero in the upcoming finale. Let’s hope it ends with a bang!