By Jarrod Jones. This is LOAD FILE, where it’s not about what I want, it’s about what’s FAIR. This week, Jarrod reviews the third episode of Telltale Games’ peculiar ‘Batman’ series, “New World Order,” available to download on all platforms.
Depending on your worldview, Telltale Games has either accomplished a daring new take on one of comics’ most enduring superheroes, or it’s executed the worst hatchet job on The Batman ever committed to a popular medium. Of course there’s another viewpoint, the rational viewpoint, the one that keeps sane people from reading overly critical evaluations of episode-length quicktime events on the internet, and if that’s the viewpoint you happen to have, then what in the hell are you doing reading this? I mean, DoomRocket is practically two blocks north of the creepier parts of the Deep Web.
If you happen to share one of the other two opinions, odds are you’re either hate-playing through Batman: The Telltale Series or licking your monitor whenever Bruce Wayne is onscreen, you naughty, filthy animal, you. (Either way, Telltale has your money, so who’s laughing now.) Three episodes in and fifteen dollars later, I’m utterly aghast, gobsmacked, and other equally hyperbolic terms. Episode Three, “New World Order,” has come and gone, and it’s pure bananas. So let’s talk about it.
BRUCE WAYNE’S WALK OF SHAME
If you’ve ever read All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder or seen Batman: The Killing Joke, 1) I’m so sorry, and 2) you’re likely familiar of what it looks like when Batman eschews all pretense and decides to start having sex with people. But one thing you’re probably not familiar with is what Bruce Wayne looks like post-havin’ thangs, and broh-ther, is it wild.
That’s right, the big centerpiece of “New World Order” isn’t Batman and Catwoman’s first semi-official teamup against the Children of Arkham, nor is it the diplomatic minefield that comes with accepting Oswald Cobblepot’s ascension over at Wayne Enterprises (also known as: the writing team of Batman: TTS getting playful with the basics of corporate structure) — it’s the tense moments that take place the morning after Bruce and Selina’s first sexual encounter.
After giving it the requisite seventeen seconds of thought, this entire sequence might have ultimately been considered dramatic, even touching (considering who soon comes a-knockin’ on Selina’s door), had we not spent the first five or so minutes mincing around Selina’s apartment in our damn boxer briefs. (As an aside, Bruce Wayne is most definitely a Show-er, which is a piece of information none of us ever needed to possess, and also, good for him.) I’m not kidding, either: You talk to Alfred for a bit, you decide whether or not to steal Catwoman’s little magnet-thing (I chose not to), and you go through her fridge with every intention of making yourself a fucking bagel with cream cheese.
None of this is made up. All of that happens in a Batman story. This is the section where we generally talk about the plot of the game, but really, there’s nothing else that needs to be said after that plate of steaming-hot tripe.
But, for the sheer fuck of it, let’s talk about Harvey Dent.
HARVEY HARVEY HARVEY DENT
When I played through “New World Order,” the game was set to the big-time decision I had made at the end of Episode Two — Harvey Dent survived his encounter with The Penguin unscathed, and Selina Kyle was strutting about like she didn’t just take a gunshot to her shoulder. If you took the same path, refusing to even bother with the alternatives (like a rational person might), rest assured it leads down the least daffy sequence of events this episode has in store.
If you, The Batman, decided to let The Penguin jam a stage light into the right side of Harvey Dent’s face (only to then twist it around enough to rip poor Harvey’s cheek out of his head), then you probably have just now stopped laughing at Telltale’s version of the origin of Two-Face.
This is one of the many “innovations” Telltale has brought to the storied, 75+ year legend of the Dark Knight, so perhaps the kinder thing to do is give these guys a little leeway and maybe even a pat on the back. After all, it’s never wrong to try — but if your attempts are as schlocky as one can ever hope for from Eli Roth, it’s best you stop what you’re doing, reassess your life choices, and either come back stronger than ever or meekly return all your comp comics back to the DC Comics offices with your apology attached.
Of course, with a project this high-profile, that last option isn’t probably going to happen, and since Batman: TTS falls into the same category as your shitty fratboy cousin — that being “It Exists, So We Have To Acknowledge It” — we’re forced to take this game series at, erm, face-value (I swear I didn’t do that on purpose.) Thing is, with Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Telltale actually had one thing working in its favor.
While Batman: Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween are kinda-sorta part of the same story (that being the tale of Batman’s formative years, and his tenuous partnership with Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent), it’s safe to consider them to be the “definitive” Two-Face origin story. Only thing is, neither of them are really about Two-Face; really they’re more like the series of events that surrounded the creation of Two-Face. (Both of which deftly led to that breath-stopping moment in Long Halloween where Boss Maroni hurled a jar of acid into Harvey Dent’s face.) If we’re being honest with each other, the most thorough Two-Face story came from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and no, Telltale ain’t outclassing that anytime soon. All they had to do, however, was try. And they do try so very hard.
Since we’re stuck with this “Harvey Dent is the mayor of Gotham City because why not” plotline, the next hour or so of gameplay will either have you chortling incessantly, or, if you’re less of an insensitive jackass, tsking at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. It’s not enough that the newest mayor of Gotham has to walk around with a prosthetic face like Jack Huston in Boardwalk Empire, everyone around him has to constantly remind him that yes, Harvey, all of this is perfectly normal. Nevermind that Harvey is now wearing the iconic face of Batman’s grave nemesis, he’s muttering to himself and generally screaming at people at the slightest provocation. If this sounds like it shouldn’t work, I promise you, it doesn’t.
“Please don’t tell anybody that I’m mentally unstable; it’d do terrors to my career,” Harvey asks Bruce Wayne, who is only too willing to comply for no reason whatsoever. And here we are again, at the point I’ve been making over the last two episode reviews — Bruce Wayne is the worst at his job. I know he has the Children of Arkham running his family’s name into the ground, and yes, he’s picked now to shtup his best friend’s girlfriend, but Bruce can’t honestly believe that Harvey’s gonna work out his rage issues with a few sessions at the psychiatrist. Especially not after Harvey finds out that ol’ Brucie’s been dancing the forbidden dance with his quasi-girlfriend.
Then there’s the baffling ending to this episode, but we’ll save that for the next review.
TWO MORE TO GO
I can’t accuse any of this nonsense of being dull, because the pulpy silliness of this series aims so damn high. But it is most certainly one of the more needlessly-convoluted and oddly conceived Batman tales I’ve encountered since, well, since the last time Scott Snyder wrote a Batman story, I suppose. And if that’s your cuppa, then great.
What I should warn you about however, is that while Telltale has pumped up their servers to give us the most fluid experience we can hope for, the game is pot-marked with glitches and rendering issues, which amount to the game simply crashing on you whenever it decides to just give up. (“New World Order” crashed three times during my first run-through.) Ah… Giving up. Now isn’t that a novel idea.
Developed by Telltale Games.
Published by Telltale Games.
Distributed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Platform(s): Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
3 out of 10
Before: “Children of Arkham,” here.