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The first 30 minutes of Telltale's 'Batman' are sexy and gritty

Engadget Engadget 16/06/2016 Jessica Conditt

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Telltale's Batman opens with a bang. A security guard sits quietly in the entryway of Gotham City Hall, when suddenly, bam -- he gets a shotgun blast to the head. A team of criminals in full-body armor and masks walk past his body, murmuring about whether Batman will show up. He will, of course, as will Lieutenant Gordon, Selina Kyle as Catwoman, reporter Vicki Vale, politician Harvey Dent and Gotham crime lord Carmine Falcone. Note that Gordon isn't Commissioner yet and Harvey Dent still has his whole face.

Telltale's version of Batman begins just a few years into Bruce Wayne's vigilante career and it reboots his entire storyline, according to Telltale maketing head Richard Iggo. DC Comics is allowing Telltale to craft its own, unique story in the Batman universe. The companies have a previous relationship; Telltale transformed DC's Fables into video game form with The Wolf Among Us in 2013.

Batman's characters and some of its situations will be familiar to franchise fans, but Telltale promises plenty of surprises.

"At the outset we made it very clear we'd love to do a new story about Batman and that's what they're letting us do," Iggo says. "Our plan and our goal and what we are going to do is turn things completely on their head for you, as the player, and also for Bruce Wayne. There's going to be things which are very, very different to the established canon."

Telltale's Batman is rated M and it's going to get gritty. The story and gameplay focuses on the two masks that Bruce Wayne wears -- the bat-suit and the fancy tuxedoes he dons as the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. This is classic Telltale fare: The action sequences are rapid-fire quick-time events and there are a smorgasbord of dialogue options that lead to different narrative outcomes and relationships. Players are able to choose how Bruce Wayne acts and responds to certain people, lending him varying degrees of emotional depth.

In the game's first 30 minutes, Batman banters with Catwoman in an exchange dripping with believable sexual tension, even as they leap around the roof of a skyscraper and attempt to take down one another. The setting swaps to Bruce leaning against the mantlepiece in his bedroom at Wayne manor, injured and speaking with Alfred as he gets stitched up. Telltale's Bruce is introspective and dead-set on defending Gotham, regardless of personal injury.

Bruce eventually dons a tuxedo and his bedroom doors open onto a fancy, lively party already taking place in his ballroom. It's a fundraiser for Harvey Dent, who's running for mayor of Gotham. The two have a friendly relationship that plays out in player-chosen responses, allowing Bruce to appear colder or warmer to Harvey in subtle ways. Their history is clear and the characters feel settled into their personalities right from the get-go. That's probably a perk of working with a franchise that's more than 75 years old.

"We're definitely delving into the dark psychology of what it means to be Bruce Wayne, so that M rating allows us to do that with really no holds barred," Iggo says. "The freedom that have is that we've been given characters that you might think of as an ally, who may turn into a villain. One of the questions that's continually asked of Batman or Bruce Wayne is, is he actually responsible for creating the villains around him? That's definitely something that we're going to explore. And of course that will come from your choice as a player."

Batman looks great, too. Telltale has updated its engine for this one and The Walking Dead Season 3, adding cloth and physics simulations, new lighting and optimization across the board, Iggo says. Though Telltale has carte blanche to play with Batman in new ways, he isn't going to be a complete departure from the Bruce fans know and love (to hate, at times). Part of the game will focus on Batman -- and Bruce Wayne -- as "the world's greatest detective," Iggo says. Part of it will feature Batman as a skilled fighter. He isn't a killer, though.

"He's obviously very violent in what he does," Iggo says. "He's kind of ruthless as far as it needs to be. I don't think we're intending for him to be a murderer."

The first episode of Telltale's Batman series lands sometime this summer and all five episodes are set to launch before the end of the year.

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