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Review: Batman - The Enemy Within: Fractured Mask

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Episode 3 wildly tangled in its own cat's cradle

Bruce Wayne is in a lot of trouble.

Having been successful in his plan to ingratiate himself within "The Pact," a merciless group of Gotham rogues, in efforts to ascertain the reasoning behind a recent crimewave, the billionaire has made enemies on all sides. Relying on "help" from Amanda Waller and her shadowy agency, while trying to stay in the good books with old friend Jim Gordon, Wayne has dug himself in with a ruthless band of killers, and is becoming ever-culpable in their crimes.

With the arrival on the scene of questionable ally Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, the split-personality of buddy John Doe, and the pressures of gang-boss Harley Quinn breathing down his neck, Wayne is spreading himself, and his loyalties, dangerously thin.


Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 3: Fractured Mask  (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: November 21, 2017
MSRP: $19.99/£18.99 (Five episodes)

[Minor Spoilers Below]

Equally struggling, however, is the overbooked storytelling of Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within. What started as a promising, taut and shocking mystery has, in just three episodes, become a crowded, messy story. In a effort to crowbar in an abundance of characters, threads and relationship triangles, narrative logic is collapsing under the weight of its own flow-chart.

By episode three, I am at a loss for why many characters are treating me as they are. Allies I have shown nothing but respect and support for are squawking at Bruce like he came into their home on Christmas Day and pissed on the rug, whereas other characters are jumping from "I know you've got my back" dialogue to "I can't even trust you!" in the space of literally seconds.

The problem with episode three, Fractured Mask, is it tries to throw in a lot of big moments without any real gravitas building to them. Across the span of just two hours I had the option to reveal Batman's identity to multiple characters. I was also given some heavy-handed "It's them or me" situations that really didn't hit the dramatic high-notes intended. Fractured Mask, more than previous episodes, is little more than a series of "Who are you siding with?" choices, most of which feel largely irrelevant.

On the positive side, Catwoman (a character I generally don't really care for) is excellently portrayed, with a great vocal performance. Likewise, the series never fails to grip the viewer whenever Wayne and John Doe are one-on-one. All of the conversations between the reluctant BFFs have been brilliant and fascinating, as Wayne attempts to build Doe into the person he could become, over the person we all know he will become.

These great character performances, however, serve to reinforce how much of a miss Quinn is, with Harley's repetitive vocal pattern and slipping accent a bad match for her Telltale iteration. A couple of characters, including Season Two's new star Tiffany Fox, almost forget to show up entirely, and thus appear in scenes as if dropped in by helicopter, which at least beats bumping into her in a cupboard at 3:00am, à la last episode.

It's no secret that, unfortunately, Telltale Games are having problems. This may be reflected in the product, as Fractured Mask re-uses multiple locations from the previous two episodes. Only a cafe veranda serves as a new environment, perhaps speaking to the issues that have befallen the troubled studio lately. Fortunately, I did not encounter any game-crashing bugs in episode three, which troubled many players in last month's The Pact.

Although there is some excellent work put in by Catwoman and John Doe, Fractured Mask is ultimately just a series of "Choose A or B" conversations, taking place in overly-familiar locales, with stakes not quite as high as the game would have you believe. With only two episodes remaining, it's going to take something special to kick this story into high gear for the climax. It certainly isn't impossible; even when the chips are down, you can always bet on Bat.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Batman: The Enemy Within: The Fractured Mask reviewed by Chris Moyse

5

MEDIOCRE

An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
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Chris Moyse
Chris MoyseAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Chris (Orochileona) has been playing video games since video games began.. still terrible at them though. Former Saturday Night Slam Master, rambles nostalgically like Abe Simpson. Mind like an ... more + disclosures


 



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