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Batman: The Enemy Within: Episode 4 - What Ails You
Score: 95%
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure


Introduction:

Batman: The Enemy Within continues to both surprise and impress. Iíve gone to fairly great lengths to voice my admiration for this particular project, from its intelligent, deeply character-driven writing to its notable subversion of much of what even the most casual Batman fan would consider hard canon. But itís reached yet another amazing high with Episode 4 Ė What Ails You, a penultimate episode so intense that the fact that it retains such a deliberate pace is something of a miracle. The events of the previous three episodes prove so weighty that it all starts spilling over from the very first frame. Itís a torrent of beautiful chaos, but with Episode 4, Telltale has constructed a series of narrative sluice gates that allows us to watch each spectacular juncture of nature and artifice. I honestly have no idea where this thing is headed, but at this point, Iím all in.

The Batís out of the Bag:

Itís a foregone conclusion that the cliffhanger that ended Episode 3 with a sting is quickly backpedaled; come on, weíd only just passed the halfway point. But thereís no going back at this point; Bruce Wayneís surprisingly lengthy stint as a man leading a triple life (as opposed to the usual double) has come to an expected but grim end. The Pact, for all intents and purposes, is done with the guy. It makes sense from a narrative standpoint: the endgame needs to get going, and letís not fool ourselves into thinking that Wayne is seriously going to consider anything more than an antagonistic relationship with the likes of Harley Quinn and Bane. Less clear, however, is his standing with Selina Kyle (because of course) and Dr. Victor Fries, who, despite the occasional murderous tendency, is less overtly evil and more prone to the natural excesses brought about by desperation.

The big question remains: what exactly does The Pact have to gain by exploiting an apparent biochemical warfare subdivision of The Agency? Without spoiling anything, it turns out they stand to gain quite a lot, and the stakes are surprisingly personal. Episode 4 Ė What Ails You features a handful of revelations that could very well compromise more than a few of us. Between her total unreliability in the field and her skittishness regarding The Agencyís involvement in the whole sordid affair, Director Amanda Waller isnít acquitting herself well. Considering Alfredís overexertion and Tiffanyís naÔvetť, itís safe to say both Bruce and Batmanís support systems are in, for lack of better words, a state of disrepair. Heís clearly in for some trauma.


Making a Clown Prince:

Batman: The Enemy Within is likely the closest thing weíre ever going to get to a compelling origin story for The Joker. Mind you, Iím not talking about a comprehensive, total-picture trace to the genesis of what made him the way he is. The less we know about that, the better. Itís obvious that something is wrong with the guy, but at the same time, he isnít yet a psychopath. Heís emotional, vulnerable, and deeply invested in how his companions perceive him. Whatís interesting here is that Bruce Wayne/Batman is clearly playing a central role in the manís formation, and whatís even more interesting is that not all roads appear to lead to the same place. While itís true that most Telltale experiences are suffused with fatalism and the dread that comes with it, the outcome here feels less preordained than that of anything Iíve seen from the studioís writers. Considering how likable theyíve made John Doe, Iím equal parts excited for and terrified by whatever lies at the end of the road for the fellow. I really hope they follow through on this thread.

The events that kick off Episode 4 Ė What Ails You drive the lonely green-haired tagalong to the edge; his infatuation with Harley and his loyalty to Bruce are finally made mutually exclusive, and your treatment of him over the course of these scenes are framed as character-shaping moments. The cogs of fate turn mercilessly for John Doe over the course of this episode. Itís not long before he finally arrives at a crossroad, and youíre blessed/cursed to be his backseat driver. Do you push him irrevocably into isolation, where his demons will surely get the better of him? Or will you try to save what remains of his moral compass and put him on a path that involves lessÖ collateral damage? The big question right now is: will it matter in the end? We will hopefully have something of an answer when the credits roll on the finale.


Conclusion:

Batman: The Enemy Within is on course for a satisfying finale. All the right signs are there, and everything has led where it should. I donít feel like weíve been cheated out of anything, and the storytelling has largely been natural and organically developed. Iíve had my share of issues with certain parts, most notably certain bits of characterization, but as far as everything else is concerned, this is still Telltaleís best series in years.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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