Review

Batman: The Enemy Within - Episode 4: What Ails You Review

  • First Released Aug 8, 2017
    released
  • PS4
  • XONE
  • PC

Crossing the line.

There's a line in Episode 4 of Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within that serves as an evocative metaphor for the dynamic between Batman and Joker--or more aptly for the Telltale series, Bruce Wayne and John Doe: "We're two threads in the same stitch, bound together...even under strain." Across the previous three episodes, events have transpired to pull at the fabric of their relationship, and in Episode 4, the two threads begin to fray.

What Ails You is a standout episode with strong writing, compelling performances, and decision-making moments that feel like they have significant consequences. The star is John, the would be Joker, who finally unravels, going from the well-meaning if a bit unhinged friend to something much closer to the Clown Prince of Crime we're used to seeing terrorize Gotham City and Batman. However, since developer Telltale has been building towards this from the very start, the shift is the culmination of a slow descent into madness instead of a leap, and it's fascinating to watch.

It's not as simple as something within him snapping. Instead, this Joker has been forged by a maelstrom of emotions wearing him down. John has suffered internal conflicts between what he's destined to become and his desire to find true friendship; a destructive love for Harley Quinn and his reverence of Batman. And all of that comes through in the way he's written and performed in the episode. We get to see a vulnerable, misguided, lonely figure desperately trying to find something to anchor himself to--and whether Bruce and Batman are positive influences in that process is called into question.

As Harley, Bane, and Freeze make a play for a deadly virus that could have devastating implications, Bruce realizes that the key to stopping them is John. In fact, many of the series' most high-stakes events have involved Bruce relying on John for help, and the realities of this give-and-take relationship are laid bare. While many Batman stories have tried, very few have succeeded in making the audience feel sympathy for Joker, but Telltale actually pulls it off, and it's a testament to how well it has humanized this larger-than-life supervillain that he feels relateable. There are moments that make you think about the way you've used John in the past, and whether you've been genuinely treating him as a friend or as just a tool to achieve objectives.

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Click image to view in full screen gallery

In the midst of the self-reflection the episode inspires, the game asks you to choose whether to put your faith in John once more. However, it does this after presenting the most damning evidence that he may have finally flipped, with just John's word luring you into thinking that things may not be as clear cut as they seem. It's a powerful moment that offers fans of Batman something few other mediums can: the opportunity to give Joker a chance. Given that the series' decision-making moments ultimately always reconnect to a predetermined narrative, the overall outcome is set. However, the type of person John emerges as is one that your actions--past and present--have helped define.

Episode 4 also muddies the relationship between Batman and Amanda Waller, whose unclear motives start to come into focus. As is typical of Waller, her actions become more dubious, and the consequences of them have fallout on those around her. While her cards aren't completely laid out on the table, her tells and bluffs start to become more transparent. By presenting her as someone who is both somewhat sketchy and under pressure to handle a situation spiraling out of control Telltale maintains an enigmatic air about her.

What Ails You also lays the groundwork for future drama, revealing how recent happenings have impacted Alfred, and the responsibility Bruce now has to face for his decision to take Tiffany Fox, the daughter of his close ally Lucius Fox, under his wing. And it breaks up all these with sequences where Bruce investigates clues to push the narrative forward, or the odd set-piece in which Batman trades blows with villains. Like previous episodes, there's a dearth of moments that challenge the mind or offer engaging gameplay, but in a narrative and characterisation-heavy episode, these sequences provide some respite from the high-pressure interactions with other characters.

Episode 4 of Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within has top-notch writing, thoughtful depictions, and impactful decision-making moments. It leaves Bruce, Batman, and you to grapple with questions and uncertainty. Between the future of Joker, the nature of Amanda Waller, and the potential fallout of Bruce's mission on his allies, Telltale has set the stage for what could (better) be an explosive finale.

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The Good

  • John Doe's slow transformation into Joker pays off in a memorable way
  • It forces you to reflect on decisions from previous episodes
  • Secondary characters begin to undergo significant change

The Bad

  • Very light on puzzles and only has one big action sequence to engage with

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About the Author

Tamoor thinks everyone deserves a chance, even The Joker. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
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JoeBobaHEAD

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I think I screwed things up with Catwoman, but this story is fantastic. The first season had some glitches with gameplay, but was brave enough to challenge some of the character arcs and storylines Batman fans are used to. This season has been great, and its set up to have a fantastic final episode with John Doe finally becoming "The Joker". The only thing I don't like is how Harley went from controlling him to totally subservient to him at the end of episode 4. I also think they should've established her in season 1 when Bruce and John were in Arkham. But still, well worth the $25.

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Ardenes

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it's kinda hard to really think of Joker as a real person when we all know what he is going to be

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Oddsnake

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Man I love the Telltale Batman games. The only thing I wish was that it was possible to change the eventual outcome more, I've been trying to help and guide John to avoid him snapping completely but I fear it's already going to happen no matter what I do (Just like Dent in season 1) as the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But the ability to be, think, talk and act like the Batman you want is just so good. It's a power fantasy that even the Arkham games didn't do. Great episode. The finale is going to be a blast.

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NTM23

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Edited By NTM23

I bought both of these seasons a while back when they were on sale. I liked the twists from the normalcy of Batman stories that were brought to the first Season, but I didn't love it overall. When I went into two, I was hooked (also, the game on PS4 just runs much better). The differences in characters really surprised me, and I felt the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic was really interesting. I also felt kind of sad because I was playing Bruce Wayne and Batman as their characters, so when I would evade the Joker's want to get closer to Batman, while I thought it was really fitting for Batman, it kind of tore me apart to be that kind of Batman. On the other hand, Bruce was being buddy-buddy with him.

The way they make you flip characters in short time and then me choosing to make them act differently was really cool. In the last episode, it had some genuinely funny moments too, like when Bruce and John went to get a drink. You're talking to him as he asks questions, and he's just slurping a drink as Bruce answers. It really does feel like as a player, you want to help John (Joker), but for story reasons, it's kind of pulling you away. The Joker confides and acts as somewhat of a student to Bruce, and while he has that relationship (albeit perhaps fake), he doesn't have it in Batman which he also wants. At least, that was what was in the last episode.

You add that to the fact he is the lowliest of villains in this, where everyone considers him as less than them, sometimes juxtaposition it to his always smiling face, it makes you feel for John. I'll be kind of sad if that changes, but I suppose it's going to happen? It would be pretty cool if they made it where Joker was a hero in some way in this as opposed to just turning evil by the end. I just found it unfortunate that I got it too early because I wanted to play them when they were all out. I know a lot of people are sick of Telltale by now, at least it seems that way, and maybe Batman has been done to death, but I have to say that in both respects, this is really good. A good Telltale game, and a really good Batman story so far that changes it from the typical.

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waelse1

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Really enjoyed season 1 and this season has been good so far, Telltale has done very well with the Batman world.

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Franzkill

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Nice review man! Look highly forward to getting this though unfortunately I fear it will be on my ever increasing backlog of games to play :(

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videogameninja

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-"Tamoor thinks everyone deserves a chance, even The Joker."-

Couldn't help but crack a smile reading this. Great write up as always .@Tamz

-TAMOOR APPROVED-

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tamz

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tamz  Staff

@videogameninja: Haha, thanks mate.

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Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series

First Released Aug 8, 2017
released
  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

9
Superb

Average Rating

82 Rating(s)

8.3
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Violence