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The Dark Knight's darker side.

Byline: Dominic Baez The Register-Guard

The first episode in Telltale Games' second season of "Batman" was explosive, both literally and figuratively. With great reveals and a fantastic cliffhanger, "The Enigma" continued Bruce Wayne's journey to the darker side of his famous alter-ego from the first season. While the second episode of this season, "The Pact," isn't quite as hard-hitting, its simmering tension and gray-and-grayer moral decisions work beautifully to slow down the story and let us linger on just what we're getting into.

And what we're getting into is something dark and dangerous, taking Bruce away from his Gotham-saving vigilantism as the Dark Knight and instead having him mingle ever more intensely with the very people who want to watch the world (or at least the iconic city) burn.

"The Pact," the second in the five-part "Batman: The Enemy Within," continues immediately after "The Enigma," with (warning: spoilers for the first episode will follow) Batman stunned to learn that Amanda Waller of The Agency knows his true identity, basically coercing him into helping her achieve her goals in Gotham. (While she claims we want the same outcomes, I easily can see a future in which we have to confront her.) The strained relationship between the two leads to Bruce hanging up his Batsuit for the majority of the episode as he seeks to infiltrate a criminal network introduced in "The Enigma."

This time around, rather than just dealing with one villain (The Riddler), we're introduced to a who's-who of well-known bad guys, including Bane, Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn. And it's Bruce's job to get this villainous cadre out of hiding and into Waller's grasp. Oh, and John Doe, the once and future Joker, is still around, creepy but not yet the dangerous foe it's clear he's going to become.

Speaking of danger, the psychotic psychologist Harley Quinn takes centerstage in "The Pact." Her goals are vague at the moment, but it's clear she's up to no good. Her lollipop voice belies her violent tendency to smash everything (including skulls) with a sledgehammer, but her manipulation of John Doe's affections toward her may be crueler and more sinister yet. She's the one Bruce has to impress before he can even get a chance to become Gotham's latest villain.

Plenty of choices in "The Pact" don't leave the player with a feel-good option. For the most part, your choices bounce between being being evil and being slightly less evil to try to save someone else from greater harm. There's no saving the day when you're stealing your own company's highly advanced technology to give to the episode's villains.

As the episode progresses, the stakes get higher for Bruce as he descends further in the villains' club. However, several moments stand out as showing that Bruce may not be losing his moral compass just yet, even if he leaves the city worse off by episode's end. To be honest, it's not like he has much of a choice here, what with being blackmailed. But hey, at least he gets to see a familiar face when everything is said and done.

On a more technical note, two aspects deserve mentioning. First, the game runs more smoothly than I'm used to for a Telltale game, except when it comes to loading new environments. Then the game stutters hard, reminding me that, yes, I'm still playing a game on the Telltale engine. The second aspect is how the episode opens. Normally, Telltale stitches together scenes from the previous episode with a new voiceover to serve as a recap that normally suffered from horrendous frame-rate isues; this time around, it seems there's was simply a single video file that was put together for my set of choices from "The Enigma." It was smooth and actually a really solid introduction into the new episode. I hope that continues to be the case.

In the end, "The Pact," the second episode of "Batman: The Enemy Within," is slow and tense, and it's clearly meant to show how deep Bruce is willing to go in order to exact his take on justice. Still, there's an adage about doing whatever it takes to win, and it seems Bruce may be in over his head here, considering all that he does to help the villains to progress their murky plans. Either way, there's plenty of intrigue here, even if it does leave you feeling queasy by the time you wrap everything up. VIDEO GAME REVIEW Batman: The Enemy Within - Episode 2: The Pact sss Rated: M for Mature for blood and gore, mild language and violence Price: $4.99 Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (also available on Xbox One, PC and mobile devices) Publisher/developer: Telltale Games

You can contact Dominic, especially with game suggestions, at dominic.baez@registerguard.com or follow him on Twitter @Silver_Screenin. You can check out his blog at silverscreeningreview.com.
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Title Annotation:Video Games; The second episode of Telltale's "Batman: The Enemy Within" is slow, but simmers with tension
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 13, 2017
Words:816
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