There's a secret entrance to the Batcave from the living room in Wayne Manor. You can easily reveal the hidden door by pushing the old wall clock a little to the left. We know this because we were there. There being the rather impressive Telltale Games booth at E3 2016.
Inside the Dark Knight's tech-heavy secret lair we witnessed the first half an hour of Episode One of Batman - A Telltale Games Series. Given the timing of the upcoming launch (the first chapter should arrive next month) and from the looks of it (we left the cave really impressed), we wonder why there's not much gameplay footage of the studio's latest adventure doing the rounds at the time of writing.
The pace, the style, the action, the direction, the production values; everything looks at a higher level when compared to previous episode efforts from Telltale Games. This could very well be the first title in a second era for the studio.
There's a heist taking place in one of the central banks in the city of Gotham. Thieves have already started their dirty job. Gordon arrives late. Batman doesn't. We see a lot of button and stick prompts on the screen during the combat sequences, but they don't seem to be tiresome QTEs, at least so far. The choreography is beautiful, the movie-like camera angles are spot-on, and the comic-style finishing couldn't fit better.
Batman takes down one bad guy after another, with the player quickly moving the sticks in specific directions and pressing a couple of context buttons as required. Punches, kicks, ninja tricks and bat-gadgets are all involved. A three-part bat-meter is filling up every time a combo is correctly chained. When ready, RT releases a devastating finisher, an alternative way to wrap up a fight if you've been doing well. This is especially useful for tougher opponents, as happens with that slippery kitty, Catwoman. She's smart and she's got sharp claws, so, more than just in this first heist, it'll be interesting to see how the story between the two costume-clad characters unfolds.
But this whole heist sequence is not told shot by shot. In between, some flash-forward interludes take you back to the Manor, where Bruce is recovering from his injuries post-robbery and talking to a visibly concerned Alfred. In this game, and according to developers, "Bruce is as important as Batman", and their goal is for players to get to know much more about the duality of the character. They actually say it's a matter of two masks, with one being that of the bat, the other the billionaire's facade, both hiding a troubled man.
"They need something to fear," explains the suffering Wayne, trying to convince his butler and confidant. The problem is that even the police officers of Gotham are beginning to fear Batman as well, and it's not as if Bruce is comfortable with his other PR and political duties in his role as city-investor and entrepreneur.
It's only natural that the first difficult choices come in the form of dialogue options between Bruce, Alfred, and a Harvey Dent who wants to become Gotham City's mayor, of course with Wayne's support. The writing seems top-notch, the sense of humour is there, and the whole adventure simply unfolds in a really pleasant manner.
There's troubles with historical Wayne family commitments, a meddling journalist, and the obvious ineptitude of Dent himself, but the tension grows gradually and notably when Falcone enters the scene, asking Wayne for some favours before supporting Dent's candidature.
"We employ half of the city together," he says, but Wayne is very clear about the suspicious, potentially criminal character. At least he was during our session, because you can of course be polite and concede some points if you feel like it.
We still have to see much more on the action sequences (we hope they don't get repetitive or annoying), the detective sections (which should add a nice puzzle-adventure element to the whole), and the plot structure, but we actually enjoyed this just like the first episode of a top-tier TV series. And while we wait for footage to appear, just remember: the presentation is much, much better this time around, with the visuals nicely put together, and plenty of nods to the original graphic novels. And with the script, direction and pacing looking good across the board, we can't wait to play the first episode.
For more on the game's production, the detective elements, character duality, plus the combat system and plot details, check out our recent interview with Telltale co-founder Kevin Bruner.