For as long as I can remember, the primary focus of the Batman franchise has been, well, Batman (with a side order of Joker), but lately there's been a renewed push on exploring the man under the mask. Batman comics took a jaunt into showing us Bruce Wayne unburdened by the Bat legacy, TV's Gotham has given mixed results showing us Gotham City in a pre-Batman world, and now Telltale Games has a new episodic Batman game coming August 2 for many platforms including the Sony PlayStation 4, PS3, Microsoft Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, and mobile that, judging by today's new trailer, gives us plenty of Bruce Wayne action as well.
I've been a Batman fan since I was first exposed to Batman: The Animated Series in 1993 as a preteen, and it wasn't until later that I backtracked to the Tim Burton films for a larger picture of what the character was all about outside of the comics. His iconic rogues gallery always steals the spotlight and Batman himself is always good for some daring action scenes, but Bruce Wayne is often the more interesting character. I think that's because (as has been so often cited) Batman is the man and Bruce Wayne is actually the mask. Consider how Kevin Conroy portrays Batman's voice in The Animated Series, for instance. His Batman voice is deeper and more intense (not as far as Christian Bale's guttural growl from The Dark Knight trilogy) befitting a costumed vigilante and his Bruce Wayne voice is casual, friendly, and general lighter. When Conroy's Bruce is with people in his inner Bat circle, he speaks in his Batman voice. They know who he is. There's no need to hide it. Batman is who he really is.
To dig into this a little deeper, I'll bring up one of my favorite episodes of The Animated Series, "Perchance To Dream", in which Batman awakens after a battle with the Mad Hatter to find himself back in bed, safe and sound, in Wayne Manor. He's not Batman anymore; someone else is out running around Gotham City at night in a menacing bat costume. Instead he's free to live a life of luxury and success with his loving, living parents and fiancée/not-Catwoman Selina Kyle by his side. It's one of the few times in the series when we get to see Bruce function as a man no longer haunted by his traumas and, perhaps, be the man he was meant to be before his parents' murders. Unfortunately, little inconsistencies and nagging doubts push at Bruce, and eventually, haunted by the shadow of Batman, he hunts the vigilante down for a final confrontation with Bruce demanding answers from his doppelganger until the truth is finally revealed. It's all one of one of Mad Hatter's mind control tricks at the end, of course; Hatter put Batman into a idyllic dream trance just to get him out of the way. Batman demands to know why, to which Hatter replies "You, of all people, have the gall to ask me that? You ruined my life! I was willing to give you whatever life you wanted, just to keep you out of mine!"
I mention this to point out how interesting that idea can be when applied to a game like a Telltale title. Telltale is known for exploring characters more than a standard action game possibly can (the Arkham games, while masterpieces, skirt the Bruce side of the character to focus primarily on Batman). This new Batman game promises to spend plenty of time as Bruce Wayne rather than Batman and I'm curious how the storyline will play up the "disguise" aspects of the Bruce persona. Being Batman is easy: punch, kick, takedown, gadget gadget gadget, detective work, smoke bomb. Bruce has to use his words, not his fists. How will Telltale's dialogue trees for Bruce branch out in a game where scenes rely on speaking rather than action? How much of Bruce's personality will we have the chance to explore? I'm very excited by Telltale's plans for the Batman world, mostly because I want to see how they handle Bruce Wayne.