Batman AA: GOTY – More 3D Than A Poke In The Eye
Well, it works.
If you’re not familiar, 2009′s excellent third-person Bat-em-up Batman: Arkham Asylum received the Game of the Year treatment last month. Aside from the extra challenge maps and slightly reduced price, it also debuts a low-cost home 3D solution from Paris developer Darkworks called TriOviz. Darkworks is clearly hoping TriOviz will be adopted as an easy way for both developers and consumers to bolt on a 3D experience to standard games and standard development cycles, and Batman: AA makes an effective flagship title. But is it worth buying another ticket to Arkham?
+Works with any TV
+No performance hit to the original game
+Great sense of depth and separation
-Colors do shift, especially whites
-Must be played in the dark
-Requires adjustment; eye fatigue after a while
-Adds nothing to gameplay
The GOTY edition comes in a standard keep case and reuses the cover art from the original release – except this time given a holograph treatment through a chintzy lenticular. The game comes on one disc with no extras inside the package, save for two pairs of TriOviz glasses (in both Batman and Joker designs, natch).
The TriOviz glasses are anaglyph, meaning a different color filter is worn over each eye to separate the left eye/right eye images on the screen. The glasses have the same cheap cardboard construction as the old red/blue glasses from comic books, and the principle is roughly the same. TriOviz uses a filter somewhere between pink and magenta for the left eye, and a very thin mint-green for the right. The 3D effect is much sharper and pronounced than with red/blue glasses, and the original colors on the screen image take less of a hit (though shifting is more pronounced in the left “pink” eye than the right).
The game itself shows no ill-effects to performance and does not appear to be rendered at any less of a resolution (unlike Sony’s proposed PS3 3D solution). I did not notice increased blurriness with the glasses on. It also does not require special televisions or expensive shutter glasses (such as Nvidia’s 3D Vision). Darkwatch promotes that their 3D SDK can be layered into existing engines with a minimal amount of fuss, and Batman certainly seems to run as well as its original release – even during the later levels of challenge maps with the maximum amount of enemies running at once. It’s also apparently cheap enough to not add much overhead (I bought the GOTY for $50 new; $10 less than the original’s price). Testing was done on an Xbox 360, connected to a 56″ Samsung DLP over HDMI.
Booting the game up, the first thing you’ll need to do is kill the surrounding lights. Screen glare draws your eye toward that spot on the screen and interrupts the effect. Second, you’ll need to select the “3D – On” option when starting a new game and don your dorky glasses. From then on, everything – cutscenes, loading screens, menus, the game itself – will be rendered with TriOviz’s 3D effect.
It takes a minute to adjust your eyes, but the effect soon becomes clearly apparent. Long hallways now extend back into the screen, and characters have visibly different placements from the perspective of the camera. Pipes project out from the walls and down the corridors, the bars of grates separate from the game world behind them, and flying bats/particle effects are especially neat. Batman himself clearly separates from the environment as the camera floats by his shoulder, and even individual leaves of a potted plant stick out in divergent directions. Most interesting were model details, which also take on a surprising amount of depth. There was clear separation between guards’ faces behind the individual thatchwork of mesh on their protective masks, and pockets bulged out from uniforms as if stuffed with equipment. The 3D really is surprisingly effective.
It’s clean too, with no graphical flaws that I saw during two or so hours of playing. There were no issues with left eye/right eye sync skipping out, nothing that broke the effect, even while whipping the camera around in typical 3rd-person play. Also important to note: no part of the 3D effect ever interfered with the game (models now disappear a bit sooner as the camera gets close, and the camera will never clip into them). The only bump I did notice was a literal one – the floor takes on a slight fisheye effect a few feet from Batman (at about the standard console “highest-res texture draw-in” spot). This gave the effect of the floor rising up slightly before pitching down slightly, which would roll accordingly as Batman moved. It certainly doesn’t ruin anything, but it’s an odd little quirk you’ll notice if you look. Some of the Joker’s green graffiti also appears to “float” oddly, as one eye sees green while the other sees blue, but that seems like something a future game could fix with a different color choice.
The biggest downfall of this system is its anaglyph nature. TriOviz minimizes the effect of wearing colored filters, but it’s still present. The picture will not be as clear as with shutter or polarized glasses. Speaking strictly about the effect with both eyes open, Joker’s hair still looks green, Batman’s costume still gray with cape still blue, and flesh tones still look appropriate. All colors are shifted from what you would normally be seeing, but still generally in the same hue range. However, the effect is never going to be seamless – you’re going to see unnatural pink and green when you play. Whites call attention to this the most, and come out as a blown-out pink/green glow as your eyes try to combine the two colors. The white flash when coming out of detective mode is especially damn near painful to watch with the glasses.
Eye strain also becomes a serious factor, and your eyes will soon demand you to cut your game sessions short. Mine felt dry and burning after about an hour – your mileage may vary. Also of note is that the glasses fit pretty tight to your face, so you might have to get creative if you wear prescription glasses.
Some quick GOTY housecleaning – the four new maps are simply new challenge rooms to brawl in, all of which are reused from previous DLC or exclusives (“Crime Alley” from the Collector’s Edition, the Scarecrow maps from the Gamestop exclusive, and the last two from the “Insane Night” DLC). And despite what you may infer from other sites, the Xbox 360 release does not contain the Joker maps. Those remain a PS3 exclusive. However, the Xbox version counts as a different game, and gives a new set of 1000 gamerscore for re-completing the same achievements as the original game (unconfirmed, but the PS3 version apparently does not grant new trophies.)
This is not as impressive a setup as polarized or active shutter glasses, though I don’t imagine it’s supposed to be. Colors will look different, and it will look distracting. It is, however, a huge step up from older red/blue glasses, and a pretty strong rendering of 3D at much lower price point. Ultimately, bear in mind that this adds only to the presentation, and nothing to the game itself – it’s unquestionably 100% gimmick. That makes it a bit hard to glowingly recommend. It’s not like this is the only time you’re ever going to see 3D, and options like Avatar in the theaters (or, well, Batman: Arkham Asylum on an Nvidia 3D setup) are going to give a better representation of 3D without the distracting color shifting.
That said, I think I’ve given you enough information to make a decision yourself. Will I personally play through the whole game again with the 3D glasses? Yeah, probably. If you’re replaying the game anyway, then the 3D effect adds something extra for your troubles. Is it the future of gaming? Doubtful. Maybe a decent stopgap for 3D-philes until better technologies drop in price.