Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A few thoughts on Batman: Arkham Asylum 3-D

There's nothing like the rush of spending money you don't have on something you don't need.

I bought my first video game of 2010 yesterday. It's the "game of the  year" edition of Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game I already own. The new edition has a few additional challenge levels (something I don't care all that much about) but also includes a 3-D version of the game. It's the first 3-D video game I've ever played.

The graphics were, of course, retrofitted for 3-D and not initially designed to be seen in this format. It works well for the game play, but the cut scenes suffer a little from quick editing. Whenever there's a scene chance your eyes are forced to re-focus on whatever imagery you're looking at ... and this animation wasn't created with that kind of balance in mind. So expect the picture to briefly go in and out of focus whenever the camera changes positions.

For the game, though, this isn't really an issue since you've got control of it's movement (which is anchored to Batman's movement.) While it's certainly nice to look at, the 3-D never gets much better than the average View-Master reel. Batman is often pretty blurry because he's always in the foreground, but what's exciting is that 3-D offers a possible solution to a long-standing problem I've had with video games since the 1980s: false depth of vision. You can only do so much with shading and forced perspective to create the illusion of depth in a video game, and 3-D might be the "push" to finally trick your eyes into believing what they're seeing.

The 3-D in Batman: Arkham Asylum an interesting first step, but we've got a ways to go before this problem is permanently solved. In the meantime, enjoy the 3-D of Arkham Asylum for what it is: a novelty transposed to an already fun game.

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