Look what the bat dragged in
The God Damn Batmobile. It should absolutely work in video games. In fact, it may as well have been designed for them. A racing car mixed with a tank mixed with a Transformer mixed with a bat mixed with a Swiss Army Knife? By rights that should be the most exciting thing you could possibly be handed the controls to. Or so you might think...
The Batmobile's various flirtations with the world of video games have rarely ended well. Occasionally spectacularly, yes, but 'consistent' isn't a word I would associate with the quality of the offerings. Nor 'dependable' or even 'adequate'. So let's look at the best and the worst of the Batmobile in games.
Batman Returns (Sega-CD/Mega-CD)
The Batmobile bumps, slides, shoots and clatters through Gotham's streets, in between buildings and under overhanging pipes. The scaling effect of sprites that make up the scenery is best described with sexy words like 'rampant'. Or 'engorged'. It's action-packed, too, with big crims' vehicles packing flamethrowers, and giant Jack-in-the-box heads bouncing around on springs.
And you know what? I don't think it's a coincidence that Arkham Knight's Batmobile is best when you're using it exactly like you do in this game. Chasing other vehicles, barging into smaller ones, and breathlessly tearing through the amazing gothic architecture of Gotham City... this is how it should be done.
Batman: The Movie (Atari ST)
It's funny how things evolve, isn't it? The Mega-CD game you just saw is eerily reminiscent of this now-ancient movie tie-in, from the undulating terrain to the pleasantly solid-feeling vehicles you need to avoid. But all you do is drive there's no shooting here. And then there's the problem caused by technical limitations. How exactly does Batman turn into a side-street when the graphics engine can't handle a 90-degree corner?
I'm sorry I'm forgetting Batman is the Batman. He simply shoots a grapple line out of the side of the Batmobile, latches onto a handily-placed, titanium-strengthened, mile-rooted lamp post and swings the whole thing around, picking up where the action left off on the next straight. He loves doing this so much, if he misses, he waits for the next street so he can have another go. Never once even considers applying the brakes and turning the corner like anyone else. Weird bastard.
Batman: The Movie (ZX Spectrum)
But let's spare a thought for poor old ZX Spectrum users, who didn't get any pseudo-3D Bat-shenanigans. Instead, they got to negotiate side-scrolling Gotham rush hour, erm bumping into taxis. And occasionally turning left.
Come to think about it, Batman only ever turns left, which inevitably means he's just driven around the block a few times, ending up one door away from where he started. Probably could have walked, mate.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (Multi)
How could the Batmobile be in a fighting game? Images of some Daytona Hornet-style boxing-wheeled monstrosity come to mind, but - fortunately - the reality is much more sensible. Batman has a Batmobile Takedown.
It's actually very much like the Batmobile-assisted combat takedown in Arkham City, only instead of firing a non-lethal round during a combo, Batman just tells the Batmobile to run down his opponent. Luckily, they go up over the bonnet, otherwise we might have had another 'isn't he actually just killing people' situation.
Batman: Gotham City Racer (PSone)
This is ADORABLE. Look at the cute little low-poly Batmobile. It even has to drive around wire mesh fences. The game is a free-roaming chase-'em-up in the style of the animated series The New Batman Adventures, and actually looks pretty decent for a PSone game. I could try and argue that this sort of thing suggests that a 3D GTA could have worked on PSone, but there's no point opening that can of worms now. The worms are long dead.
Still, wonky graphics aside, this doesn't look too bad. Well, except for the AI's problem with passing other cars. And the sudden, inexorable loading screens. And the lack of variety. Or speed. Or any sense of actually being Batman. Apart from that, it's marvelous. Or, should I say, DCicious? No, I didn't think so, either.
Lego Batman 3 (Multi)
How brilliant this is and yet how massively disappointing. Lego Batman 3 features Lego-ised versions of all your favourite Batmobiles, which is fan-pleasing-tastic. They're playable too, which should be cause for bat-celebration. What a shame they're so utterly, utterly rubbish to use.
The handling is abysmal. It's almost as though these are small, plastic vehicles with no suspension. Funny, that. And as for the sickly green, sparsely-populated free-roam area you can use to take them for a test drive? It's actually pretty close to what I imagine Hell to be like. I know some people like it, but then some people also like listening to Morrissey and I can't understand that, either. I wonder if there's a venn diagram to be made there.
Another Batman game on Mega-CD? Which came out after Batman Returns and is solely about the Batmobile? Surely this should be a bat-win in every way? Well not really. It isn't as good as Batman Returns. Similar third-person, into-the screen Batmobile shenanigans, yes, but the scaling is merely 'smooth', as opposed to 'rampant'. That sort of thing makes a big difference, you know. Not as sexy.
Perhaps the strangest scenario you find yourself in during the game is traveling through a bumper car assault course that Joker has set up for you. The track is lined with twisted versions of giraffes, hippos and zebra and you can blow them up. They are animatronic, but they raise their necks when you approach like actual animals reacting to your approach, so it's a bit like you're blowing up real ones. It's all got a bit weird in here.
Batman Begins (PS2, Gamecube, Xbox)
When you've got all the power of the 128-bit generation at your disposal, the Batmobile should be able to drive through a small fence. But alas, this Batmobile can only drive on the roads, crashing into enemy vehicles and somehow also crashing into giant translucent chevrons which block off streets you shouldn't drive down. I don't even
It's quite funny to see the on-board Bat-computer displaying a wireframe representation of every vehicle you smash to smithereens, along with a confirmation of 'no casualties'. It's a little hard to believe when you've hit every car on the road in a thunderous mobile tank, flipping sedans and utility vehicles like they're cardboard boxes, burning, crushing and maiming anyone unfortunate to be in your way. But sure, if the bat-computer says no casualties, let's go with that.
Batman Vengeance (PS2, Xbox, Gamecobe, PC))
What is it with the Batmobile and corners? Even though this is a fully polygonal 3D city environment, when it's time to turn a corner, the camera cuts away to show the Batmobile screeching around the 90-degree bend. It's kinda cool the first time it happens, if a little jarring, but when you realise it happens every single time, it gets a bit much.
The reason for this odd cornering is that you're not really controlling the Batmobile 'properly' at all. You're just steering left and right on a fixed camera trajectory, a bit like OutRun. Or should I say BatRun? If only it had Magical Bat Shower or Bat Wave on the radio. Or Passing Bat-Breeze. Yeah, you don't wanna get a whiff of that.