Most of you will be familiar with the character Batgirl. Fewer of you will know that, in her original incarnation, this femme fatale is actually Barbara Gordon – daughter of Batman’s longstanding ally, Commissioner James Gordon. What even less of you will know is that in 1988 Barbara was shot through the spine by The Joker during Alan Moore’s legendary storyline: The Killing Joke. And what I’m sure almost none of you know is that following this tragedy, Miss Gordon – now confined to a wheelchair – took up the mantle of Oracle and continued assisting The Dark Knight from a high tech surveillance nest hidden deep inside Gotham City.
As Oracle, Barbara could hack security systems, disable electronic defenses, uncover digital clues and essentially become Bruce Wayne’s eye in the sky during his never-ending crusade against crime. All of this is my very roundabout way of communicating my feelings after experiencing Black Hat Cooperative for the first time on the Oculus Rift. It made me feel like Oracle, and as far as I’m concerned that is a very, very entertaining prospect.
Black Hat Cooperative requires two players. In the context of the above analogy one plays as a Batman type character – a spy responsible for sneaking in and out of a highly guarded facility – while the other is able to see the full level from a bird’s eye view and guide his or her friend to victory.
As the Oracle player, you have a huge amount of responsibility for each level. The spy player’s view is limited to what’s right in front of him, and even that usually is extremely sparse. There are hidden trap doors, invisible laser grids, and roving patrols of guard robots that your friend will unwittingly stumble upon if you’re not careful.
This isn’t to say that you’re without influence as the spy, however. In this role you have the ability to scan any guard bots you come across to reveal their identity. Once you’ve done this the Oracle player can hack the bots directly and disable them momentarily. This is the most enjoyable mechanic of the entire game and a truly brilliant use of the dual-perspectives.
Black Hat is not an easy game either. During my play through it took the pair of us a handful of tries each to get past each level. One of the best parts of playing this game though is learning a course together and developing a sort of shared vernacular that makes navigating the various obstacles simpler.
One of Black Hat‘s few drawbacks, however, is the limited use of the spy. Besides scanning sentries, collecting codes or keys, and doing the leg work of completing a level, the spy doesn’t have a whole lot of agency in the game. It would be amazing to use the same mechanics of this game, but on a larger stealth scale in the vein of Hitman or Metal Gear Solid. Even giving the spy a basic weapon to take out hostiles would make that role more engaging and give both parties more to do during a level.
This asymmetric gameplay style is one that VR is uniquely set up for. Although, at the moment, the only other entry of major significance is Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes. Sony seems keen on introducing more games like these when the PS VR launches in October, but until then Black Hat is one of the shining examples of just how fun the divide and conquer approach can be.
I have a feeling that Black Hat may look very dated in a few years when more and more VR games like it begin to emerge. For now, however, it is an absolute blast to play, a fantastic multiplayer experience, and one of the most enjoyable instances of a very underrepresented VR gaming genre.
For more on how we arrived a this score, check out our gaming review guidelines.