Batman: Arkham VR Hands-on – A Fascinating Example of What VR Games Can Be
VR fulfills fantasies. That’s one thing I’m sure of. Sure, the fantasy might not be all you have expected – that VR porn might not give quite the tactile feedback you’re looking for (there’s Tinder for that) – but indeed what you have always wanted definitely seems like it’s right there in front of you, like you could simply reach out and grab it. That’s exactly what it feels like to be the Batman in Batman VR.
There were two small demos to experience at this year’s Gamescom – a short introduction demo, followed by an example of what the game will mostly be like – and Batman certainly lives up to his title of World’s Greatest Detective.
In the first demo you’re standing before a piano, before being approached by Alfred, who produces a key. Grabbing the key with the trigger of the PS Move controllers and inserting it into the piano’s lid reveals the keys, where playing a few will sink Bruce deep into the Batcave, deep below Wayne Manor.
Here we experience the basics of the game; a scanner, for scanning crime scenes, the classic Batarang, which handily locks on to targets to compensate for your (my) poor aim, and the grappling gun to pull Batman to new horizons. Each item is introduced quickly, letting the player know how they’re accessed (your left hip holds the scanner, right hip holds the grapple gun and your crotch hold the Batarangs – all dangling off your utility belt). Then, the second demo gives you a true demonstration of how these items are actually used during gameplay.
Batman finds Dick Grayson – Nightwing – deceased, attacked in an alleyway and left for dead. Using his futuristic technology, Batman analyses the scene and quickly creates a digital reconstruction of the scuffle that led to his demise – shattered collarbone, broken ribs, all of these actions have a cause, and you can use Batman’s equipment to slowly pour over the fine details. Basically, you watch a battle between Nightwing and his assailant, while slowing and pausing the action to see exactly which blows caused Nightwing’s injuries. Afterwards, once enough information is gathered, Batman also watches a witnesses’ movements, and scans fingers prints they left on a nearby wall. All of this is done with the scanning device, which you can twist left and right to speed up and slow down the action, while using the trigger to scan the important scenes. Once the investigation is complete, Batman grapples away onto his jet and so ends the demo.
So what’s the verdict on this experimental and fascinating take on Batman action?
Well, it’s clearly a massive departure from what you’re used to from Rocksteady Batman games – even where and how you move is predetermined by points on the map – but that’s exactly the kind of overhaul games currently need to be completely VR compatible. Batman: Arkham VR is a fascinating example of the direction VR games might take – an essential purchase for Playstation VR early adopters? Probably not, but a great demo and fascinating look into what the Batman does when he’s not angrily punching things in some sort of quickening rhythm. It’s nice to see what the World’s Greatest Detective does when he’s not beating up the mentally ill, that’s for sure.