Virtual reality is becoming, well, a reality. This technology will allow players to experience activities and events they would never be able to in the real world. WB and Rocksteady are bringing one of the most appealing experiences to life—that of being a superhero—with Batman: Arkham VR.
At this year’s Fan Expo, I was able to experience Batman: Arkham VR with the PlayStation VR headset and the PlayStation Move. Batman: Arkham VR is considered to be a standalone story not in canon with Rocksteady’s previous Batman titles. This was my first time trying virtual reality, and what a great first experience it was.
I started off in Wayne Manor, next to a telephone and in front of a piano. I tilted my head to gaze upon the lavish inside of the manor and lifted the Move controllers to see two disembodied hands. To interact with objects in Batman: Arkham VR, you simply reach towards them and pull the trigger on the controller, so when the telephone started to ring on my left side, I reached out, picked it up and held the Move controller to my ear. Much to my surprise, the game was very responsive; it was easy to perform this action although it was difficult to make out the words being spoken through the phone due to the overall noise from the convention going on around me. After a few voicemail messages, I hung up the phone and turned to see Alfred, Batman’s long-time loyal butler and friend, standing to my right. He offered me a key, which I took and used to unlock the piano cover in front of me. Once the keys were exposed, I hesitantly put my virtual hands on them. Realizing this piano wasn’t as delicate as a real world piano, I slammed down on the keys in a childish attempt to play The Celebrated Chop Waltz.
After hitting only a few notes, a platform that I had apparently been standing on began to slowly descend into the floor. This caught me off guard, and in a natural instinct, I tried to balance myself in order to stay upright. Remembering that I was in fact standing on a stable stage in the middle of a convention floor, I could only giggle at myself as I straightened up. While the visuals in Batman: Arkham VR up to this point had been pleasing, this was the moment of awe—the graphics leading down to the Batcave were stunning. I could see an opening at the top of the cave that allowed light and water to flow down the rock face. Bats flew towards me in small groups as I made my very slow descent… and I mean slow. However, I assume it was slowed on purpose in an effort to keep players from feeling motion sickness.
Once the platform reached the bottom, a pod like structure containing the Batsuit appeared in front of me. This marked the beginning of my transformation into Batman. First I was instructed to the engage cylindrical objects mid-level in front of me. I pushed out both my hands and then pulled them back to find I had acquired gloves. I then got suited up and donned the iconic cowl. I had some issues equipping some items to my belt, but this only occurred because Batman’s body was bigger than mine and when I went to put things on my hip in the real world, it was actually within Batman’s modeled body. Since Batman can’t shoot a grapple hook out of his spleen, I had to adjust to the larger body I was given. After calibrating weapons and scanners, I went on to the next part of the Batman: Arkham VR demo.
The second part of the Batman: Arkham VR demo involved me (Batman) utilizing my greatest skill: detecting. Here I had to solve a murder using Batman’s gadgets. I could move around this scene by way of pointing the controller at interactive points and clicking the trigger. The victim that lay among the trash in the alley was none other than Nightwing, Batman’s first Robin. Using Detective Mode and with a heavy heart, I examined the corpse and reconstructed the combat that led to this life ending encounter. With the ability to play the altercation back like a videotape, I had to pinpoint the exact moments bones were broken and when the fatal blow was delivered. I did this by stretching out my left hand, rotating it right to play the reconstruction forward, turning it left to rewind and leaving it in the middle to stop. Stopping the playback at the moments I believed I was looking for, I could confirm my suspicions by clicking a button on the Move controller. If these were in fact the moments I was searching for, it registered and I was allowed to move forward in the investigation. After piecing together a couple more details, it was time to exit the scene. I aimed my grapple hook upwards and shot into the sky. I missed. I tried again. I missed. I tried again and again, but the grapple just wouldn’t register. However, this was the end of the demo anyway.
Batman: Arkham VR only increased my excitement for virtual reality. The visuals were alluring. Not only did I feel like I was there, but I wanted to explore everything I could. There were also little nods to Batman fans throughout the demo. While this feels like not much more than a point-and-click adventure starring the one and only Batman, it was an engaging mystery that allowed me to step into the shoes of the Dark Knight.