Donning The Cape & Cowl – Hands On With Batman: Arkham VR

A lot of kids dream of being a superhero, but chances are that none of them will ever fulfil that dream. That’s just not how the real world works, but the nice thing about virtual reality is that you’re not necessarily bound by the rules of our humdrum existence. So I stand in the middle of a brightly lit room at Gamescom, put on the PlayStation VR headset in view of the PlayStation Camera, take hold of two Move controllers, and have a pair of pointy eared headphones popped onto my head. Can you guess where this is heading?

As the game fades in from black, I find myself stood next to a locked piano, and I, as Bruce Wayne, am a little perplexed. Like a baby trying to figure out if a yellow block of wood is edible, I’m trying to reach out and lift the lid, a little confused as to why it’s not working. It turns out I need a key, which Alfred happily hands to me, after finding me to deliver some rather portentous news. It’s time to become Batman and solve a murder.

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Key in hand, I unlock the lid, lift it up and tinkle the ivories with a very clumsy rendition of chopsticks. Who knew this was the secret code to trigger the lift down to the Batcave? Honestly, you’d expect Batman and his vast intellect to pick something a little more secure and obscure, like a particularly complex refrain from a Rachmaninov piano concerto. That might be a little tricky to pull off with two Move controllers in hand for PlayStation VR, though.

And so the lift kicks into action and slowly descends into the huge cave system on which Wayne Manor is built. It stretches off into the distance with bats fluttering around, and includes all manner of nice little references and nods to the comics, such as a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex.

You’re aided in putting your suit on by the computer, which presents you with each item of armour in turn, asking you to reach out and pick things up or interact with particular objects. Honestly, it feels a little more Iron Man than Batman, but it’s not long before you’re looking in a mirror, all suited up with a grappling hook on one hip, a forensic scanner on the other and throwable homing Batarangs on your belt buckle – don’t forget to put the wrist straps on before you play. You have to physically reach and take them from your utility belt and put them back once you’re done.

ImBatman

Unlike Rocksteady’s previous three Batman games, you’re not an acrobatic whirlwind of flying fists, feet and Batarangs, but embody the more intellectual side of this character, the side that makes him the world’s greatest detective. Of course, part of that is thanks to Bruce Wayne’s capacity to develop and pay for ludicrously advanced computers to assist him, as comes to the fore when investigating the death of someone rather close to the Bat.

Finding the body slumped up against a wall, it’s time to pull out the scanner and recreate the character’s last few moments. They got into a fight, but they also dropped their guard beforehand, allowing for a moment of weakness. With the scanner in hand, you can pause, play and rewind the light formed simulation, looking for the specific points at which the injuries were sustained.

It’s a nice system that works and keeps you in the moment as the two figures battle and shift around the area, asking you to turn and look in all directions to see what’s going on. A handful of floating symbols can be pointed at and moved to with a press of the Move button, giving you a fresh perspective on the fight, perhaps, or revealing another vital clue to try and figure out what’s going on.

These two scenes, the suiting up and the early clue gathering are just a couple of short moments from the whole game. The first play through ought to take roughly an hour, I was told, but opens up new avenues to explore that will be worth a second or third play through that might push you closer to the three hour mark. Batarang flinging aside, it doesn’t feel like this will be a terribly action packed adventure, but then that’s not really the point here.

No, the point is that you get to don the cape and cowl and become the Bat. Rocksteady’s game shows that there is a space for standing VR on Sony’s platform, albeit without anywhere near as much motion and walking around as HTC Vive allows for, and that allows them to explore a different side to Batman than they have before, all while you inhabit the character. There’s something so very cool about that, especially if you’re a comic book fan.

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1 Comment

  1. I think this sounds amazing! I need to pick up some Move controllers!

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