I have been a fortunate man this evening; I have played both parts of the Batman: Arkham VR demo.
The first loads up at the seat of Wayne Manor’s grand piano, with Bruce (or the player) looking at an old family photo. Immediately, before even thinking about what I was doing, I found my hand reaching out to pick it up for a closer look. Before drowning myself in tragic memories of the past, I was interrupted by Alfred (who has received a stunning new character model, thanks to studio upgrades and the new UE4 game engine) as he delivered the key to the secret Batcave entrance. What follows is an absolutely stunning sequence that takes us down into the Batcave. Ephemeral, this is not; the moment itself may have only lasted a minute, but the view of the cave opening up as you descend into its depths is certain to stay with you long after you’ve removed the headset. In the cave itself, you get the familiar Batman suit-up and equipment collection, as well as the opportunity to test some of the equipment out (yes, that includes Batarang target practice).
The second demo, however, was the one that really sold me on the game, and on VR as a viable gaming platform. I’ve long held the belief that the technology for VR would be years off, but Rocksteady Studios ‘VR Detective Mode’ has swayed me. In this demo, Batman must investigate the murder of his protege, Nightwing. Players of Arkham Knight and Arkham Origins will quickly recognise the way that the detective mode can reconstruct an augmented reality video of a crime that can be scrubbed backwards and forwards to find clues. That’s pretty much the game here, BUT YOU ARE USING AUGMENTED REALITY TO DO IT. I really hope that the level of my enthusiasm came through in that last sentence, because, honestly, how cool is that? You are using Batman’s detective mode through your own bat-cowl. The mystery of Nightwing’s murder is left hanging at the end of the demo, but we have many clues with which to put a hypothesis together as we grapple up top the Batwing in order to track down a witness to the crime. My mind quickly went to such an out-there meta-story theory about the young hero’s killer, that, if true, would be nothing short of exquisite.
Arkham VR is shaping up to be an excellent Batman experience. Once the decision was made to produce a VR Batman game, the writers at Rocksteady began salivating at the opportunity to focus in on writing a straight-up Batman detective story, and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a good one. With the Riddler becoming part of the ‘new game plus’ experience, the return of familiar heroes and villains and a plethora of Easter Eggs hidden in plain sight, around corners, and through the windows operating system, ArkhamVR is as jam-packed with content as you’d expect from a Rocksteady Studios Batman game.
The biggest compliment that I could pay the team at Rocksteady, though, is just how intuitive the game is. Even though I had the enthusiastic voice of Gaz (Deaves, Rocksteady marketing bro) in my cowl, it was rare that he had to break into the game to guide my movements. Bearing in mind that before this evening I was a VR virgin, I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing, exactly what I could touch and never felt like I was disoriented or lost: that’s good game design – especially on new hardware.
I know that many people will have wait to be able to play this as a full game, but I think it will be worth the wait once you finally get the chance to Be The Batman.
Arkham VR and PlayStation VR both launch on Thursday 13th October.
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