Taking on a persona is what makes gaming so alluring. The drive to achieve something not viable in real life is the essence of what entices gamers to play. Batman: Arkham VR takes that to the next level, offering the chance to step into the Dark Knight’s boots, and doing so is a truly immersive experience. It’s just a shame those boots aren’t made for walking.
Here's a short video showing your descent down into the Batcave:
Rocksteady Studios’ first effort for the blossoming VR platform enables player immersion on a whole new level. The gameplay is similar to a point ’n’ click adventure, with a mystery that needs to be unravelled. In order to solve it, players must think like Batman, become Batman.
Batman: Arkham VR starts with a short intro sequence, one that fans will be familiar with; the portrayal of the Waynes’ murder. It’s a haunting experience in VR, as it places you in young Bruce’s shoes. The scale is adjusted to represent his age, and the result skews your perspective; you not only feel incredibly small but also vulnerable to the dangers of the dark alleyway. It’s a clever choice and perfectly conveys Bruce’s motives for becoming Batman.
The game fast-forwards to the present day, and Bruce’s butler Alfred arrives to deliver plot pointers and steer progression. You’ll find yourself ignoring him as you gaze in wonder at your surroundings. Locations are gloriously realised, and you can look everywhere as your in-game viewpoint is mapped to your actual head movements. Graphics can be rough around the edges, but your eyes adjust and you move on – well, down actually, as tapping out a tune on the grand piano starts a descent by means of a concealed lift. Batman’s walk-in wardrobe awaits you below.
What follows is a caped-crusader cosplay extravaganza, and one of the most empowering scenarios I’ve encountered in any game. The suit-up sequence alone infuses you to the role, and doubles up as a clever way to calibrate the VR tracking.
Once you’re kitted out in Batman’s garb, the attention naturally shifts to gadgetry, and his arsenal is also at your disposal. While the cowl has built-in binoculars, the grapple hook, forensic scanner and Batarang all hang from a utility belt, which can be customised in size and height to match you’re own physique. Once you’re calibrated, the lift proceeds down to the Batcave, which is truly capacious in size. You can ‘grapple’ to pre-set points of interest, but much of it is tantalisingly out of reach.
The game features six core locations to interact with, and the central plot has you investigating the disappearances of both Robin and Nightwing. The aim is to deduce their whereabouts, but it soon becomes clear that Robin has fallen foul to one of the Joker’s elaborate traps while Nightwing appears to have been bested by a significant adversary. Your role here is as a detective, meaning you won’t be required to demonstrate any real-life hand-to-hand combat skills – which is probably for the best, as lamping those sitting next to you on the couch won’t go down well.
The game’s longevity has been questioned, with reports that most people are playing through the main story in an hour. But there’s a level of finesse poured into this title, and our advice is to take stock and enjoy some of the gritty spectacles.
Complete the game and you’re rewarded with Riddler puzzle content to solve. Doing so unlocks extra character and vehicle models, all of which can be viewed in the Batcave, and each is to scale with a real sense of presence to them. You’ll find yourself wanting more, much more, but take that as an indication that this is an experience worth having. It proves that VR, when handled in the right manner, may actually steer genres down a new path. PSVR and Batman make for well-matched bedfellows; quite the dynamic duo, you might say.