As we sit on the precipice of Sony releasing the Playstation VR headset, the question around the entire virtual reality market remains "what’s going to be the killer application that promotes mass adoption of this new platform?" We’ve seen a handful of successful games released for the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, but there has yet to be that experience that has transcended the very young medium. One of the games I was most excited for experiencing on the new Playstation VR was Batman Arkham VR.
Batman Arkham VR was one of the few games that Sony had showed off that looked like it might bridge the gap between traditional video games and virtual reality games. Batman Arkham VR opens up and has you witness the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, which is sort of an odd experience. You’re hiding behind your Mom and, even if you have a little knowledge of Batman, you know what’s coming next. And yet even with that knowledge, the experience is quite visceral. I found myself left shaken after the bullets rang out.
From there you fast forward to Wayne Manor where you don the Batsuit for the first time. For someone with very little virtual reality experience before the Playstation VR, this was quite the moment. I found myself staring in the mirror at the caped crusaders whose movement was matching my own. Outside of my Batman pajamas, this is the closest I’ve ever felt to being Batman. You then are introduced to Batman’s gadgets like the batarang and an evidence scanner device, which can be picked up from your utility belt using the Playstation Move controllers. You get to practice with these items in the bat cave before going out in the Gotham.
What transpires from here is a nicely constructed murder mystery that has you play more detective then what we’ve seen in the Arkham games. You arrive at a couple of crime scenes, do some scanning and autopsies and the story progresses. Your interaction with the world is extremely limited. Although you have control of Batman’s hands you only use them in the most abstract sense to pick up your gadgets and look through the environment for clues. The only other movement in the game is the teleport system where you see a hot spot and point to it and trigger to move. It’s a trick that I’ve seen in other VR launch titles for the Playstation VR and alleviates some of the nausea from moving around the world. The downside though is that it feels more like a point and click adventure at times then a full blown caped crusader adventure.
I was concerned that Batman Arkham VR would feel more like a tech demo than a full-fledged experience and those expectations were squashed. Instead, Batman Arkham VR is a very well realized experience that is limited by Rocksteady’s design choices. There’s little to no combat, the interactions feel two-dimensional in a virtual 3D world, and the interactions start to grow repetitive after the first half hour. There are moments that you truly feel like the Caped Crusader but I only wish those moments continued rather than diving into more detective work. And yet you can see each decision was deliberately made either because they didn't have solutions for different aspects missing from the experience like combat or wanted a more straightforward VR experience.
The real bright note though is a tightly constructed story that makes the slightly under two-hour experience worth going through, but left me wanting so much more. I do think a Batman game could work where you’re using the brains of Bruce Wayne far more often then the brawn of Batman. But this game leans almost exclusively into detective work and only gives you the briefest of hints of any combat. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit but spent more time thinking about all the things I couldn’t do over the things I could when it was all over. It’s a well-crafted experience and one that I would recommend to anyone jumping into the Playstation VR at launch, but my hope is that years down the road we get a more fully realized Batman VR experience.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.