Batman In VR Is Everything I Hoped It Would Be

Batman Arkham VR hands on

Batman Arkham VR is an upcoming virtual reality game for PlayStation VR developed by Rocksteady Studios. It's going to be one of the PlayStation VR's launch titles and will be available to buy in October. During E3, we were invited by Rocksteady to don the midnight cowl and step into the batcave.

Guys. Guys. This game is going to be goddamn amazing.

Of all the surprise announcements at E3 2016, Batman Arkham VR was arguably the most unexpected and exciting. Becoming Batman is something boys and girls have been dreaming about since the 1930s. Thanks to PlayStation VR, this generation-spanning childhood fantasy is finally about to happen.

Alongside Resident Evil VII and The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, this was easily the most popular demo booth at E3. Non-media attendees literally waited in line all day just for the chance to play.

Before we got suited up (both in real life and in the game) we spoke to Rocksteady's social marketing manager Gaz Deaves about the development of the game. As Gaz tells it, one of the reasons Batman Arkham VR was such a well-kept secret is because it initially wasn't meant to be released commercially.

"We started the project around the time we wrapped up Arkham Knight last year," Deaves explained. "At first it was just an experiment, then it turned into a tech demo. Pretty soon, we realised we had something we really believed in."

For his first VR adventure, Batman will be toning down the fisticuffs in favour of his true calling: detective work. When you consider how impossibly acrobatic Arkham's combat is, this is surely a good thing: trying to pull the moves off in virtually reality would probably result in your head falling off.

"This time around we really wanted to focus in on the detective aspects of Batman's personality," Deaves said. "This has actually been very liberating from a story point of view."

Sounds good to us.

The game requires two Move controllers which are essentially Batman's hands in the game. The controls are very reminiscent of other first-person VR games we've played: you press the main triggers to pick stuff up and press them again to either drop or activate what you're holding. It feels intuitive in seconds.

With VR headset donned, I was immediately transported to a seriously swish Wayne Manor. At this point, Bruce is wearing regular civilian clothing which is indicated by his arms and hands in-game. (There are visible cuts and bruises on his knuckles, which was a nice touch.)

If you want an idea of how opulent his pad looked, you open the game standing in front of a grand piano. That's some lord of the manor shit right there. After a brief conversation with your butler Alfred the game prompts you to start playing the piano. Why? Because bashing on the keys unlocks the secret entrance to your Batcave. Oh yes. The floor you're standing on turns out to be an elevator which slowly sinks downward.

What unfolds is one of the most impressive cinematic reveals I've experienced in VR to date. The Batcave looks bloody amazing. As the elevator takes you deeper and deeper into the bowels of the Batcave you are treated to an astonishing birds-eye view of the area as bats flutter overhead. It feels like being in a big-budget movie.

Finally, you reach Batman's base of operations and it's time to don the suit. Rocksteady ain't stupid: they milk this bit for all it's worth. First comes the chest armour, followed by your gauntlets and scowling cowl. This isn't a cinematic: you physically pick the batsuit up and place it on your body with the Move controllers. I did the mask slowly, almost reverently. Natch.

Once you're suited up, the Batcave dispenses a huge robotic mirror and the sense that you're Batman is palpable. You're standing there, square-jawed, built like a brick shit house and dressed like the goddman Batman. Every movement you make is replicated in the mirror. This profoundly special moment lasted around five seconds, before I made Batman do a monkey dance and jerk off at his reflection. He remained stern-faced throughout.

Next up, the game equips you with Batman's tools of the trade: batarangs, a grappling hook and a forensic scanner which we assume will be his chief tool throughout the adventure. You get to test them all out on a target range. The physics of the batrangs were a bit naff to be honest, but the grappling hook and scanner worked really well.

And with that, the demo ended.

This thing is going to be huge guys. If Rocksteady can keep up the immersion and sense of fun during the main campaign, this could well be the killer app that wins the VR race for Sony. (It's coming exclusively to PlayStation 4, sorry HTC Vive and Oculus Rift owners.)

Our only real reservation is the length of the campaign: Rocksteady reckons it will take you roughly one hour to finish, which isn't a whole lot. Replay value really isn't one of VR's strengths. The same goes for puzzle-solving, which will presumably form the backbone of this game. Still, for many gamers just putting on the batsuit and wanking into a mirror will be enough.


Comments

    Give me a Bruce-Wayne-in-Batman-Beyond VR game.

    I take the role of old Bruce barking at a young bloke what to do.

    Has anyone got a decent article on performance of the playstation VR with the PS4? Too many fanboys shooting their mouths off to get any sort of a read on it.

      I don't have much faith in VR full stop, but to be fair to those who pen these sorts of articles, it's an evangelical topic to begin with.

      Game reviews have become fertile ground for critics to espouse all sorts of nuanced feelings (this is a good thing, within reason) and don't sound quite like infomercials for steak knives anymore - but it's cyclical.

      VR is the new steak knife. Or vacuum cleaner. Or ab-crunching machine. You're going to read a lot more positive stuff on it because it's a hands-on experience and everybody's experience is designed to be similar.

        It’s a Batman game where you can pick things up and walk around. There’s no physical combat and it only goes for “roughly” an hour.

        It’s EVERYTHING HE HOPED IT WOULD BE?!?

        Honestly the hyperbole from the gaming media around VR is absolutely ridiculous.

        The future of gaming is NOT 1-2 hour long gimmicks, unwieldy and limited controls or first person “warping” between points in place of movement.

        I don’t care if the headset looks cool, we went through this with CD-based adventure games in the early 90’s. You get your 10 minutes of mind-bending “interactivity” and then you go back to something that’s not hampered by technological overreach.

        It might be “the future”, but if it’s not capable of delivering meaningful, multi-hour gaming experiences on the level of current AAA games then it’s not going to become “the present” any time soon. That doesn’t mean it won’t sell well, lots of people bought a Wii for a few hours of waggle, but it wasn’t the future…. it was a fun toy for a few hours.

          Here's the thing. I personally feel VR gaming is absolutely not geared towards lengthy campaigns. I think movie-like experiences that unfold in a single sitting are the direction VR needs to go in. They should also be $30 a pop but we know that's not going to happen.

            Can you do an interactive game in a couple of hours though? Do you think that works without it feeling like a loosely connected mini-game collection or a slightly interactive B-movie? Assuming there’s some kind of limit to how long you can sit there with a headset one without feeling nauseated, hot, getting a headache ect it’s going to be REALLY hard to find a balance between spectacle, gameplay (the inane shit you’ll have to do to make it “gamey” using the limited controls) and story so that the end product is something genuinely good.

            I mean you could do something like Walking Dead really well I’d imagine, with branching story arcs and little action, but it’s going to be like the 90’s CD titles; novel “immersive” technology mixed with shallow, limited gameplay.

            I just think you look at a game like Arkym Knight or play a game like GTA V in first person and it really feels like you are capable of actually doing the things you want to do. VR might give the impression of immersion, but at the moment it comes at the expense of genuine interactivity.

            Until they fix that, it’s going to be a short-term gimmick, albeit a cool one.

              You can absolutely do that. I've lost entirely nights to Elite: Dangerous in VR, and it's neither a minigame collection nor interactive B-movie. No nausea, headache, overheating, etc. It's pretty fantastic.

              And I do mean entire nights, as in oh shit it's 5:30am how did that happen :P

        I personally don't put much faith in VR for another generation or two, it's a gimmick at this stage and unless it can surmount the issues that plagued 3D (access, comfort, quality, affordability) then yeah it will fade into obscurity then.

        I'm just more interested in the technical side of it, especially how Microsoft has had to release a whole new console just to support it, just want to know how much hot air is in all the marketing BS

          I'd actually go that further step and defend the Wii's legacy.

          The gaming media flat-out laughed and derided the thing and anybody who liked it the whole time. The scores of people buying it would say the stuff we gravitate towards are just fun fleeting experiences, toys for boys, etc.

          VR isn't proven, but speaking from a technical perspective, game-design and development history (should) tells us that the failures are always remembered, and the successes forgotten.

          As Chris says, the VR platforms will lock up their proprietary specs and sign up exclusives all over the place - but we should have seen this coming.

            Yes but the Wii's roll out was far different, it was a whole console done at a budget price point making it extremely easy to be adopted once people saw it was fun, VR much like 3D is asking you to invest a heafty amount of dollars for just a peripheral to get on board. I'm personally one, I've used a rift and yeah it's fun but for its price point I sure as hell ain't jumping in the band wagon with any of the first gen VR units

            I loved the wii - but I loved it because it had some great games.
            I didn't love the wii for it's motion controls - majority of the games i played didnt even utilise the motion controls. sure it was fun the first time, but wii sports etc got old quickly.

          I wonder if it could actually do a great deal of harm to the gaming industry in the short-mid term.

          Given the fervent fapping of games industry zealots (see the article above) and the inherent coolness of the first time you put on a VR headset, I expect this thing to be a roaring success with huge sales around launch.

          What then though? Lots of people are going to love an hour with VR, then get tired of the crappy, shallow “experiences” like the ones we saw at E3 and crave real gaming experiences (the kind we get from traditional AAA games) that aren’t close to possible with the limitations of a headset and controller.

          Will there be a significant mainstream audience who then only wants to play VR games but is disillusioned by the quality of the actual experiences? I guess it has the potential to happen.

            Does Project Cars count as AAA?

            Im literally only getting the psvr because i have a g29 set up and love project cars and dirt rally. Im sure gt sport or whatever its called will be vr too. Thats the kind of game that will benefit i believe

            Youre right about the gimmicks but ive had a fair bit of fun with the samsung gear vr- most of the stuff on there is shirt games and experiences but its been great fun so im looking forward to some random experiences on psvr too

              Assetto Corsa/Project Cars are the only thing that interests me in VR. Racing sims with a VR headset don't change the way you play it or what you do; it just enhances your experience. Everything else at this stage is more or less a gimmick really.

              Although with that said I'd love to see a new Portal in VR - wouldn't be surprised if Valve is working on it either.

        Another scrub without vr, wanting to have a say, sir it's obvious you know two thing's jack and shit and jack just left town.

          I hope that was directed towards me because that was a brilliant sledge I am so stealing that one.

      Given that you have have a great VR experience using nothing but a Samsung phone (I have an S7 edge) , then yeah I'd say the PS4 is easily powerful enough to have awesome VR games.

        Still a huge breadth in scope between a mobile app and a AAA game. I mean a lot of things can handle VR depending of how much you ask of it

          Have you actually tried it? I'm always impressed without qualification.

      So far from what I heard from various developers, performance seems alright since there is a minimum requirement of game running 60fps and recommend at 90fps. Graphics are not expected to be extremely nice but looks good enough to enjoy. You might be surprised that it will look better than your expectations.

      Comfort wise is the most comfortable among all vr headsets so far.

      Apparently games will not have frame dips since frame dips are unacceptable in Hmd. Personally I find frame dip extremely nausea inducing.

      Psvr will be the better choice for consumer to go into vr other than gearvr. Given that you own a ps4 of course.

        Be fantastic if they can pull it off with the PS4, as long as VR takes off, as above I'm on the fence, it's far too much like the 3D TV fiasco

    Perhaps it's the game VR deserves and not the one it needs right now, but I'm buying it day one.

    I'm kind of saddened by the number of "one platform only" VR exclusives that are being announced at E3.

    I hope that eventually they become available for all platforms (much like the Arkham games themselves) but given the porting troubles and small VR user base I'm not holding my breath.

      All the VR exclusive announced are not much more than "experiences" by the sounds of it (as mentioned above 1-2 hour long games) when there is actually full games I imagine multiplatform will be the norm.

    This is the only VR game i have any interest in... as a Batman fan I really want to play it. I have a PS4 but should i invest in the VR unit, camera and move controllers for one hour of actual gameplay? What's that, like the better part of $700? Not sure it's even remotely worth it.

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