Batman Arkham VR is Rocksteady at the Top of Their Game: Hands On

Batman Arkham VR is the real deal.

Whenever the latest installment in Rocksteady’s master class of Batman Arkham Games arrives, I tell myself, “this is the closest I’ll ever get to being Batman.” That is, until their next game releases and takes leaps and bounds to further immerse its players. Now on PlayStation VR, Rocksteady has outdone themselves yet again: move over Arkham Knight, Arkham VR is the new hero in town.

Fans should know off the bat that Batman Arkham VR is a standalone story set in the Arkhamverse, not a final chapter or epilogue to Arkham Knight’s thrilling ending. That said, the characters, look, and feel of the Arkham games are back in full effect, and according to a Warner Bros. spokesperson I talked to, the complete game will be full of Easter eggs and throwbacks to previous entries in the Arkham series.

My twenty minute demo began quietly in Wayne Manor. Bruce, standing in front of a grand piano, learns via Alfred that a Bat family ally has sent out a distress beacon in the heart of Gotham. Players then descend into the depths of a 360 degree, fully realized Batcave. From there, you suit up in what can only be described as one of the most exhilarating opening sequences I’ve ever played. After acquiring and testing some gadgets, Batman is ready to hit the streets.

It’s worth noting that Arkham VR’s graphics are better looking than any other VR game I’ve played. Despite the processing demands of virtual reality hardware, the visuals here look much closer to Arkham Knight than to Arkham City. The level of detail on character models is hugely impressive, especially on Alfred, whose “I’m getting too old for your sh*t, Master Bruce” mindset is communicated perfectly through his wrinkled face and tired eyes.

Two PlayStation Move wands simulate Batman’s gauntlets and serve as your primary method of interacting with the game world. As with most VR, understanding the gameplay is surprisingly intuitive: looking down and seeing your grappling hook, forensic scanner, and batarangs hanging from a virtual utility belt around your waist, it’s instantly clear how to interact with them and the game world.

The demo wraps with a detective section that mirrors the crime reconstruction puzzles of Arkham Origins and Knight. The fast paced combat of the third-person Arkham games is not present – that style of gameplay likely won’t translate well to first person – so the demo instead focuses on showcasing the mind behind the mask, both in brain power and emotion.

After the demo, the WB spokesperson tells me the full retail experience will take about three to four hours to complete. It will definitely have replay value, though for now that’s all they’ll say. We talk about all the possibilities of the VR campaign: what gadgets there could be; whether we’ll drive the Batmobile; but at this point it’s all speculation. Rocksteady Studios are the masterminds behind the new game, and as always, their lips are sealed. Canadian development team Warner Bros Montreal, who created the prequel Arkham Origins and helped with Knight’s DLC, is once again involved with play testing and other product polishing elements of production, however.

Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in the Arkham Games as well as other television and film projects, recently told Geekpr0n his reaction to the Arkham VR project. “I was really happy when they asked me to do it,” he admits. “I think Mark and I both hit home runs with [Arkham Knight]. It’s what made me want to do more of them.”

Batman Arkham VR is eye-opening proof that virtual reality is no gimmick. Like with any technology, it can be done shoddily if there’s a bad team with the wrong motivation. Luckily for Bat fans, the creators at Rocksteady Studios understand what makes a Batman game better than any other team, and it’s now clear they also understand virtual reality. The Gotham City I visited in VR is one I can’t wait to return to when the game launches October 13th.

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