E3 2016: Being Batman In VR Is Even Cooler Than You’d Think – Hands-On Preview

This fall PlayStation VR will immerse players with over 50 scheduled launch titles. Two experiences quickly rose to the top in terms of anticipation: the chance to be insanely terrified in Resident Evil VII: biohazard and the opportunity to be The Bat in Batman: Arkham VR.

Set in the Arkham universe that was created by developer Rocksteady, the E3 demo took only about 15 minutes to complete with two sections to explore. The first part begins in Wayne Manor. Alfred is to your right, handing you a key to unlock the Steinway-like piano. On top of this mammoth musical instrument is a framed picture of Bruce’s long deceased parents, which can be picked up and tossed. (I’m over you, Martha and Thomas Wayne!) To the right sits a red Bat Phone that when picked up and put near your left ear has an voice message from Vicky Vale.

Soon enough you open the piano, play a few bars and the floor opens up so you can make your descent into the Bat Cave. Before all this, though, I looked around, peering behind me, taking in the tasteful décor of the mansion. Down the hall a curtain was flapping in the wind. “Who the heck left the window open last night?”, i asked myself, “I’ll need to ask Alfred about that when I get back.”

The Bat Cave is, as you’d hope, badass. All around you are comic, animated TV show, and film derived elements, from the bat computer to the high tech station that gets Bruce suited up for the evening. Sleeping bats can be seen hanging upside down as is their nature. I couldn’t stop pulling batarangs off my utility belt and throwing them into the walls, but that’s just me.

This whole section serves as the tutorial, showing off the equipment to be used. Control-wise things still feel floaty as with many current PSVR games. The real draw is being able to move your head in any direction to take in environment around you as you do in real life.

Not everyone in Gotham is among the living though as Batman soon finds that Nightwing has been killed. His neck has been snapped, his arm broken, and his ribs crushed. This is the second section of the demo where you visit the crime scene. A dank, dirty alley is where we come upon Dick Grayson’s corpse.

Here’s where I was really curious as to how “it” would be done. While the VR looks good, and the PlayStation Move sticks work well for most interactions, movement is handled in awkward VR fashion. The alley has four points of space to occupy and each area has a controller icon to click on and which Batman then quickly zooms to. It works fine enough since the overall the focus is on Batman rewinding time with this Bat analyzer to find out how and when Nightwing was killed, but still, what’s here isn’t ideal.

What is cool is that while I was standing for the majority of the demo, once I arrived at the crime scene I slowly couched down to get a better look at Nightwing’s body. It felt great scanning a fallen ally while looking for clues. You can’t go too low though as an “out of play area” message will pop up, but that’s fine; I appreciated being able to bend my knees regardless.

The rep for Batman: Arkham VR said that there would be roughly an hour’s worth of content when the full game arrives this October. The focus for Rocksteady was to make a Batman experience that focused on the “world’s greatest detective” angle. I assume the bulk of it will be like the Nightwing scene; gathering evidence, checking off the level’s three or more objectives, and so on. If so, it has something in-store for Batman fans that they’ve never experienced before.