By Jeffrey Mizrahi
It’s been out for a while. But I remember it well. Putting on The Dark Knight’s cowl in the opening sequence of Batman Arkham VR is nice and kitschy. But the real excitement and magic of virtual reality came to life when I was in the Batcave, playing with all of Batman’s villains’ weapons in the armory. That experience really blew me away.
Picking up an impressively detailed model of Bane’s mask with my Move controller, twisting my wrist, and raising the mask to my face was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. It felt like walking into a museum and just being able to pick up and play with all the pieces on exhibit.
I peeked through the eyeholes, doing my best Bane impression. Then, I tossed the mask halfway across the cave in an attempt to get a playful quip from Alfred. It all didn’t make me feel like I was playing as the juiced up wrestler. But it was at that moment I realized how all-encompassing VR can be.
After a few minutes with the mask, I continued to act out as all of the other villains from the Rocksteady Studios Batman games. Picking up Ra’s al Ghul’s sword and Harley Quinn’s bat had me wishing there were some sort of target practice or horde mode where I could actually use these tools in combat. But even with that shortcoming, I was still able to get into the mindset of the characters.
After playing through three meaty Batman games, I was finally able enjoy the spoils of war. In last year’s Batman Arkham Knight, there was a section in the Gotham City Police Department that had all these same items, and more, displayed behind a glass case. While it was nice to look at them and remember those boss battles, only in VR was I truly able to appreciate these unique collectibles.
Initially, toying around with all the gizmos and gadgets in each nook and cranny of the Batcave felt like gaming’s greatest Easter egg – until I came to the realization that this was actually a large portion of the game.
As I begrudgingly left my Batcave, I went to do some detective work on the streets of Gotham. The core mechanics here are the same seen in previous Arkham installments. Using detective mode, I was able to rewind and fast-forward time in order to identify when certain actions took place. Physically moving my body around this murder scene was frighteningly immersive (in a good way), so much so that I didn’t realize my brother had been sitting on the couch besides me for the past ten minutes
Throughout this “level” I couldn’t help but wish there was more to it. The whole thing felt very short and empty, as if this was a demo that gave you small glances at a larger game. But that’s the thing. This is the larger game.
I was hoping there would be something that would throw me off the trail to increase the challenge. It would’ve added so much more to the experience if I could’ve been able to pick up a rock off the floor or sift through some dirt for clues. Arkham VR could have greatly benefited from more of this kind of interactivity.
After a creepy face-to-face encounter with the Penguin, I got to meet up with my trusty sidekick, Robin. Even as the Joker trapped us in two separate cages, I was able to interact with the Boy Wonder in a way that had me feeling more helpful than I normally feel in other games. In Arkham Knight, there are combat sequences that have you fighting back to back with Robin, but it didn’t really do much for me, other than showing off a cool cinematic. And I did do slightly more damage than usual.
In Arkham VR, even though I’m only handing Robin a gear, the feeling is so much more intimate. There’s no button prompt, and he doesn’t blindly hold his hand out until you’re ready to give it to him–all adding to the very natural and seamless experience. Again, my only complaint is that I would’ve liked to have more of those experiences throughout the game.
It’s almost impossible to talk about Batman Arkham VR without mentioning its price. $20 for a 60-minute game. For three times that price, you can often get a game with 30 times the amount of content. Even though I wanted much more game from Batman, the experience was worth the price of admission. Nonetheless, I hope we’ll start to see more fleshed out VR games, as well as more immersive worlds.
Jeffrey Mizrahi is one of the Circle’s intrepid interns. This is his first piece for us.