I grew up in the 80’s with some excellent re-runs of the classic 1966 version of Batman on TV. As a kid, it was mesmerising to watch as it was so bright and colourful, filled with the classic “Thwack” phrases that are now making a comeback on memes all over the globe. The Joker and Penguin were classic nefarious “Baddies”. The storylines were simple and predictable (although not to my 5 year-old self) but were enjoyable affairs.
The re-launch of Batman with the Dark Knight film in 2008 is a world away from the twinkling, sparkly series that had captured my attention. Gotham has become much darker, more gloomy and a somewhat sleazy city.
Rocksteady Games produced a VR game aligned to the more recent Batman incarnation. I’ll be honest, I was both pleased and somewhat disappointed that my child-hood version had been overlooked.
You only have to compare the images above to see that the world has mirrored much of the changes from the 1960’s to the modern equivalent. It also cements that belief that people in the 1960’s were truly off their rocker, especially when it came to superheroes.
Personally, I’m convinced there’s a market for the 1960’s series version of the game. I know I’d buy it and not just for pure nostalgia. Just imagine the fun you could have: Your mate, Robin, a multi-coloured jester who is always the first sent into any battle, getting Thwacks and Pow’d all over before you casually step in to save the level.
Twitch would be inundated, YouTube would be flooded with clips and just imagine if you enabled modding. If anyone wants to do a Kickstarter on the back of this, I’m definitely in!
Batman Arkham VR Darkness
The backdrop for the adventure is a gloomy take on Gotham Central. The deep blacks are evident in most scenes and this works incredibly well for VR. Running on a 1080Ti with the HTC Vive is one of the more stand-out VR experiences and I’m convinced a lot of that is related to how the scenes have been styled.
The world is dark, suspenseful and conveys a sinister edge wherever you are. Even within your Batcave surrounded by the incredibly trustworthy Albert, you still have that sense of unease.
The lighting and rendering shimmers enough to keep drawing your attention to it, but not too much to distract. After all, Albert is there and he can be trusted, right?
The sense of involvement and immersion is amazing. It does help if you’re into the Batman storylines and / or superheroes in general. Even if it was the 1966 version only, you’ll likely buy into it.
Suited & Booted
What triggers this depth of immersion is the opening scene of suiting up in your Sunday best. You effectively start out as the real-life version of you, meticulously opening boxes, pulling switches to reveal your new wardrobe.
Its a fun experience, getting dressed in VR and I’m sure you’ll do similar waving hands actions, pointing and attempting to punch things.
Your mindset will change though once you open and put on the mask. Once that happens, that’s the end of messing around, waving is for royalty only. You are Batman!
With all the might of Batman and his mutated genetics now flowing through your VR veins, the transformation is complete. You’ve worked out how to move your hands, get yourself dressed and will immediately feel that your physique in this suit matches that of your real-world body.
That means only one thing remains and that is to prat around and watch yourself in the mirror. This small feature is strangely satisfying and will easily eat into your gameplay time much more than you would expect!
The Batman Experience
Batman in VR is a unique experience. The game length is relatively short if you take into account time taken to play through the missions, but don’t be put off by that fact. There is lots to take in, with each scene, despite the linear nature of the missions.
The missions are varied and are a showcase of VR capabilities that require you to use your experienced problem solving gaming skills. There’s a familiar nature which takes over and investigating the obvious and well lit items will reward you with success. Don’t forget your torch though, have I mentioned its dark out there?
I’m Scared Robin, Can you go first?
The effect of experiencing this gloomy world will heighten the tension and create a sense of unease. Its reminiscent of watching an old horror movie when you were younger and didn’t have the backing of either a) experience or b) science to provide you with some comfort.
Rocksteady Games have developed some excellent experiences in Batman Arkham VR and I was genuinely on edge throughout. My virtual Batman suit began to feel less like Kevlar and more and more like Teflon.
I don’t want to go into any spoilers for the game as it would ruin the experience if you’ve yet to play it. What I will add, is that with all the thrill and suspense, the heightened fear and nervousness, I always seemed to behave like a 5 year old whenever I came across a mirror!
The ingenuity and artistic direction of the scenes is something that I’ll remember for a long-time. Batman Arkham VR is an excellent experience and showcase of VR and more importantly, its loads of fun!