Batman: Arkham VR is an intriguing little project. It’s interesting to me that Rocksteady is developing this game. It’s interesting not only because it’s never developed a VR game – very few studios can say that they have at this point – but also because it’s never developed any notable first-person games that I’m aware of. Additionally, Rocksteady brand marketing manager Dax Ginn stated in an interview that the team had decided to call it quits after Arkham City. “We nailed combat, steal navigation, Batmobile stuff – we’ve done all we could,” he said.
It seems that the decision to produce yet another Arkham game was made somewhat suddenly, and I’m hoping that Arkham VR wasn’t borne out of haste. The latest trailer has been getting quite a lot of attention lately. It’s titled “Wear the Cowl,” and that does seem to be the main appeal here: the reaching out and interacting with bits and pieces of Batman’s suit in the Batcave. All of the smiling people interviewed after their time with the demo (sporadically and candidly, I’m sure) didn’t have much to say about their experience other than “You really feel like Batman!” One lad, eyes wide as saucers, described the thrill of looking into a mirror and seeing yourself as the caped crusader.
Listen: that does sound cool. It sounds really cool – the first time. I’d love to see a gameplay video where you’re actually doing something fun, because so far this sounds like another gimmick. VR, the platform as a whole, has enough gimmicks already. There is a surplus of “OMG how cool would this be in VR” concepts. It’s like the Wii all over again. What we need to know is whether this will be an actual gaming experience worthy of its price tag.
Rocksteady keeps saying things make me suspicious, and then curious, and then pessimistic again. On one hand, they do insist that this will be an intense and narrative-driven experience. We do need more of that in the VR world, and I’m down with that. Dax Ginn is also on record stating that Rocksteady came around to the idea of developing the game in part because they had unused assets laying around. “We got some dev kits from Sony and were interested in VR more as gamers than developers,” he said. “But because we had so much Batman stuff in the studio, like assets going back to Arkham Asylum, it made sense to us to use those to see what we could do with the technology.” Something about that just doesn’t sound very inspiring to me. It sounds more like, “Screw it, we have all this unused art laying around, let’s make a little more money!”
I swear I don’t have anything against Rocksteady, and I’m not determined to hate Arkham VR . On the contrary, I’m speaking as a concerned and long-time Batman fan. My childhood was made magical by Batman: The Animated Series , and it was the plot twists, discoveries, and sleuthy detective work that made that Batman so fascinating to me. If Rocksteady can really isolate that magic and bring it to life in VR, I’ll be a very happy man.
Right now I’m just trying to decide what Arkham VR is going to be. Did Rocksteady decide that the detective work is the only thing they could manage to slop together for a VR project using all of their old assets, or is this going to be a solid, narrative-driven detective / puzzle game made even greater by the fact that you get to play as Batman? Right now I feel like it could go either way, but I would be interested to hear your take on it. If you’re a Batman fan, especially if you’ve played any of the Arkham trilogy, let me know your gut feelings in regard to Arkham VR . Could this be the first great VR superhero game or are we looking at a VR tech demo with the words “Batman” and “Arkham” slapped across the front?