I’m staring down at the battered body of Nightwing, vigilante alter ego of Bruce Wayne protégé Dick Grayson. His ribs, jaw and arm are broken. His neck has been snapped.
I lean over to inspect the personally devastating scene, but I’m all business. I’m Batman, the world’s greatest detective. And here on the ground in front of me is the beginning of a murder mystery.
Batman: Arkham VR is a surprise. It was a standout reveal in a PlayStation E3 press conference full of them. After seemingly finishing off its work on the Arkham series in 2015, Rocksteady Studios is back for another Batventure.
A virtual reality Batventure.
If you’re familiar with Rocksteady’s Arkham work to date, you might as well banish it from your mind. This PlayStation VR-exclusive experience is less about punching and more about investigation.
There are two pieces to the demo Sony is sharing at E3, the first of which is mostly tutorial and scene-setting. You start out as Bruce Wayne, just chilling at home in your palatial manor. The fun starts when Alfred hands you a key to your piano, which activates the elevator down to the Batcave.
The brief sequence that follows sees Bruce suiting up — you interact with a variety of machines to first put on the suit, then the gauntlets and finally, the cowl. You also gather the key tools of Batman’s trade: A grapnel gun for quick escapes, a scanner to aid in your investigations and, of course, an endless supply of Batarangs.
Then you’re whisked off to a darkened alley where the motionless, shattered body of Nightwing lies slumped against a wall. This is where the scanner comes in handy.
The later Batman: Arkham games featured investigation sequences that involved piecing together the events of a crime by using evidence to create a holographic representation of what happened. It’s much the same in Arkham VR, only now you get to see it all through Batman’s eyes.
A simple series of fast-forward, pause and rewind maneuvers allow you to shuttle through Nightwing’s brawl with a mysterious assailant, pinpointing the moments that led to his injuries and eventual death. From this, you learn that the crime had a witness, an agent of the Penguin.
And that’s it. The demo ends as you grapnel up to the waiting Batwing, presumably to fly off to wherever Penguin is currently roosting.
It’s a promising first glimpse at how a character like Batman could work in a virtual setting. Batman: Arkham VR is expected to launch in October, right around the PSVR’s release, so expect to hear more soon.