Rocksteady's never been shy depicting Batman as the mentally deranged individual that he so clearly is, and with the British studio back on development duties for this short virtual reality story, it's Bruce Wayne's busted psyche that once again takes centre stage. Batman: Arkham VR may only take you about an hour to see through, but this is borderline essential material for fans of the franchise's gritty fiction.
And that's because Gotham City has never quite felt so real before. Batman: Arkham Knight captured the sheer scale of the sprawling metropolis like no game before it, but standing in Crime Alley as a spooked Master Bruce brings an authenticity to the rain-slicked streets. Admittedly, it's annoying to have to revisit the origins of the Dark Knight yet again, but at least this time it comes with the added novelty of virtual reality.
It's sitting at the piano of Wayne Manor that this story really starts to pick up pace, though. Worldly butler Alfred alerts you to an incident that demands your immediate attention, and from there you'll find yourself gearing up as the Caped Crusader. Using two PlayStation Move wands to reflect your hands, you'll need to attach your gear to your utility belt, and even don the cowl. There are some nice little touches here – like a mirror which shows you dressed as Batman – that really add to the immersion.
Once in the Batcave, you're free to play around with Bats' not insignificant number of gadgets. For example, you can analyse blood vials, inspect the Batmobile, and hack into nearby radio stations. There's even a minigame that tests your ability to toss Batarangs, and while the aiming is all handled automatically, it's fun playing with all of the tools at your disposal – it makes you feel like you really are a detective with access to some serious cutting-edge technology.
And this is important, because the campaign very much plays out like a murder mystery. You'll find yourself travelling to a half-dozen or so different locations, attempting to track down the assailant of one of your allies. We'll refrain from revealing too much as any more information will ruin the surprises in store for you, but there are some great cameos here – and some real shocks towards the end. It gets pretty dark quickly, and it actually made us jump a couple of times.
Once you've beaten the adventure, you can replay it again, attempting to solve Riddler puzzles which encourage you to comb each environment in a little more detail. This is a nice addition, as, while it's not going to extend your playtime enormously, it does give you a good reason to go back, and makes the relatively steep price of entry that little easier to swallow. When all's said and done, though, you're still only going to get about three hours play time total out of this.
Which is probably the package's biggest problem. Some jittery PlayStation Move tracking issues aside, what's here is pretty darn incredible, and we'd honestly play an entire campaign this way – but you're not getting anything close to that, and that's a shame. There's hope that Rocksteady will take the lessons that it's learned here and invest into something a little more substantial, but for now, you're just going to have to make do with this appetiser.
How much would you pay to be Batman for an hour? If your answer sits somewhere in the region of £15.99/$19.99, then Batman: Arkham VR is a virtual no-brainer. With the exception of the finicky motion tracking and brief running time, this is an exceptional short story that eloquently demonstrates many of the advantages of virtual reality. But perhaps the most impressive thing here is that, in transforming you into the Dark Knight, it illuminates both the pros and cons of being a masked vigilante. And while the former interactions will make you feel downright awesome, it's when the Caped Crusader slowly begins to unravel that it comes into its own.