Batman: Arkham VR Review

By Blair Nokes on November 15, 2016

To be the Batman; a childhood fantasy for many, now near fully realized with Rocksteady Studios’ launch window title for the Playstation VR, Batman: Arkham VR. Rocksteady has garnered an overwhelming amount of critical acclaim for their Arkham series, ushering a new generation of superhero video games; ones that are crafted with a respectful amount for the source material, and its fanbase. Arkham Asylum was the first Batman game to truly have players become the Dark Knight in its Metroidvania-inspired level design and progression, its wonderful cast of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, and to top it all off, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill both reprised their respective roles as Batman and the Joker. It’s highly anticipated sequel, Arkham City, broke the mold Rocksteady set for itself by allowing players more freedom to roam, and a wider array of combos at your disposal.

Naturally, when Playstation VR was first announced, the possibilities for types of games to utilize the hardware’s unique perspective seemed endless. It was great to see Warner Brothers and Rocksteady were so quick to jump aboard and deliver their first bout as Batman in VR. After my time spent with the game, I certainly hope this is not the last. This serves as a short, but sweet taste of what it’s like behind the cowl.

As mentioned before, the game is quite short, clocking in at a little over an hour and a half. For the $30 price tag, it’s still fairly short as a game; however the experience as a whole is certainly one of the more memorable titles to come out during the VR’s launch window. Controlling Batman is done via the Move controllers to act as his arms. Mind you, this assumes you as a player have not experienced any VR title so there is a bit of hand holding as far as the tutorial goes, but they do it in a clever enough way to still keep you involved in the game’s world and atmosphere. The game gives you the option of playing the story either seated or standing; the latter being the recommended method to allow for full 360 degree turns. To get players acquainted with the control scheme, they let you mess around in the Batcave for a bit: use the grappling gun to zip around, the batarang, and an investigative scanner that lets you interact with the environment by aiming it at crimes that need solving. The accuracy is quite on point, and I never felt I had to force a gesture with the move controllers.

Rocksteady have done a fantastic job at nailing the horror theme and atmosphere. Early on in the campaign, we’re inspecting decaying bodies in a morgue, with the camera’s point-of-view getting you up close and personal with the cadavers. Contrary to the classic beat-em-up style of the previous Arkham games, Arkham VR is more doesn’t shy away from its plentiful puzzles. In theory it’s almost like a virtual point-and-click game, whereby you solve puzzles and obtain clues to advance the story. This is a wonderful step back from the action-heavy instalments and gives players a genuine look at the detective side of the Caped Crusader.

Naturally, there has to be some sort of visual flair to really give off the “wow” moments that Virtual Reality ought to offer, and Batman VR certain delivers. The game certainly gives you a trip worth the price of admission for early VR adopters. My biggest complaint – if I could really call it that – is that it tends to rely a little too heavily on what I’m going to hereby dub as the “3D Tropes”; those classic 3D moments in cinema where an arm casually reaches outside of the screen to give you those “Gee whiz” moments in 3D. Batman VR leans a little too much on that at points, but it’s hard to fault a game for that. This is “new” territory we’re crossing in the video games industry, so it’s acceptable to see developers make use of this new technology in perspectives only possible with the VR Headset.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I firmly believe Batman: Arkham VR is the best VR outing inside the Playstation VR’s launch window. For starters, I’ve lived my childhood fantasy of becoming the Batman, if only for a short while. At its absolute best, it’s a psychological horror that is full of puzzles and investigative work – a side of the Batman video games that aren’t always shown to this degree. At its worst, it’s a VR title that is a little heavy-handed in the 3D pop-out gimmicks.

I am the night.
Wonderful investigative work that takes a step back from the action.
The game strays into the psychological horror territory; something I would love to see more of in future releases.
A little too much of the 3D gimmicks.
The game is very short at roughly 90 minutes.
While the controls are fluid enough, I hope that there may be more freedom in movement in future releases.
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