VR gaming took another step forward with the launch of PlayStation VR, giving a wider audience of gamers a chance to experience virtual reality gaming, perhaps for the first time. This launch came with a number of exclusive titles, including Rocksteady Studio’s swan song with their most well known franchise in Batman: Arkham VR.
Batman never had much success with video games over the years, but Rocksteady Studios changed that with the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was followed by the equally well received Arkham City and Arkham Knight. It was said that Arkham Knight was supposed to be the end of Rocksteady’s time with Batman, which is true from a full game standpoint, but Batman: Arkham VR offers something completely different.
As soon as you put on your PSVR headset and turn on the game, you will quickly be pulled in the world of Batman: Arkham as you’ve come to know it. The art style of the environments and character models are as you’ve come to know them in the series already, so everything will feel right at home. However, where everything differs is in the gameplay, as this game is tailored more as an experience than anything else.
This begins from the very start of the game, where you get to experience the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne first hand, with you having no power to do anything but watch. This is a pretty powerful scene, complete with being able to hide behind Bruce’s mother. Tilting the headset to one side even lets you peek around her if you wish, which is just downright amazing in its execution.
While the intro to the game is mostly like an interactive video, the next areas add actual gameplay elements into it. Starting off inside Wayne Manor, players get their first chance to actually experience moving around and interact with objects. Using the two required Move controllers, you now have control of Bruce Wayne’s hands. You have a limited space you can walk around in as well, with you also able to just select a sitting stance for the game when first launching it as well.
For every movement of the respective Move controller, the corresponding hand moves 1 to 1. This works pretty well most of the time, though it definitely has its fair share of hiccups as well due to this new technology. Beyond just moving the hands, you can also pull the trigger button on the back of each move controller to create a fist or to grab items throughout the game. Like with the actual movement of the hands, this can get a little bit tricky sometimes, but still works rather effectively.
One of the absolutely coolest moments in the entire game comes pretty early as you actually get to suit up as Batman. Most of the costume is put on instantly with a touch of the bat symbol on the suit in the Batcave. However, you personally get to put on your gloves and cowl, as well as picking up your grapnel gun, a crime scene scanner, and your trusty batarangs.
Suiting up is really cool in of itself, but the pure joy doesn’t stop there. At anytime in the game, you can just reach down and grab any of these tools from your utility belt, which feels very natural. There isn’t all that much to the actual throwing of the batarang or even aiming the grapnel gun, as they typically hit the necessary target if you are anywhere close to it. One of the big changes here also is that there is no combat involved in the game, but rather just solving little puzzles and advancing the game.
Tailored more as an experience than anything else
The Arkham series has always been about exploring the environments and the VR movement definitely hinders that from happening completely in Arkham VR. Instead, each relatively small location in the game can be traversed with the press of a button. Such as in Wayne Manor at the beginning or later at the morgue, there are different areas in which to inspect in that room. By turning your body in different directions, you’ll notice a prompt to press the Move button on the controller, which will instantly teleport Batman to that area. This can take you a little bit out of the experience as you aren’t the one actually moving, but there’s not much more they could do in this pretty limited experience at the start of the PSVR era.
The story found in Batman: Arkham VR is completely different from anything in the previous Arkham games, but it’s set in the same universe. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles of Batman and the Joker respectively, which continues to be a treat for those that grew up with Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s. There are definitely some very shocking twists and turns in this short story, which will come to be a surprise for most players. The final 10 minutes especially is a real mindtrip too, which is made even better with the use of VR. These final moments are really something that have to be experienced to really understand how realistic it can feel.
After completing the game, there are also some Riddler trophies that will pop up throughout the game that you can collect. By doing this, you will earn new models for characters and vehicles back at the Batcave. This is definitely the type of game that you will want to play through multiple times with it being so short anyways, but it would have been nice if there had been more to the Riddler trophy unlocks in the game to keep players really wanting to come back for more.
The Arkham series has already done a great job at putting players in the role of Batman, but the level of immersion in Batman: Arkham VR takes things to the next level in that department. Even though the game only clocks in at only about an hour to an hour and a half, the time spent literally being Batman is incredibly impressive. With a cheaper pricepoint, Batman: Arkham VR is definitely a game that you not only need to pick up with your PlayStation VR for yourself, but also serves as an excellent demo to show off the potential of the platform as well.
Batman: Arkham VR
- Available On: PS4
- Published By: WBIE
- Developed By: Rocksteady Studios
- Genre: Adventure
- US Release Date: October 11th, 2016
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "The Arkham series has already done a great job at putting players in the role on Batman, but the level of immersion in Batman: Arkham VR takes things to the next level."
- You ARE Batman
- Fantastic use of VR
- Very short
- Limited controls