PSVR is now out for the public, and one of the launch games I picked up was Arkham VR, an original story based on the popular Arkham video game series. Being Batman is just about every boy’s fantasy, and I was excited to find out how immersive of an experience Rocksteady would put together for the launch.
Like most launch titles, it’s a bit short, but Batman: Arkham VR is definitely worth experiencing, even if it falls short of expectations.
Immersed in the Shadows of Gotham
Gotham is a bleak and dark place throughout the series, so you’re not exactly stepping into the shoes of the Michael Keaton, Adam West, or even Kevin Conroy – this is the tone of the Dark Knight and “Gotham” TV series.
Of course your first experience is witnessing your parents’ brutal murders in an alley as a child, but for the first time in decades, it’s actually welcome. Soon, you’re in the Batcave, gearing up and learning the basic controls. It almost feels as though you’re about to jump into the thick of the action as Batman, and this feeling stretches out throughout the game, as you never actually get into any real action.
As a launch game, it’s forgivable that the actual gameplay is so sparse. It’s mostly the VR experience we’re here for, and there are moments where Joker, Killer Crock, and other characters can be a bit intimidating, but they’re easily handled and scenes are cut just short of satisfying you.
Still, as you make your way through different scenes, you can’t help but appreciate the realism and attention to detail put into this game. However brief, you get to experience Wayne Manor, the Batcave, Arkham Asylum, and several other spots in, around, and above Gotham. It’s thrilling for even the most casual Batman fan.
My household is still new to PSVR, and I’m slowly introducing people to it while figuring out features myself. With Arkham what’s important to know is the most immersive experience will be standing. Think about it – they made you Batman, and Batman’s not sitting as he’s investigating alleys, stalking criminals on rooftops, etc. He’s a pretty active guy.
Limited Controls and Experiences
When paired with a headset, the immersion of Arkham VR is almost complete. You feel like you’re wearing a full helmet and can get 3D surround sound so things behind you become very real, especially in the sewers.
For the most part, the controls work well, although it does take a little getting used to pressing a button to turn 180-degrees. The move controllers look like Batman’s hands, and when you look down, you can see only a utility belt with three options (batarang, grappling hook, and scanner). These are your only options, and switching between them is mostly smooth as long as you’re standing up.
If you’re playing sitting down, you’ll need to compensate for the smaller sensor range by lifting your hands above your head like a chimp in order to successfully throw a batarang or scan a corpse for clues without accidentally holstering or picking up the wrong item. Other than that, there wasn’t much confusion in the controls, and you can rapid fire batarangs rather easily.
Unfortunately the opportunity to rapid fire batarangs against a group of thugs never happens. The game is more akin to the recent Batman: The Telltale Series where it almost feels episodic.
Once you’ve completed the 30 minutes or so of available storyline, the only real replay value is to search for Riddler items. Replaying these levels would be a lot more interesting if it didn’t feel like a tutorial the entire time.
Spoiler Alerting the Storyline
Overall the story in Arkham is interesting, even if it’s clearly just a standalone, a common device used in comic book storytelling. By the time you’re standing face-to-face with the Joker and find yourself inside Arkham Asylum, it’s as though the developers anticipate your every move. It’s a brilliant ending that worked quite well.
Younger kids should probably not be playing this game, as you spend a majority of the time watching Robin get brutally tortured by Joker or Nightwing get flat-out beaten to death in front of your eyes. The scene in the morgue is realistic enough that it almost made me feel like I was in the MIB.
Learning that Batman is the Joker was a nice touch, but once it was over, I felt cheated. I had a great time exploring Gotham and appreciate that no punches were pulled…except mine…I never got to fight anyone or get into the action. Instead It was an interactive movie.
Some of the puzzles aren’t immediately clear, and you’ll spend more of your time figuring out how to move on to the next part of a puzzle than participate in any real bataction. Once you do figure it out, it seems almost obvious, and in subsequent playthrus, some tasks simply become automated and menial.
Still, if you’re a fan of Batman, this is definitely a great taste of what VR can be for the $19.99 price tag.
Final Grade: C+