No, really, I AM Batman…
Rocksteady promised they were done with Batman. But the allure of PSVR was too strong, and they’ve crafted a new story based on some mysterious goings-on within Gotham… Fancy donning the cowl?
Game: Batman: Arkham VR
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros
(Review code provided by publisher)
Admit it. At some point in your life, you’ve strapped a bin bag to your back, jumped down some stairs and run round the living room proclaiming that you are The Dark Knight. What, just me? Well, Rocksteady have finally given everyone with a PSVR the chance to become Batman, with their return to the Arkham franchise for a one-off experience in virtual reality.
The start of Arkham VR shows you, yet again, how Batman came to be. A small boy, with his parents in the aptly-named Crime Alley, scared after a trip to the theatre… What could go wrong? Oh, that’s right, the whole shooting thing. It’s a novel twist to be able to see this through a young Bruce Wayne’s eyes, and the face of Joe Chill is suitably haunting as he looms above you, making you feel just as small and helpless as the young billionaire-to-be was.
Thus begins the tale that is Arkham VR. I really don’t want to give too much away in this review as the story plays out over approximately 90 minutes. But safe to say, Rocksteady are going back to the well with their Arkham-verse and delving deep into it to bring back not only some beloved characters, but also some downright classic Batman moments that will only be found in Arkham VR. Where else can you look in a mirror and see Batman staring back at you?!
The story is essentially a bit of a murder mystery/whodunit scenario. You’re called to the scene of a grisly fight, and tasked with finding out exactly what happened. Arkham VR draws on the strengths of the previous games, and doesn’t rely on action at all to give you the feeling of being The Bat, instead using Bruce’s detective skills to deduce from a series of clues the exact circumstances of the situation you find yourself in. It’s a welcome choice, as I didn’t really fancy attempting to throw punches, kicks and all sorts in my living room only to take the PSVR off and find I’ve launched my cat through the TV!
Arkham VR uses the PS Move controllers in much the same way that the Vive uses its motion controllers. They essentially become an extension of your hands, to the point where you can see the hands in the game and are able to pick things up by pulling the triggers. It’s a simple trick but it’s so incredibly immersive, and although the things you’re able to interact with are quite limited, it’s a hell of a lot of fun doing so.
Technically, the game performs really well. Maintaining a solid frame rate throughout, with some incredibly detailed character models ripped straight from the mainline games, only with the added benefit of being able to get right up close and examine them as if they were really in front of you.
Of course, one of VR’s strengths is making you absolutely leap from your skin, and Arkham VR is absolutely no different. There are a couple of jumpy moments, and given the nature of VR, you just cannot get away from it. The novelty may have worn off on a bunch of PC VR players, but for those making the step with PSVR, there will be some genuine yelps and screams of expletives! One other thing that VR does so well is atmosphere, and hats off to Rocksteady, they have done an incredible job here. Arkham VR reintroduces some classic franchise locations and makes you realise just how creepy Gotham is as a city, whilst reminding you how damn good Rocksteady are as a studio.
As mentioned above, the story lasts approximately 90 minutes, and encourages you to go back for more, hunting down some Riddler trophies (Not too many, I must say!) and finding a bunch of easter eggs hidden within the world.
They told us they were done with Arkham. Rocksteady lied to us. But that’s OK. As well as being a great showcase for how VR should be done, Arkham VR is a short, sharp, and sometimes shocking Batman experience that should really be played by anyone with access to a headset and any fondness for the caped crusader at all.