One of the shorter PlayStation VR experiences at launch, Batman: Arkham VR is also one of the coolest for fan’s of the most feared crime fighter in Gotham City. Set within the Arkham timeline, Arkham VR directly follows the events that transpired in Arkham Knight. Rocksteady has done a commendable job adapting the visual style from the previous titles into a virtual reality environment. While the gameplay is basic and you spend a lot of time just watching scenes unfold in front of you, there is no doubting the “wow” factor of putting on the cowl for the first time and feeling like you are Batman.
From Wayne Manor to the underbelly of the secretive and exorbitant Batcave, the immersion factor is constantly turned up. Of course, the incredible visuals help the experience, but that’s not the only factor when creating a lifelike world for players. Being interactive is just as compelling as impressive visuals, and when I was standing at Batman’s laboratory set and picked up a syringe and stabbed myself to draw blood, I couldn’t help but smirk at how much fun I was having with something so trivial as stabbing myself with a needle. Sadly, outside of the Batcave, your interactions in Gotham City are lackluster to none existing.
It doesn’t take long to finish the game, but there are a couple of standout sequences that require you to do more than flinging Batarangs or punching at buttons to turn a computer on and off. Taking a page out of Arkham Origins or the more recent Telltale Batman series, you’ll investigate a crime scene using augmented reality technology to reenact the events that transpired based on the evidence left at the scene of the crime. The game indicates various clues that you need to focus your efforts on targeting. At this point, you’ll pull the disc-shaped evidence scanner from your belt and scan for essential data points.
While the gameplay may not be what players are expecting, especially after the combat heavy games that made the series popular with perhaps the greatest melee combat system of all time, Arkham VR will be a popular title for PSVR for various other reasons. The game succeeds in the illusion of putting the player in Batman’s, well, cape, boot, and cowl. Sure, the number of interactions are minimal through the one-two hours you'll be playing, but the first time you look into the mirror after putting on the Batsuit, you feel like Batman.
As I mentioned previously, the game’s art style and visual fidelity help craft a gritty Gotham City. Bats can be seen flying around the Batcave, a waterfall off to the side highlights the game’s lighting elements and a T-Rex statue, which can only be an easter egg to the Dinosaur Island comics, accentuate the Batcave. There are additional references to other characters, but I’ll leave them for you to discover.
Many of the games releasing for PSVR at launch appear to be more proof of concept experiences than complete games. As I’ve mentioned, interactivity outside of the Batcave is minimal, and I’ve spent way too much time grappling to difficult vantage points than actually fighting crime. It’s like I’m more of a passenger watching the world turn right in front of eyes. More interactions would be an improvement, as well as at least doubling the length of the game. There are Riddler trophies to collect, a staple of the series if you wish to replay certain chapters of the game once completed.
Note: The review for Batman: Arkham VR is based on a digital PlayStation VR copy of the game, provided by the publisher.