Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4 (PSVR)
Genre: Adventure / Puzzle
Arguably the single most iconic superhero of all time, Batman is always a commanding presence. It should come as no surprise then that Rocksteady and Warner Bros would help PlayStation showcase its new virtual reality hardware with an offering that allows players to be the bat. What does it mean to step into the mind and body of Bruce Wayne, though? Sometimes things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
There is a lot of dark content in this game. In fact, it may be the darkest Batman game released to date. There’s a lot of psychosis and dark content involved here. I would not recommend children experience some of this content.
There are scenes of characters being murdered, beaten to death, suffering bone fractures, shot point blank, and more. There’s no gore or viscera but what is shown is both dark and gruesome.
There is some mild language
Exercising analytic, puzzle-solving, and detective skills
Needed Gear: PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR headset, 2 PlayStation Move controllers, PS Camera
Everyone’s first question is going to be, “How awesome is it to be Batman? Do you really feel like you’re him?” The answer, much to my surprise, is that it’s actually much more complex than a simple yes-or-no. The Arkham franchise has been around for a few years now and has unsurprisingly grown a generation of dedicated fans with it. With the release of the Return to Arkham collection, it makes sense that the devs would do something to draw attention back to the aging franchise, and what better way to do that than with the newest hardware craze? Given known issues with Move controller tracking, how does being Batman hold up? Are you the Batman that Arkham fans have come to know?
Let’s gets straight into the guts of this experience. Rocksteady’s team has done a fantastic job of putting the player in a realistic feeling Gotham. Everything about the buildings and characters screams the classic DC Comics look and feel. Being in that world from a first-person perspective is actually astonishing. From descending into the Batcave to peering down over the side of a 70-story high-rise, everything is surreal. The few encounters you’ll have with various characters is truly a sight to behold.
Being in that environment and being that character are, unfortunately, two very different things. Yes, it feels cool to put on the cowl, toy around with a Batarang, and shoot the grappling hook. Sadly, that and a little bit of environmental puzzling are about all you’re going to get to do though. The game is built to be a slower, more cerebral endeavor and, at only 90 minutes for a whole playthrough, it’s easy to see why. There is no action here. None of the hand-to-hand combat, gliding, or vehicular mechanics fans of the franchise love is in here. Batman: Arkham VR is built to give folks a sense of the “World’s Greatest Detective” from the sleuthing aspect, and even then, it’s woefully short-lived.
Don’t get me wrong—Rocksteady builds a great narrative from the few clues you are able to find around each crime scene. Arkham VR is, however, the darkest narrative content I’ve seen from the Dark Knight in any video game, and you’re experiencing it all from Bruce Wayne’s eyes. There are some phenomenal moments with some big names here, but the whole affair is far too short. You’ll get to experience only a handful of scenes. At the very least, the game would’ve benefited greatly from some additional story or tasks for players more to do.
Mechanically speaking, as I mentioned, you’ll be able to use the motion controls to manipulate your grappling hook and forensic scanner and throw Batarangs, but overall they’re pretty underwhelming. There’s a Batarang target game in the Batcave that’s a neat experience, but it’s rare you’ll even use them beyond that. The grappling hook is primarily how you’ll move around the environment, choosing perches that grant different viewing angles of a scene. The forensic scanner will be your bread and butter here. I loved getting to manipulate everything from first-person. It all felt superfluous by the end of the game, though. Let me fight some guys or drive the Batmobile! I wanted something beyond the pittance of static puzzles Rocksteady’s provided. The Riddler puzzles help add some more meat to the game’s bones, but the ride is still over too quickly.
In practice, there are issues with the the gameplay mechanics. Moving around a virtually-realized 3D environment almost ensures the PlayStation VR’s tracking will have issues, and I can verify that to be the case. The game recommends you play it standing in an open space, but after having done so, I would recommend playing with the seated option to improve tracking. I had to pause the game a dozen times to recalibrate the controls throughout my 90-minute play session. While I’m sure some of that can be accredited to the tracking issues with the PlayStation VR, it plagues Batman: Arkham VR where it feels like an occasional annoyance with other games.
At the end of the day, Batman: Arkham VR is a neat, atmospheric experience fans of the Dark Knight are sure to enjoy. Unfortunately, the game suffers from tracking issues and a criminally weak lack of content. Unless you, like me, just want games to experience on your shiny new VR headset, I’d suggest picking up Batman: Arkham Knight instead and letting this one brood from its Batcave a while longer.
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