Many of the launch games available for Sony’s PlayStation VR system are shorter experiences, designed to showcase what is possible in virtual reality. Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham VR is probably the best launch game for showing off to friends and family how powerful storytelling can be in virtual reality. Part of what makes the main Arkham series special were the superb writing and voice performances and this virtual reality spin-off focuses on these aspects to fully immerse you in Batman’s world.
The opening moment places you on top of the GCPD headquarters as Batman looks over the city. It is an impressive sight in VR, with the bustling city beneath you as the neon lights of Gotham light up the night sky. Looking over the skyline of the iconic city, waiting for the story to kick in, is one of the best single moments I’ve had using PlayStation VR. The story quickly begins as you’re once again shown the famous Bruce Wayne origin story, albeit from a very unique perspective. Then, returning to the present, Alfred informs you that Nightwing and Robin did not report in the previous night and Batman heads out to track them down.
As you’d expect, Rocksteady tells a fantastic detective story that keeps you guessing and sees the return of some the series’ wonderful characters. Coming face to face with the giant Killer-Croc or the stumpy Penguin is thrilling and initially terrifying. The characters feel even more menacing than before when they are fully sized and not limited to the confines of your television screen. The way they look like they would in the real-world and move naturally makes Arkham VR all the more immersive.
The game isn’t all about the characters, though, as it also features a fleshed out and more involved version of the detective mode in the main games. You can move about the area, picking the angle that is best for analyzing bodies or parts of the environment. Batman’s gadgets, limited here to Batarangs, Grapple Gun, and Forensic Scanner, are incorporated well. Unclip them from your belt and use them in your investigations, revealing more about the mystery facing the caped crusader.
The problem though is that it is all over so quickly. The story doesn’t last any longer than an hour and, other than full replays, there is not much of a reason to return. There are some Riddler challenges that unlock throughout the story after one play-through but, other than trophies, there isn’t a reward for solving them all. Since, compared to other PSVR launch games, Arkham VR is so detailed, it is understandable that it couldn’t be much longer, but even a few more scenes would flesh out the story and give the characters room to breathe.
The set-up and calibration in Arkham VR also proved problematic. Each tine you start up the game, you are required to place yourself in a very specific location in front of the camera with your move controllers and headset being a certain distance away from everything. You can expect to be tinkering with the placement of your camera, as well as where you are sitting or standing, before you get into the game. I would recommend standing when playing Arkham VR because it makes the set-up much easier and some in-game items can be too low to reach if you are sitting down.
Ultimately, if you don’t mind paying for what could be only an hour of gameplay to experience the excellent story and compelling characters of Rocksteady’s Arkham games, except this time in virtual reality, then Arkham VR will probably be perfect for you and for showing off your new kit to friends and family.
SCORE: 3.5/5 – Fair