Rocksteady keeps its reputation intact with one of the finest games to launch with PSVR.
Version tested PlayStation 4
A quick Google search for Batman: Arkham VR will result in one underlying opinion: it’s too short. While Rocksteady’s take on a virtual reality version of The Dark Knight does only clock in at just over an hour, such a thought process is overlooking a crucial fact: five minutes in Batman’s shoes is a hundred times better than an entire life in anyone else’s. I would make that trade in a heartbeat.
Thankfully, I don’t have to anymore because Arkham VR exists, and Arkham VR is the most wonderful of experiences. The appeal of such technology is its ability to place you within environments that were never possible before, and this is exactly what you get to do. You are Batman. Now go and do what Batman does. If that doesn’t appeal, you were never the game’s target audience to begin with. Naturally.
What’s here really is special, though, making any accusations of length almost irrelevant. From the moment you find yourself sitting in Wayne Manor with the familiar voice of Alfred echoing in the distance, you’d have to be dead inside not to feel a slight rush of adrenaline. This intensifies once the trusty butler informs you of a potential problem in Gotham City. We all know what that means…
I genuinely think striking a note on Bruce Wayne’s piano and slowly descending to the confines of the Batcave is one of the best things I’ve ever done in a video game. Admittedly I’m slightly in love with the Caped Crusader, but it’s so well designed – and the tech so impressive – that it’s not too much of a stretch to suspend your disbelief and think: ‘Well, what do you know? I am Batman!’ It’s a surge that continues to rise until you actually have to reach out and put that famous cowl on your head. Then forget about it. You’ll probably need to go and lie down.
Obviously these moments are designed to make you feel such a way. It’s Rocksteady’s way of building the tension. Once you get into what Arkham VR is actually all about, the results are still worth talking about.
This isn’t the Batman simulator you’ve been hoping for since you were a child. Movement is restricted to specific points within miniature hub areas, and you’re completely at the game’s mercy as to what you can do. Each scenario plays out how it’s intended and you fill in the blanks as and when is appropriate. The execution is of such a high standard, however, that you truly do get a sense of what nightlife for Bruce Wayne must be like.
On top of this, Rocksteady has taken the very daring decision to make this one of the most adult takes on the DC character yet seen in a game. Redefining the word dark, there are some truly horrific revelations before the end credits roll, and the difficulties a superhero such as this may face are laid bare for the world to see.
Its final moments especially are harrowing. Utilising all the tricks that Batman’s enemies have been known for, I defy anyone to be able to sit through it without even the slightest hint of dread. The atmosphere is unreal, and it’s made very clear that a lifestyle such as the one Bats has isn’t all peaches and cream. Let’s face it, too: that’s not the dream we create for ourselves when we play dress-up. There, it’s focused around empowerment and dominance. That Rocksteady has taken such an idea and flipped it on its head is fantastic, and it’s all thanks to VR.
A large reason for this is due to how well the developers understand who and what Batman is, a fact that’s represented even during Arkham VR’s quieter moments. For instance, what would such a creation be without ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’ standing over Gotham, brooding away? It would be a travesty, but here it’s front and centre.
Gotham itself looks lovely, too. It’s hard to describe the immersion created when VR gets it right and having a city that’s been so well documented over the years presented in such a fashion is downright marvelous. You’ll notice recognisable names and landmarks that will just drag you in further, and it’s a testament to all involved that such effort has been put in.
But, of course, it’s only fair to return to the fact that, yes, Arkham VR does not last particularly long. Given its structure, too – each segment will play out the same each time – there isn’t a great deal of replay value here, but there is some.
Once you’ve reached the end, The Riddler returns, scattering his now famous trophies around the aforementioned hubs. While these repeat the same pattern as before, it does give you a reason to go back in and take a second look. Aside from the opportunity to notice more of the excellent scenery, figuring out how to grab some of these is tough – the challenge isn’t easy. If you need an excuse to go through it again, this is as good as any.
Arkham VR could be thrown into the ‘tech demo’ category that so many games at this stage will be, and that wouldn’t be a total disservice – it is more of an experience than anything else. At the same time, however, that’s failing to understand or appreciate what this is: a superbly crafted concept that satisfies an itch many people have been craving for years.
If this is the future of PSVR – even with debatable running times – then sign me up. It’s excellent.
Batman: Arkham VR review
Cowl me maybe.