|Publisher||Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 13, 2016|
Batman: Arkham VR is a virtual reality adventure game that takes place in the Arkham universe and puts you in the boots of the Batman. It’s all in the name really. Where many games have previously claimed to let you be the Batman, Arkham VR is the one to finally let you actually be the Batman, leveraging virtual reality to incredibly impressive effect to make you feel like you’re truly under the cowl of the World’s Greatest Detective.
You may have noticed I’m skirting around the story. With good reason. Arkham VR is purely driven by its narrative. To spoil any aspect of it would do you a great disservice, if you haven’t already played it. There’s about an hour’s worth of story here (depending on how long you mess around simply existing in Gotham City as the Goddamn Batman). This can be stretched out by about another hour collecting Riddler trophies and solving his puzzles, which all unlock once you’ve beaten the game once.
Yes it’s short. Yes it’ll leave you wanting so much more. But what’s here is the most immersive Batman experience you’ve ever had. Exploring Gotham from a first-person, virtual perspective gives you a sharp appreciation for just how grim Batman’s world is. While I’ve always appreciated that Gotham is a dark world, I quickly came to fully realise just how intimidating it can be until I was the one under the cowl.
I simply can’t say enough about how incredible Arkham VR is as an experience. From the opening scene that gives you a brand new perspective on the moment that forged Batman, to descending into the Batcave from Wayne Manor and suiting up, this is the defining Batman experience. It’s definitely my love of the character shining through, but I could have been happy with that being the entire experience. I mean, the game almost literally starts with you putting on the Batman suit and looking in a mirror. Luckily there’s a game out there on the streets and rooftops of Gotham City.
Arkham VR works well within the limitations it imposes upon itself. It’s not a game in which you’re going to be beating up the criminals that stalk the streets and back alleys of Gotham. In fact, its primary gameplay is fully emphasised on the “World’s Greatest Detective” aspect of the Batman character. After an awe-inspiring descent on a lift into the Batcave, and playing with everything in sight, you’re equipped with a grapnel gun, some batarangs and a forensic scanner and sent forth to solve a mystery.
What that mystery is I won’t say, but it’s all driven by detective work and the odd puzzle to solve. You’re rooted to the spot, save for being able to teleport between predetermined spots in the environment using the Move controllers. It’s a system that works well for the game that Rocksteady have created, though there are moments where you’ll fade out and hear the sounds of a brawl, or the roar of the Batmobile and dream of what could have been (or is yet to come).
Arkham VR trades in traditional movement for an increased physicality in the game world via the Move controllers. You hold a Move controller in each hand and they’re replicated in the world as Batman’s hands, allowing you to pick up and directly interact with a bunch of stuff in the environment. Early on in the game you’ll be equipped with your gadgets and must physically stow them on your utility belt. It sounds like a simple thing, but it’s one of the coolest parts of the game.
Drawing your scanner and grapnel gun like weapons in a holster is pretty badass. Pulling a Batarang off the front of your utility belt and throwing them around feels fantastic. Every aspect of the game, from it’s grandest moments right down to its smallest details sells this as a great experience. Plus there’s a metric ton of satisfying easter eggs to unearth. It’s immediately obvious while playing the game that this was created by the studio that defined the video game version of Batman.
Rooting you to the spot also makes Arkham VR one of the most comfortable virtual reality games currently available. That’s not to say you can’t look around. You’re able to move about in each of the areas, which truly allows you to explore the world of Batman up close. What was once only available at a distance is now somewhere you can actually visit. The Batcave boasts a number of character models and iconic items that you can pick up, look at, use and interact with.
It might only last an hour or two, but it’s very easy to stay far longer just for the opportunity to look at everything. My only criticism of the game, aside from desperately wanting more of it, is the content of the story. I’m not going to even hint at what happens during the course of Arkham VR, so unfortunately I need to try and expand on this while being as vague as possible.
The story is entertaining stuff, and allows you to go visit some of the more iconic Batman locations and get uncomfortably close to some of the greatest villains in comic book history. It’s also less than ideal for the first time inhabiting the character. To say any more would spoil critical plot points, but anyone who’s familiar with how the story plays out may understand my disappointment that this particular Batman adventure is the first (hopefully of many) VR experience in the world of Gotham.
Let’s just say that anyone familiar with the story of one of the previous Arkham games will already be able to see how this adventure is going to unfold. Arkham VR is also a very easy game, with the various puzzles that it puts in front of you barely requiring any effort or thinking to solve. Luckily, the journey is still absolutely worth taking, regardless of how predictable or free from challenge it may be.
Batman: Arkham VR is the ultimate Batman experience, and a must play for any fans of the Dark Knight or the Arkham series. What was once a world that could only be experienced from a distance is now a playground that you can visit, thanks to the awesome power of virtual reality. While it’s short and very easy to complete, neither of those things rob Arkham VR of just how immersive and great an experience inhabiting the character is. You’ve never seen Gotham City like this before, and words can’t do justice to just how excellently realised this is as a VR experience.
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