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Batman Arkham VR Review

"Being Virtual Batman Ain't That Bad After All"

The main Arkham series for Batman is over now, but Rocksteady is not yet finished with the Caped Crusader. PlayStation VR opened a new opportunity for the developer to go back to what made them famous. Arkham Knight’s slogan was to become the Batman, but Arkham VR is literally becoming him by wearing the cowl. Rocksteady knew not to go too crazy by making a new full game in VR. Instead, they went with a smaller, more focused experience. Batman Arkham VR is a great showpiece for PlayStation VR that also goes to unexpected places.

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The story is an alternate tale in Rocksteady’s Arkham universe. Seeing Bruce Wayne’s parents getting killed off at the beginning is as old as Mario seeing Bowser kidnap Princess Peach. That flashback scene however takes a different meaning in VR where you can feel for Bruce in his first-person perspective. Back from his dream, Alfred informs Batman that both Nightwing and Robin have gone missing. Their comms got disabled, so it’s up to Batman to use his tools and smarts to find them. Some of Batman’s known villains have a role in Arkham VR’s story. The plot twists with them are the most unexpected I seen for the series. Let’s just say fans will be surprised by this game’s ending as Rocksteady’s storytelling is still top notch.

Batman Arkham VR wisely focuses on Batman’s detective skills than his action prowess. The former was one of the main games’ strongest features and it properly gets center stage in PlayStation VR. Putting on the Batsuit in VR is quite an empowering moment before heading to the Batcave. You don’t control Bruce directly in first-person as he grapples or zips to a different spot. He can also use batarangs to hit targets and hidden objects. However you’ll be using the forensic scanner mostly to solve the game’s crime scenes. It’s nice to see brains over braun shine in a game like this where you usually expect action. In other words, it’s a mix of the Arkham games and the recent TellTale series.

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Besides the main story that takes about a hour or two to beat, there are side activities to do. There’s target practice you can fire up using batarangs in the Batcave for high scores. Character and vehicle models can be looked at in VR when you’re at the computer or garage. Easter eggs that series fans will love are also hidden throughout the game as well. The meat of the side activities however are the return of Riddler challenges. After you beat the game, the Riddler tells you about his challenges hidden in all the game’s acts. Rocksteady has gone overboard with the Riddler parts before. Fortunately they are easier to find and solve in Arkham VR. Even if you find all the Riddler stuff, you’re pretty much done with the game as the replay value isn’t much beyond trophies.

Once you boot up the game, it tells you that the Move controllers are highly recommended to use and to stand when playing. However, I played the game primarily seated with a Dual Shock 4. Arkham VR controls fine with a regular controller, but the Move is recommended for a reason. With the PlayStation Move, the VR experience feels more natural controlling Batman’s hands. The calibration process is also more complex than simple. Instead of normally holding the options button to center the VR headset screen, the game goes on a multi-step process to calibrate. Rocksteady is dead set on making sure you have their ideal setup to play the game at the recommended distance.

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The Arkham universe looks great in PlayStation VR. Sure, the graphical resolution is not as good as the main games, but seeing the world around you is still cool. Your first look at the Batcave as you’re going down an elevator is a sight to behold. Out of the PlayStation VR games I played so far with a realistic look, Batman Arkham VR does the best job at that style. The last act especially has some neat graphical touches as well in VR. Voice acting is also great to no surprise especially that the voices you want for certain characters are back reprising their roles.

Batman Arkham VR is a short yet sweet VR experience for $19.99. I had no expectations for it when it was announced, but the story’s twists took me by surprise. It shows that Rocksteady can still tell great alternative stories within the Arkham universe even though the main arc is done. There are some great emotional and empowering moments throughout the hour plus journey as well. While many would remember the Arkham games for it’s combat system, Batman’s detective skills being the primary focus of this game is a refreshing sight. Even though it plays fine with a Dual Shock 4, it is better played with Move controllers for a more natural experience. As a recognizable IP for the PlayStation VR launch, Batman Arkham VR is worth getting. It’s also a great showpiece for others to try out if they’re on the fence with VR.

Rating
8.0
Pros
  • Short yet sweet showpiece for PlayStation VR
  • Some great emotional and empowering moments in the game's story
  • Plot's ending goes on unexpected twists for the better
  • Batman's detective skills as the primary gameplay focus is refreshing for the series
Cons
  • Playing with the Dual Shock 4 feels less natural than the Move controllers
  • Lack of replay value beyond post-game Riddler challenges and trophies
  • VR Calibration process more complex than simple

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