Rocksteady's never been shy depicting Batman as the mentally deranged individual that he so clearly is, and with the British studio back on development duties for this short virtual reality story, it's Bruce Wayne's busted psyche that once again takes centre stage. Batman: Arkham VR may only take you about an hour to see through, but this is borderline essential material for fans of the franchise's gritty fiction.
And that's because Gotham City has never quite felt so real before. Batman: Arkham Knight captured the sheer scale of the sprawling metropolis like no game before it, but standing in Crime Alley as a spooked Master Bruce brings an authenticity to the rain-slicked streets. Admittedly, it's annoying to have to revisit the origins of the Dark Knight yet again, but at least this time it comes with the added novelty of virtual reality.
It's sitting at the piano of Wayne Manor that this story really starts to pick up pace, though. Worldly butler Alfred alerts you to an incident that demands your immediate attention, and from there you'll find yourself gearing up as the Caped Crusader. Using two PlayStation Move wands to reflect your hands, you'll need to attach your gear to your utility belt, and even don the cowl. There are some nice little touches here – like a mirror which shows you dressed as Batman – that really add to the immersion.
Once in the Batcave, you're free to play around with Bats' not insignificant number of gadgets. For example, you can analyse blood vials, inspect the Batmobile, and hack into nearby radio stations. There's even a minigame that tests your ability to toss Batarangs, and while the aiming is all handled automatically, it's fun playing with all of the tools at your disposal – it makes you feel like you really are a detective with access to some serious cutting-edge technology.
And this is important, because the campaign very much plays out like a murder mystery. You'll find yourself travelling to a half-dozen or so different locations, attempting to track down the assailant of one of your allies. We'll refrain from revealing too much as any more information will ruin the surprises in store for you, but there are some great cameos here – and some real shocks towards the end. It gets pretty dark quickly, and it actually made us jump a couple of times.
Once you've beaten the adventure, you can replay it again, attempting to solve Riddler puzzles which encourage you to comb each environment in a little more detail. This is a nice addition, as, while it's not going to extend your playtime enormously, it does give you a good reason to go back, and makes the relatively steep price of entry that little easier to swallow. When all's said and done, though, you're still only going to get about three hours play time total out of this.
Which is probably the package's biggest problem. Some jittery PlayStation Move tracking issues aside, what's here is pretty darn incredible, and we'd honestly play an entire campaign this way – but you're not getting anything close to that, and that's a shame. There's hope that Rocksteady will take the lessons that it's learned here and invest into something a little more substantial, but for now, you're just going to have to make do with this appetiser.
How much would you pay to be Batman for an hour? If your answer sits somewhere in the region of £15.99/$19.99, then Batman: Arkham VR is a virtual no-brainer. With the exception of the finicky motion tracking and brief running time, this is an exceptional short story that eloquently demonstrates many of the advantages of virtual reality. But perhaps the most impressive thing here is that, in transforming you into the Dark Knight, it illuminates both the pros and cons of being a masked vigilante. And while the former interactions will make you feel downright awesome, it's when the Caped Crusader slowly begins to unravel that it comes into its own.
It's weird, because the reviews I'm seeing for both the games and the hardware seem to be predominantly positive, however there are some websites (kotaku for instance) who feel the PSVR is essentially broken. They referred to it as an "island for Sony's misfit toys."
I'm really excited for the launch next week, but it is unusual to see numerous writers giving it high praise, and a minority of others stating it's a waste of money and time. Normally I would just form my own opinion, but the admission price to do that in this instance is quite high.
@JoeBlogs I do, kind of, which is where I had a fiddle with the Rift. Sod it. You only live once. Even if it ends up being a disaster it'll probably be a collectors item in 20 years like my Virtual Boy is now!
@JoeBlogs I do and it does. I've always had a soft spot for Nintendo stuff from my younger days. If you've ever got a spare £200-£300 lying around they're fairly easy to get from eBay
I'll have to check that episode out!
@AhabSpampurse - Galvatron applauds your comment re reviews from other sites.
Kotaku, which reviewed the PSVR by its most corrupt 'Reviewer' Kirk Hamilton, has by some distance some of the most biased, sneering comments I've seen since he and other reviewers reviewed.....PlayStation Vita.
If Hamilton despises VR and evidently Sony this much, as is obvious to infer from his tone and wording, then why bother giving titbits of charitable comments near the end of his review and the comments section which fly foul in the face of his review? Example - "id like to add the actual feeling of being Batman is awesome" - this is in the COMMENTS SECTION of his Batman / PSVR review, yet HE BASICALLY TEARS INTO THE GAME THROUGHOUT THE REVIEW and these positive comments are nowhere in his actual review.
It's a similar story with other reviews, and it's exactly what prompted Galvatron to pen 'Reviewing the Reviewers' a few years ago, and it's clear the state of the reviewing community is rife with bias, petulance and in many cases amateur journalism by fools who refuse to look at their own work and 'fess up.
I have no doubt PSVR, as a first on mainstream consoles, will be fiddly and have embryonic issues such as the cabling, stutters etc - but if it's evident there is much joy in the immersion factor, why feel the need to trample on it?
Sammy did a good review on the hardware, but someone needs to call out shockingly unprofessional and biased reviewers like Hamilton, who has previous for his work on other titles.
What we need is a show where reviewers fully disagree with verdicts and openly discuss them, then annihilate them with reasoned objectivity, not petulance on a grand scale.
I'll be buying Batman VR, let's see what these same fools say to Driveclub VR next week.
Galvatron awaits....and will comment. Perhaps directly to Hamilton to ask him why he felt the need to lower Kotaku's reputation further 😏
@AhabSpampurse That's quite a funny way of describing it actually. An "island for Sony's misfit toys" — I really like that line.
However, I do think it comes across a little more negative than the situation reflects. I think those "misfit toys" come together in a way that's pretty damn powerful.
Most of the reviews that I've seen are positive. Like I said in my review, it's not perfect and there are obvious areas that will be improved over the years to come, but I still think what they've got is incredible.
Batman: Arkham VR is a good example of that.
@Galvatron Why do you refer to yourself in third person?
Not into this VR schtuff....maybe its just me.
@Galvatron "I have no doubt PSVR, as a first on mainstream consoles, will be fiddly and have embryonic issues such as the cabling, stutters etc - but if it's evident there is much joy in the immersion factor, why feel the need to trample on it?"
This. I tend to give new tech a bit of leeway at launch and was happy to do so in this instance, but I took absolutely no positives from his review, as any that were mentioned were small and largely overwhelmed by the negative tone.
And cheers for commenting @get2sammyb, you've reassured me that there's definitely some positives there to enjoy. I'll just make sure my expectations are suitably managed.
Personal choice, just as it's yours to highlight, though there are more interesting points to make re PSVR, n' est ce pas?
Galvatron finds first-person often more cathartic, though it appears not to Autobot sensibilities 😏
Nearly all of the PSVR games I'm only going to bother paying a few quid for if they're PSN only, all other physical releases that aren't full games I'll rent, in 6 months time when I eventually pick one up I'll have a lovely pool of games.
@Galvatron Who needs PSVR to pretend to be something you're not when you've got website comment sections.
@slimcrowder - is that question in first or third-person?
This is getting confusing? "What IS real" 😝
Looks alright but paying £350 plus for a thing that only plays tech demo like games, just doesn't seem worth it to me.
More of an experience than a game but hopefully in time we will get some good VR games. I just hope this isn't another Move fiasco.
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