Just when I was starting to doubt PlayStation VR, Batman: Arkham VR completely validated it.
Limitations of the device – alongside advise from Sony’s legal department, I’m sure – mean you’re never going to be able to use Freeflow Combat against thugs, but this is the next best thing. You’ll (quite literally) put you on the cowl of the Dark Knight Detective as and solve the mystery of the disappearances of your wards, Tim Drake (Robin) and Dick Grayson (Nightwing).
Taking place in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham world, you begin the experience on the rooftop of Gotham City Police Department. Well, sort of. That’s really the starting menu of the game, but I spent a good five minutes just checking out the Bat Signal and Gotham’s skyline. Arkham VR does exactly what virtual reality is supposed to do, making you feel like you’re actually part of the experience. The same rings true for the Batcave itself, packed to the brim with stuff to muck around with.
Using two Move controllers – one for each hand, which is standard – Batman can interact with objects in the environment with ease. Equipped with a scanner, a grappling hook and batarangs, you can also use those devices on select objects in each level. A cast of characters from Arkham series of games feature throughout, though we won’t spoil its roster here. That said, we’ve got a series of Let’s Play videos that you can watch here if you’re so inclined.
You feel powerful from the second you put on your gauntlets and that iconic cowl. You’re even more empowered when you get to target batarangs at enemies and other targets. Getting up close with life-sized recreations of Robin, Nightwing and Alfred made me squeal with delight, taking the time to get close and personal with characters who’ve fuelled many childhood sessions of make-believe.
I’ve whinged about PS VR’s graphical limitations in the past, but I’ll quiet up a bit with Arkham VR. Things look great, ripped from the Arkham games themselves, and the only thing you’ll notice when in any environment is that textures soften when you’re not looking at them. Items in your actual field of view sharped almost immediately as you look upon them. It’s a neat way to get a bit more oomph from available power, and your brain is quick to dismiss the effect; in doing so, it becomes unnoticeable (unless you’re really thinking about it).
The hour-long experience packs the perfect amount of nostalgia, action and puzzle-solving, and finished up just when my head was starting to ache from the headset. It does lose some points for the inclusion of Riddler Trophies as a replay tool, though – I’d have thought Rocksteady would have learned that lesson by now. Even then, Batman: Arkham VR does neat little things with Batman’s world, including crime scene investigations with more actual interactivity then we’ve seen in the entire Arkham franchise before it. Rebuilding clues and other objects from recreations is a fun addition as well.
Little additions scattered throughout the experience remind me of one of my other favourite gaming memories: playing through the recreation of the U.S.S. Voyager inside Star Trek: Elite Force. This time though, I’m not just looking at items in one of my favourite worlds on a computer screen, but interacting with them in full immersion. It’s utter bliss.
This is the best use of PlayStation VR that I’ve seen currently available. The other, Star Trek: Bridge Crew, won’t be available for a bit. Their common denominator is an easy one – who wouldn’t want to be an actual part of a lifelong love? Batman: Arkham VR is a must-have for any Bat-fan with a PS VR system.
Batman Arkham VR was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4 and PlayStation VR, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.