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Batman: Arkham VR (PlayStation 4) artwork

Originally released as a timed-exclusive, "the VR Batman game" is one of several titles that was part of the PSVR launch back in October 2016. Even if you know next to nothing about Sony's virtual device, there's a likely chance you've heard of this title. There are two probable reasons for this, with the first being that it's... well, it's Batman; a game that allows players to envision themselves as the Dark Knight, in a first-person virtual experience, is an enticing proposition. The second reason, for many, complemented the first: it was made by Rocksteady, the same team that created the mainline third-person Arkham games. Back when this was announced, imaginations went wild at the prospect of a VR game, crafted by Rocksteady, taking place in the established Arkham universe. Exciting stuff!

Then the game came out. It came out and... it featured zero combat, something the Arkham titles are known for. There's literally one fight scene, and it's just you, as Batman, watching two people have a scripted brawl in an alleyway. Instead, Batman - Arkham VR is more of a detective-style game where you go from scene to scene, putting clues and pieces together in order to unravel a bewildering mystery surrounding Nightwing. And you know what? That's a cool concept for a Batman game. The Caped Crusader is often coined "The World's Greatest Detective" of the DC Universe, so it's actually refreshing having a game based solely on that aspect of his character.

The fight scene in the alleyway, for instance, is actually a crime scene you're investigating. With the help of an absurdly-advanced scanner, you can replay a virtual representation of the altercation. The task here is to observe the brawl and pinpoint the exact moment one of the characters get badly injured for analysis, and you're even allowed to view the fight from several angles. It's the first major investigative segment of the game and quite an impressive introduction. As for another example, you're performing autopsies at the morgue using the same conveniently-useful gadget. While not as engrossing as the alleyway, the game does make you hop around the cramped room, looking for clues and reassembling a broken object.

Of course, any sane person would think the investigative aspects are going to get better and more grandiose from there. But before you even have a chance to ponder what's next, the end credits suddenly pop up on screen. The game has two segments, those two segments, where Batman acts like a detective. Sadly, you can finish the whole experience in a single hour, give or take a few minutes. Arkham VR is essentially a demo of a non-existent, full-length VR title... that you have to pay to play. Now, the original retail price is low, $20, and you can usually get it cheap as a used disc or on sale at the PS Store, but that doesn't change the fact that you are expected, either by Sony or Rocksteady, to buy a demo. It feels blatantly exploitative of a built-in audience.

To further put things into perspective, here's another angle: a lot of early PSVR games are notorious for being short. Average completion ranges anywhere from four to six hours. Even then, the short good ones manage to have a semblance of entertainment value within that brief time span; you're likely to play them again. On the other hand, not only is Arkham VR embarrassingly short for VR standards, but so little is done with its one hour limit. With the exception of the two detective scenes, every other brief scene comes off purely as fanservice of the Batman mythos while doing a terrible job showcasing the possibilities of VR gaming.

One early segment involves being in the Batcave, which sounds neat, full of potential cool interactions. However, this experience comes down to grabbing small objects and poking buttons that amount to no real substance. You have a fetish for putting vials in a centrifuge and watching them spin for no reason? Do you like hearing bios of the Arkham cast? Here you go! The only "fun" thing you can do here is Batarang target practice, implying the weapon will be used in future battles. Because that would make sense. Sadly, you just use them to hit distant objects. There's actually one moment where you toss a Batarang at a fire extinguisher to distract a group of thugs. Again, the way it's set up implies you'll hop down and beat up some goons. Awesome. Instead, the screen gets covered in powder dust and you hear punching sound effects. When the dust clears... everyone is already beat up. Amazing interaction.

Batman - Arkham VR, as a video game and a VR experience, is absolutely rubbish; an afterthought that somehow manifested into a demo you have to purchase. You know just how bad it can get? When you complete the game, your reward is a bonus "challenge" of going through the entire thing again to look for Riddler enigma cubes placed in every segment. Rocksteady presents Hidden Object VR. If you've played the four mainline Arkham titles and think this will be something unique to cap off your journey, prepare for a massive disappointment. There's only two reasons to ever play this if you own a PSVR: you're collecting every PSVR title that has a physical release or you're a diehard Batman fan. A diehard Batman fan willing to get slapped in the face.


pickhut's avatar
Featured community review by pickhut (April 01, 2021)



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