Batman: Arkham VR Review – Oculus Rift

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Last October I got to review Batman: Arkham VR when it was a launch exclusive for the PlayStation VR. Recently released to PC, Vive and Rift owners can now explore the virtually rich and detailed world of the caped crusader, and the improvements are nothing short of amazing. As with the console version it’s important to realize that Arkham VR isn’t as much of a game as it is an hour long proof-of-concept demo of what a “real” Batman game could be if Rocksteady Studios chose to flesh these concepts out into something more substantial.

Arkham VR covers all the bullet points of what a Batman game needs. You have all the signature villains in various degrees of appearance as well as nods to Robin and Nightwing, plug the obligatory sequence of watching Bruce(y) witness his parents infamous murder in the alley. There is brief interaction with Alfred, as well as loads of hidden references to other characters from the Batman universe and even crossover references to Arrow and Superman.

That is part of the appeal to Arkham VR. It may only take an hour to reach the end, but you could easily spend upwards of 4-6 hours finding everything this game has to offer.  Much can be found on a thorough first visit, but repeated trips are required to find all the Riddler secrets and unlock the game’s hidden secrets. There are also numerous Achievement challenges that will keep you coming back, as well as an addictive Batarang shooting gallery in the Batcave that tracks your high scores.

While playable with a controller you most certainly will want to play with motion controllers and the Oculus Touch works fantastic, allowing you to enjoy independent use of the grapple gun and your dual-mode analyzer that can scan for clues much like the detective mode sequences from the signature Arkham games. The game just loses a lot of its interactive charm when you settle for gamepad controls. I really enjoyed the ability to interact with random objects in the levels, using the trigger to grab items then examine and rotate them more closely; especially an early 3D puzzle that included rebuilding a model of Gotham. Likewise, you can also play seated or standing, although there are several sequences that require quick 360 movement, so I highly recommend the standing option unless you are playing from a swivel chair.

The Batcave is home to a wealth of interactive exploration with all sorts of activities and challenges to occupy at least an hour of your time. As you unlock various characters in the game you can check their bios and 3D models in the Bat Computer, eavesdrop on broadcasts using an elaborate surveillance station, and analyze evidence using a sophisticated forensics station to breakdown and scan blood samples.

My only major disappointment was the lack of anything physical. Movement is all handled by teleporting from spot to spot. Even when you leave the Batcave in the Batmobile or the Batwing you only hear the engine as the screen fades to black. There is no cockpit view or transitional video. And by the time you reach the end of the experience you’ll think back and realize how little you actually did.   There is no combat; although you do get to watch a reconstructed fight sequence, and the only time you use your Batarangs is to solve environmental puzzles, often in conjunction with the grapple.

Nonetheless, Arkham VR is great fun and hints at a potential of what Rocksteady could do if they chose to make an entire Batman game set in virtual reality. I don’t mind the linear storytelling going on in this demo if I could throw a punch or two.   Batman: Arkham VR delivers some high-quality graphics that are a major improvement over the PSVR version. Running at higher resolution with greater texture details and a better FOV, you are totally immersed in some totally impressive visuals that stand up to the closest scrutiny. The only downside is the length, so if you can’t manage to get 2-4 hours of exploration and fun out of this game then you might want to wait for a sale, but rest assured this is one game that no VR-equipped fan of the Bat should miss.

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