Playstation 4 Virtual Reality is here and thank the gods for it! Batman Arkham VR is available, and finally I can truly say: “I am Batman.”
Yes, and so can you. YOU get to put the suit on. YOU put on the utility belt (no shark repellent though). YOU come face-to-face with the Joker. What a thrill for any person who has ever yearned to look into the mirror and see Batman reflecting back: an impossible childhood dream becomes realized at one point in the game. The thrill of seeing Gotham through the eyes of Batman is worth the price of admission. One needs to have the Playstation Move in addition to the Virtual Reality console in order to play, because you will be putting on the Batgloves.
The world is well-decorated. Gotham is at its grittiest and grimiest. No pastel colors here, just rich grays, blacks and reds, shaded and textured to give the viewer a reach out and touch sensation. This 360 degree, head turning world is brought to you by a collaboration between Warner Brothers/DC Comics and Rocksteady Games, and the attention to detail is impressive. Rocksteady did a great job on the previous Batman Arkham Trilogy, so my expectations were high.
The skies, and even the grounds, are all as richly ornamented as the foregrounds are at eye level. It’s an immersive experience that engages the player in the surroundings. I felt energized and ready to explore all Gotham had to offer. The interface worked well-enough to give me a decent Point-of-View experience. I found myself pausing at the beginning of every scene, just to soak in all the finer points of the game design. The thrill of descending into the Batcave gave me goose bumps. It was everything I was hoping it would be. The 3D sound captures every drip of water down below and every flutter of bat wings from above.
You don’t have to do too much walking, the interface allows you to zip around from point-to-point so you don’t accidentally step on your dog in middle of gameplay. I felt comfortable in my small living room, even though the world of Gotham looks expansive and epic.
OK, so it’s not an action game, it’s a detective story. I can dig it. A character close to Batman is found dead and you, as Batman, have to go to several locations and piece together the murder scene and then, later, find the killer. Next up you get the task of finding a kidnapped Robin. Throughout there are some brainteasers and problems to solve. You get to use some cool bat-gadgets. You also get into Arkham Asylum for a peak into the horrors that it houses. Yeah. It’s pretty cool stuff.
But it’s also glitchy. Sometimes you go to get something off of the utility belt and it takes a few attempts before you can grab it. If someone hands you something and you drop it, you can’t bend over and pick it up. I had to restart a level twice because of this. A few of the puzzles you have to solve seem like pointless time-wasters, put there just to stretch out the scenes.
It’s short. Really short. You can complete the whole game in a half a day. I didn’t play for too long (my ADD prevents extended periods of playtime). It took me three days playing about an hour a day to complete the main storyline. All of the sudden the game is over and the credits begin to roll. What? That’s it? Then the game offers you the option to go back to all the levels you just completed, and solve some riddles left there by the Riddler. I chose not to. I’m not sure I needed to do that. It just seemed lame. I was so distraught at the abruptness of the ending that offering me this task was like taking away my steak and offering me jelly beans.
Can you drive the Batmobile? No.
Can you ride the Batcycle? No.
Kiss Vicki Vale? No.
Punch someone? No.
Avenge your Father’s death? No.
Price? 20 bucks.
There are transitions where you hear the Batmobile driving, but the screen goes black while loading the next scene. It felt like a cop-out. Why not at least SHOW us the Batmobile speeding through the streets of the city? Instead it’s like we’re in an episode of Gotham CSI, and we just walk around looking for clues. I enjoyed the experience, and for twenty dollars I can’t complain too much— I’d gladly pay triple that for more of a complete Batman experience. Or even better, an Assassin’s Creed experience, with some freedom to explore the environment outside of the narrative.
One can only hope this was meant as a practice test before a REAL Batman game is released. My fingers are crossed. I’m a Batman fan, so I gladly forked over the money. How much of a fan you are should guide your decision to purchase it. Now, I can’t wait for Spiderman.