Bat­man Arkham VR PSVR

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Bat­man Arkham VR’s run­time may be brief – about 90 min­utes, de­pend­ing on how long you linger in each lo­ca­tion – but it’ll make you feel more like the Dark Knight in that short win­dow of time than any other Bat­man game to date. The evoca­tive act of slip­ping into that in­fa­mous cowl and util­ity belt isn’t even di­min­ished when you in­evitably start danc­ing like an id­iot in the mir­ror Rock­steady hand­ily pro­vides.

This waifish game is a se­ries of short set-pieces in which you get on with var­i­ous iconic Bat­man tasks – such as be­ing stand­off­ish to Alfred while he pa­tiently tries to help, or tor­ment­ing the Pen­guin for in­for­ma­tion – in be­tween paw­ing at, pick­ing up and chuck­ing over your shoul­der (or di­rectly at Alfred) ev­ery­thing that isn’t nailed down. It’s im­me­di­ate fun that man­ages to some­how bal­ance Job Sim­u­la­tor’s wil­ful an­tag­o­nism with a dark, some­times upset­ting plot.

The story sees Bat­man try­ing to lo­cate an AWOL Nightwing and as­cer­tain the iden­tity of a killer loose in Gotham city. Some sec­tions lean heav­ily on puz­zle solv­ing, while oth­ers are pre­dom­i­nantly ex­pe­ri­en­tial rather than re­volv­ing around game­play me­chan­ics. When you’re per­mit­ted to use your gad­gets (a grap­pling hook, a bi­o­log­i­cal scan­ner and an end­less sup­ply of Batarangs) you’ll be in­ves­ti­gat­ing crime scenes, look­ing for ev­i­dence in morgues and dis­tract­ing hench­men to get a snip­ing win­dow for the AI-pi­loted Batwing.

In most scenes you’re able to move around a lit­tle by warp­ing be­tween points, but your free­dom is lim­ited as Rock­steady tightly chore­ographs each vi­gnette. In one mem­o­rable se­quence you’re rooted to the spot as the en­vi­ron­ment changes around you, to dis­turb­ing ef­fect. At the cen­tre of all of this is the Bat­cave, an area that acts as a hub from which you can con­duct foren­sic analysis, track the lo­ca­tions of key char­ac­ters and in­dulge in a spot of tar­get prac­tice on a train­ing range. The var­i­ous gad­gets avail­able to play with make for an amus­ing toy­box at first as you fig­ure out what each one does, but their ap­peal is short-lived.

Rock­steady has em­bed­ded some re­play value in the form of an as­sort­ment of Rid­dler-set co­nun­drums, which are un­locked once you fin­ish the game, and they open up new warp­ing lo­ca­tions in en­vi­ron­ments, mak­ing a sec­ond playthrough worth­while. But the com­pact na­ture of the game’s arc means its nar­ra­tive rhythm feels a lit­tle off and things clat­ter to an end well be­fore you ex­pect – or want – them to. That’s tes­ta­ment to the po­tent ex­pe­ri­ence Rock­steady has cre­ated, but the irk­some re­sult is that it’s also eas­ier to un­der­stand how Com­mis­sioner Gor­don must feel af­ter one of Bat­man’s fleet­ing vis­its.

Us­ing the Move con­trollers with ArkhamVR re­veals a sen­si­tiv­ity to light­ing con­di­tions that can re­duce your vir­tual hands’ sta­bil­ity if the room you’re play­ing in isn’t op­ti­mal. For the most part, though, ev­ery­thing works well De­vel­oper Rock­steady Pub­lisher Warner Bros For­mat PSVR Re­lease Out now

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