Wednesday 17 January 2018

PSVR reviews: Batman Arkham VR, Until Dawn Rush of Blood, Battlezone

Batman: Arkham VR (PSVR); 5 stars; Age: 18+

Batman: Arkham VR
Batman: Arkham VR
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

IF you buy only one title to discover what’s the fuss about PSVR, let it be Batman. This €20 tour de force runs to maybe 90 minutes of gameplay but dwells long in the mind afterward.

As the cover price and running time confirm, it can’t be considered a full game, especially not one in the mould of the recent series of muscular Batman stealth/driving/combat bestsellers. But it succeeds admirably in capturing the moody feel of Bob Kane’s superhero, as recently updated by Christopher Nolan on film and by developer Rocksteady in gaming.

From the opening shot in which the Dark Knight stands atop a tall building with neon-lit Gotham spread out below, Arkham VR conjures amazing slices of theatrical wonder. But this is Batman as detective rather than vigilante, the action confined to examining clues, pulling levers and, occasionally, tossing a batarang.

What may sound simplistic is instead lent a tremendous physicality in VR, the ability to manipulate objects in 3D space a sheer delight with the Move controllers acting as hands. Gruesome scenes such as autopsies acquire a new power by virtue of being in close proximity to corpses.

When Arkham VR’s mini murder mystery finishes its brief course, there’s still an incentive to replay for hidden secrets. But really it leaves you gagging for more and a burning curiosity to see what Rocksteady could achieve with a full VR game.

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Batman Arkkham VR for PSVR

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood

(PSVR); 5 stars; Age: 18+

DON’T look up. Certainly, don’t look behind you. Even looking forward could be dicey too. In the best traditions of horror, you never know where the scares will come from in Rush of Blood, another bite-sized chunk of VR that hints at a brilliant direction for gaming.

Literally a rollercoaster ride through a horrific fairground, Rush of Blood hands you a pair of guns and sends you hurtling pell-mell to face a gauntlet of cleaver-wielding clowns, buzzsaws and psychotic birds. Terrifying in a good way, it plays the usual ghost-train tricks, slowing to a crawl in darkened rooms, strobe-lighting advancing ghouls and throwing in sufficient jump-scares to keep you on edge.

Unlike, say, a movie, the terror in VR can come at you from any direction – yes, even above. Developer Supermassive knows its horror, doling out an ever-changing roster of frights while distracting you with abundant targets to shoot. Rush of Blood falters in the sometimes frustrating boss fights and, more than other VR games, the motion tracking on the Move controllers often got confused.

But as a €20 dollop of VR horror, it’s frighteningly good fun.

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Until-Dawn: Rush of Blood for PSVR

Battlezone

(PSVR); 4 stars; Age: 12+

SOME of us are old enough to remember the original wireframe Battlezone from the 1980s arcades. Appropriately for a game that formed the first wave of rudimentary virtual reality, the vector classic has been remade for PSVR more than three decades later.

The vibrant colour palette and minimalist visuals stand out like a sore thumb in 2016 but this Battlezone is no less playable in its evocation of a war between nippy tanks. VR’s imposing sense of scale works to great effect here, your nimble armoured machine zipping and gliding among tall structures while dodging missiles from enemies on the ground and in the air.

Battlezone’s sheer speed can be challenging for those prone to motion sickness. My own experience suggests forward movement has little effect but shifting sideways occasionally means pass the sickbag. Unfortunately, strafing forms a core tactic in Battlezone so just be warned.

With an interesting structure (fight your way across a grid of missions) and randomly generated levels, Battlezone works hard to elevate itself above its simple gameplay. Throw in four-player co-op multiplayer (though not competitive multiplayer, oddly) and you have the makings of a decent shooter. You sense a bigger budget and a little more ambition could have paid dividends, however.

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Battlezone for PSVR
More PSVR reviews: Rez Infinite, Thumper, PS VR Worlds PlayStation VR review: Everything you need to know about Sony's new virtual-reality baby Even more PSVR reviews: Headmaster; EVE Valkyrie; Driveclub VR

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