Tag Archives: Review

Review: Batman: Arkham VR (Oculus Rift)

WB’s Batman: Arkham Asylum franchise has redefined what it was like to play a Batman video game, beginning with its first Arkham game, published in 2009. Incredible graphics, fluid combat, engaging investigative gameplay, and a dark and captivating story have been the hallmarks of the series.

In 2016, Batman: Arkham VR was released for the Playstation VR platform, and on April 25, 2017, the critically-acclaimed VR title was released on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Despite a couple of shortcomings, Batman VR succeeds in putting the gamer into the boots of the Dark Knight. As Batman, you have access to some key gadgets, including a scanner, the Batclaw, and of course, the Batarang. However, it’s the game’s environments that truly make you feel present in an Arkham game.

Batman VR will take you deep into the heart of the Batcave, through Gotham’s dark alleys, to the rooftops, and into the halls of Arkham Asylum. Each scene is meticulously detailed, with plenty of Easter Eggs for hardcore Batman fans to spot. There are also excellent cameo appearances from characters in the series.

In the Batcave, you get to view beautifully-rendered models of various characters and artifacts, all of which are incredibly detailed. You’ll notice that nearly every aspect of the game is highly polished. There are, unfortunately, a couple of shortcomings however.

There is an odd transition when you go from one level to the next. Instead of a loading screen, or perhaps a cinematic cutscene, the Oculus lenses go completely black, and you get an audio-only cue of the Batmobile or the Batwing’s engine. After a few seconds, you’re suddenly standing in the middle of a room or a street, depending on the level. It’s a jarring experience. The decision to essentially blindfold the player between levels is inexplicable.

Another issue Batman VR has is the lack of any combat. The entire game is devoid of the action that the video game series is known for. As Batman, you do get to use the Batarang, but never in a fight.

All of that being said, Batman VR succeeds tremendously in what it does offer. Aside from the aforementioned issues, you truly feel immersed in the world. And although the game is short (there are Riddler challenges to discover after completing the game’s main campaign), it manages to tell a complete story – one that you will want to experience multiple times.

Priced at just $19.99, Batman: Arkham VR is highly recommended. For more information on this title, click onto the official website: https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1480133245392512/

LTTP: Wolfenstein: A New Order

In 1992, id Software released Wolfenstein 3D, a ground-breaking game that had PC gamers enraptured by its high levels of violence and fast-paced action. The franchise’s sixth title, Wolfenstein: The New Order, was released 22 years later in May 2014.

Wolfenstein: The New Order was well-reviewed and critically-acclaimed, but I was probably too busy playing Titanfall, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Mario Kart 8, and Watch Dogs to bother with what I thought was just another mindless shooter. I eventually bought the game when it went on sale later that year during Black Friday (for $20, I couldn’t resist). But instead of popping the disc into my Xbox, the game went right into the ever-growing pile of games in my backlog. It remained in that shameful pile for over two years.

A few weeks ago, I made a half-hearted joke about how my New Year’s resolution is to play through my backlog (which happens to include Fallout 4 and GTA V), and a friend mentioned that he loved Wolfenstein. I figured that it would be one of the quicker games to get through, considering it isn’t an RPG, and I was in the mood for just a quick gaming session, so I finally freed the game disc from it’s plastic-wrapped prison.

The cutscenes were the first big surprise for me. Sure, I had heard that Wolfenstein was good, but no one told me just how stylized, contemporary, and hip the cinematic direction was. As the story progressed, I was just stunned at how the main character, B.J. Blazkowicz, and supporting cast were all incredibly memorable and compelling. I have to give tremendous credit to writers Jens Matthies and Tommy Tordsson Björk for bringing these characters to life with real emotion.

The setting isn’t just a side note either. While the game tells a tale of science fiction, it uses the alternate history setting to speak of the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust and of the sacrifices remarkable men and women during the real history of World War II. This brevity makes each level and mission that much more engaging and important. I couldn’t wait to see where the story would go after completing each level.

To be sure, the gameplay is repetitive, but it wasn’t terrible. I did enjoy the stealth-like options to playing the game. Sneaking up behind Nazis and insta-killing them with a single thrown knife or a takedown is more fun than just dual-wielding automatic shotguns and mowing them down all the time. Ultimately however, the gameplay really only feels like busywork for the player. Thankfully, Blazkowicz’ inner monologue and radio communications with other characters keep the levels from being completely mindless.

Viewing history through Wolfenstein’s sci-fi lens did not diminish the writers’ intent to depict during that horrific time in human history. Through allegories, the game was able to successfully portray the brevity of what the Jewish people suffered through and lost, and the heroic accomplishments that everyday people achieved against all odds, perhaps more than any other first-person shooter based on WWII. This connection to history made playing through Wolfenstein a journey to remember and cherish.