‘Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series’ PSVR review: movie magic from the comfort of your own home

Previously an Oculus exclusive, ‘Vader Immortal’ finds a comfortable home on Sony’s virtual reality platform

When I was a kid, I vividly remember playing the Star Wars Trilogy Arcade machine. It was an ode to the original trilogy that had you controlling a joystick to infiltrate the Death Star, wrap up AT-AT’s on Hoth and speed past the redwood trees in the forests of Endor. Once you beat all three missions, you are teleported to the throne room of the second Death Star, where you had to face Darth Vader alone as Luke Skywalker.

Being less than 10 years old, I was absolutely terrified of ever reaching this stage, and would fumble under pressure in his domineering presence. I was so frightened of Vader that I would get my dad to take over so we could defeat the masked Sith Lord together. The fear attached to this lonely, dangerous encounter lay dormant in me until very recently when I strapped on my plastic cowl and booted up Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series in PSVR.

Vader Immortal A Star Wars VR Series review PSVR
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. Credit: Disney Interactive

There I was again, 20 years later, gulping as he marched towards my holding cell, his iconic growl filling my ears. But he wasn’t here to kill me, as much as he was capable. Vader was hiring me, taking me under his wing so long as my bloodline was useful to help him achieve immortality. With cooperation my only means of survival, I was forced to accept his gambit, before making a hasty prison break with the help of a Scottish sounding alien and his trusty Hydro Spanner.

And who could forget the hallmark of all good Star Wars media – an endearing companion droid. Legless co-pilot ZO-E3 is played masterfully by comedian Maya Rudolph, who provides plenty of comic relief but enough heart to make you care when they’re under duress. She’s cool amid pressure and a welcome distraction as you sneak through the halls of Vader’s gloomy fortress.

The game arrives as three, roughly hour-long episodes, which constitute separate entities on your PS4 home screen. This unusual format is in Vader Immortal’s favour, given that you’ll most likely be tuckered out after an hour of intense play in virtual reality.

It’s well worth playing over three days, so you can digest all the plot points and ruminate on what might come next – but it’s also not so bad when taken as a complete experience. The pacing is solid throughout, and the narrative is cleverly devised by The Dark Knight’s David S. Goyer.

Vader Immortal A Star Wars VR Series review PSVR
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. Credit: Disney Interactive

Snatched out of Hyperspace, you’re bound to Vader’s side throughout as he needs you to unlock the sanctum of Lady Corvax. Corvax is a tragic figure in your bloodline who doomed Mustafar’s once-lush environment to its volcanic fate by using an ancient artefact to resurrect her dead husband. Vader wants this power so he can achieve immortality and reckon with the Padmé-shaped pain lurking in his past.

This unconventional dynamic between the antagonist and the player gives rise to plenty of intrigue and a few clever twists, but it’s the way in which the story is acted that really shines. Beyond Half-Life: Alyx, I don’t think I’ve seen such authentic choreography in a virtual reality game. It’s the intricate animations that stunned me – the way characters place a palm on the back of another to hurry them out of a room, or the fettered approach of a gun-toting Stormtrooper as I’m forced from my ship.

A knee-jerk reaction forced my hands into the air, and I felt my body back up and recoil as Vader underling Admiral Karius negotiated my capture. The way characters are placed in scenes in Vader Immortal is seriously impressive, especially for inquisitive players looking for moments of nuance in the magnificent motion capture.

Vader Immortal A Star Wars VR Series review PSVR
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. Credit: Disney Interactive

The game’s puzzles always provide new motions and input methods to complete which keeps the downtime fresh, and due to its relatively short runtime, Vader Immortal is always admirably warring to hold your interest and present something exciting and interactive in your cone of vision. This leads to a set of superb set pieces in each episode that pump the adrenaline when you may be flagging.

I even came to love the lightsaber combat, though it did once again feel held back by the PlayStation Move controllers, a pair of peripherals which feel as old as the artefact I was chasing. Of utmost importance when simulating a lightsaber is the haptics and the vibration, which I’m pleased to say they’ve nailed, but tilting your saber to block and deflect attacks could be far more accurate and fluid if the control scheme were better. Overall though, it’s well-made and I never suffered any serious detection glitches – even when The Force was introduced in later episodes.

The only bug of note for me was an annoying audio-clipping error. At random points (usually upon tilting my head too fast) the game would skip a little and fill my ears with a vicious drone. The inconsistency of such a glitch makes it quite jarring to endure – sometimes it can give you a bit of a fright in the middle of a tense scene.

Vader Immortal A Star Wars VR Series review PSVR
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. Credit: Disney Interactive

Ultimately, Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is a must-buy for PSVR-toting Star Wars fans. It’s an exciting adventure that delves into some of the intricacies of the established canon, featuring well-written characters, awesome VR choreography and some killer movie magic moments that I won’t dare spoil.

‘Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series’ is now available on PSVR.

Our Verdict

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is fun and the puzzles are quirky too, but the reason it’s so worthwhile is that it manages to tell an interesting side story within a franchise that has already been so widely developed.

The only questionable part of the experience is the price. At USD$29.99/GBP£21.99 for roughly three to four hours of (admittedly great) content, you may roll credits feeling short-changed depending on your disposition. But if you’re a Star Wars fan unwilling to give it a shot… frankly, I find your lack of faith disturbing!

Pros

  • Vader Immortal tells a unique story within a saturated canon
  • Realistic choreography and charming performances bring the game’s characters to life
  • Combat and puzzles develop in complexity and keep the gameplay fresh

Cons

  • The game is only three or four hours long
  • Relatively high price point for the amount of content
  • Combat feels held back by the ancient peripherals
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