Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated PlayStation VR release of the year is here with the release of Marvel’s Iron Man VR. Previously delayed due to the covid pandemic, it’s out this Friday in digital and physical form.
With the release of Sony’s PlayStation 5 console only months away and a shroud of uncertainty surrounding their plans for VR, Marvel’s Iron Man VR is an important game. It comes almost four years after the introduction of the PSVR headset, and at a time where Sony, at least publishing-wise, doesn’t have any other games lined up after this one. Perhaps the PS5 can squeeze more juice out of the existing headset, perhaps we’ll see a new headset, or maybe Sony’s phasing out support for VR. We certainly hope the latter’s not true, but at least Iron Man VR is another showcase of the experiences it can bring.
Front and center in the Iron Man VR experience is the ability to fly while wearing the Iron Man suit. Who would have thought that something as fictional as Iron Man was going to deliver such an immersive and “realistic” experience? If you’ve seen any of the Iron Man or Avengers movies you’ve seen Robert Downey Jr. flying around in one of his many Iron Man suits, and the feeling of stepping into Tony Stark’s footsteps translated very well to VR.
As with Batman: Arkham VR, the experience of suiting up is a memorable one. Rather than putting on parts of your outfit yourself, the pieces of Iron Man’s suit fly towards you and attach themselves to your body. As this happens in the middle of an action sequence where you’re in big danger, this is an exhilarating scene that almost literally turns you into Iron Man as things unfold.
Once fully geared up, your flight controls revolve around the ability to boost yourself in the opposite direction of where you’re aiming. Hold out your left hand to the side and boost, and you’ll move to the right. Face your repulsors backward, and you’ll move forward. Hold both Move controllers next to your hips and you’ll be able to launch yourself upward – you get the idea. Rather than constantly requiring you to keep applying thrust, Iron Man VR also uses momentum, which allows you to keep moving even when not applying thrust – which gives you time to fire weapons while in motion.
In addition to firing weapons, you can also dash forward and deliver a killer punch to your opponents, and the combination of flying and fighting provides a real sensation of stepping into the boots of an iconic modern day superhero. Of course there’s the Tony Stark element as well, and you have a lot less control over that side of the story – which is told through cutscenes that form an original story in the Marvel universe, which is no doubt a good reason for fans to want to check this one out. Don’t expect too much though – while the in-game action feels like a AAA production for VR the quality of the narrative is more like a direct to video spin-off.
What hurts the pacing of the adventure is the frequent use of loading screens, which last for over a minute each. I don’t really mind these when playing regular games (I’ll check my phone messages), but while in VR you’re just sitting there with a headset on. Some voiceover work would have helped with the wait, but all of that is tucked away in cutscenes instead.
Adding some lasting appeal is the ability to unlock suit upgrades and tackle optional challenges – which in turn makes it easier to get those upgrades. You also get an “Iron Man wardrobe” where you select from two different suits, one for each occasion. Since some challenges require speed while other situations need serious firepower, this is an option you’ll want to make good use of.
The VR tracking in Iron Man VR works very well, and this feels like one of the least restrictive of all the PSVR/Move titles out there. There’s a lot of freedom of movement in-game, so for the developers to pull that off without inducing motion sickness is quite the achievement. The Move controllers still aren’t perfect with their awkward face button placements, but we’ve seen far clunkier implementations and the biggest thing taking you out of the moment are those loading screens, not control issues.
And although the story campaign isn’t the VR equivalent of the recent Avengers movies by any stretch of the imagination, the experience of flying around like Iron Man is a fun and immersive blend of flying and combat that wouldn’t have worked without VR. There’s a demo available for the game and that should give you a pretty good idea how the flight and combat works. It’s the bulk of the full experience as well, so if you feel like you want much more of that then Camouflaj’s latest has you covered. It gives players a real sense of actually being Iron Man, and does so despite the technical limitations of PlayStation VR and Move – it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a fun superhero experience.
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