In Marvel’s Iron Man VR, you can don the iron suit and step into the rather heavy shoes of titular Marvel icon, Tony Stark. In a fully immersive PlayStation 4 exclusive, Iron Man VR takes you through the thrills of being the billionaire tech genius, tasked with saving the world once again.
No other superhero plays so well for a VR game than Iron Man. By design, Iron Man has all the trappings you need for a fleshed-out VR experience. Packed with and operational HUD and hand directed repulsors, you’ll be flying through the skies. Using an assortment of weaponry, you’ll be armed to take on an onslaught of drones and enemies. Above all else, developer Camoflaj somehow managed to design a VR game where I was able to play for hours without the slightest bit of motion sickness.
Iron Man VR has an incredible foundation, marking a high-point in the PSVR’s functionality. However, the repetitive tasks and story that feels all too familiar hold it back from reaching its potential.
The man and the suit
The story takes a familiar path many will recognize from the early run of the comics and MCU movies. Tony Stark, a once profiteering guru of military munitions, is haunted by his past. As the game begins, Stark has already put the days of arms selling behind him for a suit of armor to make the world a better place.
As his past catches up to him, Ghost, a formidable foe, makes her appearance. Stark is thrust into a war against his very own drones and other enemies. He must come to terms with the repercussions of his past endeavors and come out a better man.
The game’s plot does feature some entertaining hallmarks of the Iron Man story. And yet, it all feels very safe. The narrative can be quite predictable at points. While Iron Man VR is immersive, I never felt too connected to the characters introduced in the game. The level of emotion needed to feel for the cast in front of me just wasn’t there. Instead, I found myself drawn to the bombastic highlights during combat.
In between moments of exhilaration, Tony will visit his Malibu estate to step out of his suit. The Malibu mansion serves as a hub between missions. It’s also here that Stark will have drawn-out conversations with his virtual assistant Friday, and Gunsmith, an older virtual cohort used during his days of weapons dealing. There are lengthy exposition-heavy conversations here that negatively impact the flow of the game. Giving me a chance to catch my breath was refreshing. However, oftentimes I was eager to jump into the next mission and continue quickly.
Actor Josh Keaton lends his voice as Tony Stark. Rather than replicating the candor of MCU’s Robert Downy Jr., Keaton takes a slightly different approach. His style of humor and banter between Friday and Gunsmith provided moments of levity during each mission. His delivery was rather quippy, with the standard dash of Stark ego. This fresh take helped differentiate Iron Man VR from being too heavily constrained to other adaptations of the hero.
I am Iron Man
The campaign of Iron Man VR was surprisingly extensive. It follows a 12-chapter arc, with many missions taking place around the world. While the PSVR Move controllers are rather archaic by today’s VR standards, Iron Man VR makes great use of them. Placing the controllers by my side and holding down on the triggers, the repulsors propelled me forward. Moving them side to side, up or down, I began learning to adjust my trajectory.
As the game ramps up, you’ll be taught new traversal mechanics. Double-tapping on the triggers grants a boost in propulsion. Holding your arms out and clicking the ‘Move’ button, I was able to shoot repulsor blasts from my palms in the opposite direction of which they are aimed. Throughout the campaign, additional combat mechanics are introduced like the rocket-punch, enabling me to put metal against metal and beat up the many flying drones. Iron Man’s smart missiles and Unibeam, both of which are staples to the character’s arsenal, are also given to the you.
As you progress, balancing combat and traversal all by using arm movements and button inputs becomes a bit relentless. It takes skill and practice to execute a flawless combination of moves, all while keeping your suit’s health intact. Perseverance does pay off, however, because once I was able to memorize the inputs and become efficient in flying, I felt confident in saying: “I am Iron Man”.
More than a story
The missions themselves vary in location, but often boil down to completing the same objective: destroying waves of enemy drones. Sub-objectives are often incorporated, which spice things up.
However, besides fighting countless enemies you are also encouraged to do it quickly and efficiently, in order to gain a higher score by the end of the level.
Outside of the main campaign, there is also a wide variety of time trials to go through. Here, you’ll test your skills by navigating through rings or beating waves of enemies in record time. This is a supplementary addition to the game. A few chapters of the narrative do incorporate these trials, though having a ranked system is an incentive to keep playing after the story is complete.
The mansion is also home to a station in which you can upgrade the Iron Man suit. Using research points given by ranking high during missions and trials, you can upgrade your suit with different weapons, increase the boost cooldown, and so on.
While upgrading was a novel addition at first, it stumbles on being a fully fleshed out system in the game. You have a variety of attributes to craft and equip. However, once I found my “perfect” loadout, which took all but three or so hours, I had no reason to continue upgrading. For example, after unlocking the smart missiles, I wasn’t able to make them stronger or fire more in a single shot.
Completing certain tasks like using the rocket-punch to disable a certain number of enemies will unlock new skins for the suit. While another nice additive, I quickly realized the cosmetic changes weren’t the most ideal in a first-person VR experience.
Making old feel new
Games releasing on PSVR rely on older pieces of technology to support it, i.e. the Move controllers and PlayStation Camera. While the majority of PSVR games are able to tactfully utilize these to create enthralling experiences, Iron Man VR has somehow leveraged it in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Many VR titles are restrictive in your personal freedom of mobility. As the game creates an immersive experience, you’re often restricted to a box as your “play area”. Iron Man VR is very forgiving in how much room you actually require to full play through the game. Granted, the tracking is limited to head and arm movements. Though, if I wanted to sit or stand, I didn’t have to worry about messing with menu options to reset the positioning, as holding the ‘Options’ button would do the work for me.
As mentioned before, through some sort of miracle, I was able to play Iron Man VR without the slightest hint of motion sickness. This may also be attributed to the accessible ‘Snap Turn’ input, which lets you turn the camera 90 degrees rather than use the 360 degrees given when turning your head.
Iron Man VR has a number of nice touches to help bolster the game outside of combat and flight. Exploring the Malibu mansion, you can find light distractions that showcase the creative measures that can be used in PSVR. It was the small moments – like opening Stark’s fridge and eating cherries, or playing arcade basketball – that don’t necessarily push the boundaries of what a VR game is but amplifie the sense of freedom and exploration.
Marvel’s Iron Man VR has many things working for it. There’s no better feeling than seeing an enemy charge its shot and propel yourself away and fire a string of missiles right back. I was able to get a sense of power and skill through continuously being tested by the game to improve.
It’s evident that a lot of love for the Iron Man IP went into this game. A level of appreciation flows through the game, though it plays awfully safe. The mission structure is repetitive and environments are fairly bare in design. However, it’s a testament to the game that despite these drawbacks, Iron Man VR is still a standout title for PSVR.
Iron Man VR is available now on PlayStation 4.
A copy of Iron Man VR was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada for review purposes.