In 2018, we were able to step into the shoes of Peter Parker, swinging through the streets of New York City in Marvel’s Spider-Man. One satisfying swing after another, Insomniac’s game gave us the most authentic web-head experience.
Similarly, Marvel’s Iron Man VR from Camouflaj places you inside the iconic suit of Tony Stark. During Fan Expo Canada, PlayStation invited me to try a demo of the upcoming PSVR game, and despite only playing a small tutorial level, I walked away thinking: “I am Iron Man.”
Earlier this year, Sony’s inaugural State of Play show aired. It was here that we caught a glimpse of the PSVR exclusive game from the studio behind République. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of whether or not Iron Man VR could live up to its expectations. Over the past decade, Iron Man has become one of the most beloved and well known Marvel characters. Expectations would be naturally be heightened.
The short trailer shown during the State of Play didn’t exactly showcase how the gameplay would pan out. Would it be on-rails? Is flight automatic, leaving the player to only controlling the trajectory of the repulsor shots? Is motion sickness going to get the best of me? I had questions. Thankfully, all my trepidations were put at ease during my hands-on demo.
The demo itself lasted roughly 8-10 minutes. However, it was designed in a way to put a spotlight on all the major mechanics and put enough into context to properly understand Camouflaj’s vision. Marvel’s Iron Man VR isn’t going to be the robust, open-world experience that we saw in Marvel’s Spider-Man. Based on what I experienced, it won’t be an on-rails, linear VR game like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood either. Camouflaj seems to have found the sweet spot––at least in the demo––and lets the player spread their wings or rather repulsors to freely move around.
As the demo opens, you don the Iron Man suit and as the headpiece closes, faint blue lines frame your peripheral vision. It isn’t before long that you’re shown the ropes on how to shoot your repulsors and how to fly. Without much hesitation, you’re flying across open waters, heading straight for Stark’s Malibu mansion––yes, the one that The Mandarin destroyed in Iron Man 3. Although, the game is set outside of the MCU canon.
After a bit of banter with Pepper Potts, who appears in a video call onscreen, Tony decides to put himself through a little gauntlet of challenges. The first is your standard target practice. Pulling and holding the PS Move controllers’ triggers, you’re able to charge your repulsors for a larger, more powerful blast. Aiming was a bit finicky, but very forgiving. The area of effect of your blasts was large enough that if you were off centre from your target, you’d be able to deal some damage.
The second was a time trial. We’ve all seen these before, fly through a series of rings, only this time as Iron Man! With the PS Move controllers pointed towards the ground, I began propelling myself forward towards the first ring. The movement in Marvel’s Iron Man VR takes a bit of getting used to. You’re constantly maintaining your altitude and momentum. I spent the first couple minutes crashing into rocks and the water below. Camouflaj was nice enough to not incorporate damage when I inevitably fell towards the water. Instead, you calmly bob atop the water providing time to regain your composure. You’re able to reposition yourself by moving your hands and arms, aiming the repulsors accordingly.
After completing the first circuit, the game introduces an air-punch of sorts. While flying, you must throw your fist forward, which will propel you with a powerful punch. The time trial turned into stringing your movements along, from flying up in the air, down low to the water, and punching through these new targets. It’s at this time, I was able to feel more comfortable with the controls.
Marvel’s Iron Man VR punched it up a notch when Tony asks Friday (his AI assistant) to queue some music. Although it wasn’t AC/DC’s Back in Black, the song was close enough to give me the chills. Stark askes Friday to unleash a series of drones for the final phase of the tutorial. With the music kicking in, and a small swarm of drones filling the sky, everything you’ve learned so far is put to the test. Now, instead of focusing on my movements, it became a test of managing my flight while using the PS Move controller to aim and coordinate repulsor blasts.
It’s tricky, but you do get the authentic feeling of becoming Iron Man. If you had to ask what hero best suits a VR experience, the obvious answer is Iron Man. While I wasn’t able to get a sense of what the overarching narrative would be, I can safely determine that Camouflaj is on the right path when it comes to the core gameplay.
For the most part, the entire demo was a positive experience. One of my biggest fears was motion sickness. I have a pretty high tolerance in VR, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown’s VR mode sent me over the cliff. I never experienced any feelings of nausea during my demo of Marvel’s Iron Man VR, although you do get a slight feeling of vertigo if you release your propulsion and begin dropping. Console Creatures’ Bobby Pashalidis did experience some motion sickness, so tolerance can impact the overall enjoyment.
Hardware also impacted the immersion of the game. As the action is consistently happening from every angle, the PSVR cord can become a nuisance if you’re not careful. Spacial awareness plays into this as I did need to slow things down and feel my way out of the cord that found itself wrapped around my ankle, without bumping into anything on the Fan Expo show floor.
That aside, I can confidently say that Marvel’s Iron Man VR is shaping up to be a standout title for the PSVR catalogue. Every year, Sony releases a handful of games that scream: “Buy a PSVR headset now!” This is one of them. I’m always of the mind that the written word and video previews are unable to fully express the feelings experienced in a dynamite VR title. Marvel’s Iron Man VR is mechanically sound but requires you to fully experience it yourself to truly feel the level of immersion Camouflaj can capture.
I look forward to seeing the narrative paths Marvel’s Iron Man VR goes down. It will be interesting to see if a larger story is at play, or if the game hinges on set pieces of which Tony Stark flies in and saves the day.
Marvel’s Iron Man VR is set to release later this year, exclusively on PSVR.