They finally did it. After years of PS VR games that scratched the surface of what a true virtual reality experience can do, developer Camouflaj has released an action-adventure title that brings all of the VR gameplay and gimmicks together into one cohesive package. Oh, and they did it with the Marvel Comics license. Iron Man VR is the first virtual reality game that lets you truly suit up as that classic comic book icon, and after more than a few hours of playing, I can say, with confidence, “I am Iron Man.”
Iron Man VR lets players play as the founding Avenger and take on one of his classic foes, Ghost – if you aren’t familiar, she’s best known as the antagonist in the second Ant-Man film. Tony Stark is once again contemplating retirement, and when Ghost hacks into Stark’s systems to punish him for his past warmongering, the hero is forced back into the fight.
Tony has the gorgeous Pepper Potts and his A.I. assistant, Friday, to help him with his battle against Ghost. A new character, Gunsmith, who is an A.I. version of Tony himself, serves the cause by allowing you to upgrade the Iron Man suit with earned research points as the game progresses. And don’t worry Marvel fans, you can rest easy, Nick Fury even makes an appearance.
While the game might be short on story, the true bread and butter of Iron Man VR is its gameplay, which is some of the best for PSVR to date. I’ve played and reviewed plenty of virtual reality games since the rig’s debut, and this is the first one where I truly felt immersed in the VR world. It helps that Iron Man VR is played in what truly feels like true 360 degrees, even with the bulky wires keeping me within spitting distance of my console and TV.
While in the suit (i.e. standing in my living room), the Move controllers act as my hand repulsors, which keeps me airborne and on the offensive, offering blasts and rocket punches on top of propulsion. Depending on the position of my hands, I can control my flight movement, or fire off a few attacks. Secondary weapons are unlocked quickly, giving me even more firepower.
I found the system incredibly intuitive with respect to my movements. Seeing my arm come up clad in armor, and Iron Man’s hand moving in a near 1:1 translation of my own positioning was kind of neat. With my arms down to my sides and palms facing back, I could blast forward, and by moving my hands forward, backward, left, or right, I could slow down, or shift the direction of my body. These are movements we’ve all seen in the Iron Man and Avengers films, and I was pulling them off in real-time.
Before long, I was bolting all over the skies around the Stark compound, running time trials and blasting targets as part of the tutorial level. It quickly became second nature to zoom here, shoot that, turn on a dime – by actually turning around, physically – and then quickly resetting the camera once I was back facing forward.
The 12 chapters in Iron Man VR sadly lack variety, but that doesn’t detract from the fun. Each runs no longer than 30 minutes or so (thankfully), as it started to get exhausting swinging my arms around to hover, blast off, and fire. The shooting elements were shockingly realistic, and by the end of the first chapter, I had enough of the core mechanics under my belt to be able to fly, dodge, and shoot enemies like an honest-to-god Avenger.
There were multiple times where I laughed out loud at how much fun I was having. I’d raise my right arm to the side of my body and hit the Move trigger to strafe left while using my left repulsor blast to hit drones. It’s particularly rewarding to pull off double hits on multiple enemies while soaring thousands of feet in the air. Outside of the rig I probably looked like a buffoon, but inside that helmet, I was good ol’ Shell Head!
Unfortunately, Iron Man VR runs into a few issues, most of all being the excruciatingly long load times. While I wasn’t staring at my watch to time them, some levels seemed to take almost a full minute or longer to load, and with the headset on, I was forced to stare at a chapter header and a few rotating tip screens that stopped offering new information by the third chapter. And it’s not like I’m sitting down in a comfy chair or anything. While the game is loading, I’m just standing in my living room, waiting. The load times probably wouldn’t be so bad if the levels themselves didn’t look so bland.
Most of the visuals are last gen-quality, at best, with not a lot of detail. It’s not that big of a deal when you’re soaring through clouds, but when you’re flying in and around buildings at night in a heavily populated city like Shanghai, or around a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, it becomes a distraction.
We’ve come to expect a certain degree of graphical limitations with PSVR titles, and in most cases, as long as the game plays well, they can be overlooked. Iron Man VR does play very well, so I’m not complaining about how it looks, but the load times constantly slow the fun down to a crawl, and Iron Man should never crawl.
Another issue I have is, admittedly, more of a personal matter: I can only play Iron Man VR for about an hour before I start to feel unwell, and then it takes about an hour or two after I remove the headset to fully get my equilibrium back. This is a risk that all VR users have to deal with and is no fault of Iron Man VR or Camouflaj. If anything, it speaks to the quality of the gameplay that I find myself so immersed that it begins to physically affect me.
Iron Man VR is a solid virtual reality experience that uses a beloved Marvel Comics hero to the fullest effect. Amazing gameplay helps offset a lacklustre story, bland graphics, and infuriatingly long load times, and in the end, if you can overlook these issues, you will find an incredible superhero sim here that’ll make you feel like it’s really you in the iconic red-and-gold armor.
Even with these shortcomings, Iron Man VR might be my favorite PSVR experience so far, and it certainly lays the foundation for more immersive VR games. How soon until I stand in my living room and experience myself swinging through New York City, or maybe even a more thoroughly-realized version of Gotham? Camouflaj might be on to something here.
This review is based on the PlayStation VR version of the game. A copy was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Iron Man VR lets you step into the shoes of Tony Stark, with some of the best gameplay on the platform to date. Just don't expect much in the way of story or graphics.