Going into this review, I didn’t expect to have a good experience, let alone any fun. The demo available on the PlayStation Store, while serviceable, is effectively only the tutorial for the game, and as such left me feeling a little underwhelmed.
However, developers Camouflaj clearly made a concerted effort to make Iron Man VR feel like more than just a tech demo, as so many other VR games tend to feel. And more than that, it also made sure to put the licensed material to work. As a result, I’m both surprised and happy to state that Iron Man VR is a very solid and worthwhile VR title, with a few caveats.
The game places players into the shoes of Tony Stark and works to hammer this point home by not only providing playable sequences while in the Iron Man armour but also in person, in conversation with various individuals from the Iron Man and extended Marvel Universe. This goes a long way towards making the game feel like more than just a VR game with an Iron Man gimmick – in many ways it feels like a movie into which the player has been inserted.
In conversations with Tony Stark’s AI assistants, Friday and Gun Smith, the player can move about various environments – albeit by the use of navigation points that players click upon, given the PS Move controllers lack any analog input. From here, they can manipulate various items within the environment, which is more of a novelty than anything else, or – later in the game – even try out Stark’s punching bag and basketball minigame.
Has he lost his mind?
But of course, these are set pieces, built to provide story around the action sequences, which are the major component of gameplay. Here, players control flight through imaginative use of the Move controllers. Holding one in each hand, it is not hard to imagine that the player’s hands become Iron Man’s own repulsor gauntlets, with trigger pulls firing repulsors and directional pointing of the controller providing lift and directional control.
It takes some time to get the hang of, but once you do, you’ll be flying around like a superhero before you know it.
Add firing controls, hover buttons, and – awkwardly – additional buttons to quickly turn Iron Man’s point of view, and you are left with fairly solid control mechanics. Soon enough, players will find themselves surrounded by enemy drones, and they will be pointing their controllers at them and firing beams from their hands before they know it – and trust me, it really does feel as cool as you may well be imagining.
The writing is crisp, for the most part, and even humorous at times, setting up a story that fits extremely well into the Marvel universe. Stark finds himself under attack from several older drones of his creation, so he brings Gunsmith out of retirement in order to try to track down the source. This source is discovered to be the villain Ghost, and this sparks Stark into travelling across the globe in order to stop her from achieving her end goal – his death.
Can he see or is he blind?
The voice acting is excellent and aids in the immersion alongside the very impressive cinematography – there are jump scares to be had here and there, and the team did well to create engagements that, for the most part, keep the player from getting bored. And more than this? Marvel fanfolk should be happy – there is plenty of fanservice to be found.
In terms of graphics, it can be hit and miss at times. Certain environments are detailed and somewhat realistic (even given the low poly count for PSVR), while others feel almost like a throwback to the 16-bit era, with large boxy polygons representing buildings marking out an empty, lifeless cityscape. Still, it’s easy to ignore this, given the number of enemies that players will be facing in these areas, and when it all comes down to it, this was likely a sacrifice made in favour of more complex gameplay over complex environments. Areas with minimal engagement are rich in detail, while the opposite is true when the action ratchets up.
I’ve been fairly positive so far in my review; however, the game is far from perfect. Technical limitations, bugs, and VR glitches aside (which are frustrating at times, but should really be expected given the relative immaturity of the technology), there is as much to dislike about Iron Man VR as there is to like about it.
For one, and probably the biggest issue I had with the game, the load times are horrendous and occur far too frequently. Each chapter (of which there are 12) will generally contain an immersive cinematic, as well as an action component. Between each will be a loading screen of at least one minute. And even once the loading screen is finished, and you hit the “start” button, you’ll be left looking at a black screen for 15-20 MORE seconds. Some chapters will start with another black screen, with motes of dust flying about to keep the player’s eyes busy, while a voiceover narrates a little introduction. Perhaps this is a little world-building, but it felt like an attempt to cover up some of the lengthy load times.
Is that a Ghost?
What’s more, although I enjoyed the immersive cinematic sequences to a certain degree, there are far too many of them, and player interaction is EXTREMELY limited. As a result I found myself itching to get into the action sections, which by comparison were far too short. While on the topic of the action sections, they themselves suffer from repetition – fly to location, shoot a bunch of drones, fly to next location. Thankfully, the action is quite a lot of fun, but it starts to wear thin after so many hours.
And this leads me to probably the biggest thought-piece of this whole review… Length. For me, VR is still in its infancy and lends itself best to games that exploit its features and do little else. Iron Man VR, on the other hand, tries very hard to be a fully-featured title – it even goes as far as allowing players to customise the Iron Man suit with different weapons and provides challenges that can be chased to unlock skins. However, all of this works together to result in a game that – to me – feels like it wants to be something that it’s not. Perhaps it should have simply embraced simplicity and removed the upgrades in place of more action sequences with a set loadout. Or perhaps I’m alone in this preference.
Given the market is smaller, VR games are cheaper than their counterparts. In my experience, game sessions tend to be shorter as well – I can barely play VR titles for longer than single-hour spurts, for fear of melting my brain (figuratively, of course). As a result, I personally don’t see the need for VR titles to be more than an action-packed distraction. At least, not until the technology is more mature. This is, of course, just my opinion, and your mileage may vary. I tried not to let this personal preference impact my score for the game, but I felt it needed to be said.
Overall, I’d have to say that Iron Man VR is certainly a VR game worth playing – after all, it’s fun, and you really do feel like Iron Man. Fans of Tony Stark and his creations should definitely not let this slip by, as it will certainly spark joy within them. However, the lengthy cinematic sequences with minimal player interaction, as well as the long loading times, should equally not be ignored.
Iron Man VR was reviewed on PSVR using a promotional code provided to PowerUp! by the publisher