Superhero games can, oftentimes, feel like typical licensed cash-ins, with sub-par stories, lackluster gameplay, and average visuals. Iron Man VR does things very differently. It's not just a licensed game, it's your personal license to actually become Tony Stark himself.
Despite the limitations of the PSVR, particularly the controllers and movement restrictions when compared to other VR headsets, Iron Man VR succeeds. In fact, the game utilizes these weaknesses and turns them into strengths, helping to further create the illusion of ultimate embodiment that is at the core. It's a triumph of a title, doing almost everything it sets out to do.
The game was reviewed on PlayStation VR running on a PlayStation 4 Pro with codes provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada.
Not your typical superhero game
Bottom line: Iron Man VR is the most authentic-feeling superhero game I've played because it actually makes you feel like Iron Man. You not only look and sound like Iron Man, but you move like him, fight like him, and even make choices like him. The story tugs at emotions and actually feels like a personal retelling of Tony Stark's life, shedding some new light on an already-popular character. This is a must-have for any PSVR owner.
- Strong narration and voice acting
- Powerful story with lots of variety
- Excellent controls, despite hardware limitations
- Challenging and rewarding gameplay
- You can embody Iron Man
- Loading times are painful
- HUD is crowded
Iron Man VR A meaningful story
The story begins just as Tony realizes the ramifications of his apathy to the deaths his business causes. Tony buries the historical "war machine" business of Stark Industries, but, as we often find, the ghosts of the past just don't seem to want to die. Years later, Tony finds himself having to deal with problems he thought had been put to rest.
Iron Man VR's story fills the boots of a cautionary tale that fits right in with the themes of 2020
Iron Man VR's story fills the boots of a cautionary tale that fits right in with the themes of 2020, specifically how we often are confronted with the traumas of our past, even if we try to leave them behind. While this sounds like a typical Iron Man story, there's a huge difference: this time you'reTony Stark himself. That embodiment brings about a significantly more personal touch to the ordinary superhero story.
In fact, Iron Man VR doesn't suffer from many of the usual tropes that plague superhero movies and games, but still feels like it sits with what we've seen in the MCU. The game takes place over a series of 12 chapters that unfold over an approximately 10-12 hour playtime, with each chapter taking between 30 minutes to one hour to complete. While there are minigames to play and high scores to bear, there aren't any sidequests or multiplayer to be found once you've completed the story.
So fans will get something new, but they'll also encounter plenty of familiar characters and situations, along with many Easter Eggs and references.
Iron Man VR You'll actually feel like you're Tony Stark
Most VR games that ask players to move around do so in one of two different ways: teleportation or virtual locomotion. Instead of slowing players down with teleportation or forcing them to use a virtual shooting gallery, Iron Man VR gives players nearly true freedom by allowing them to fly.
That's because Iron Man's trademark Repulsors are also built into the palms of your hands. You can activate them by pressing the trigger where your thumbs sit on the controller. You can angle your hands any way you please while playing, and accurate physics will take over. Stick both hands to your sides, aim back, and double tap those triggers and you'll really get going; up to 200mph. It quickly feels natural to boost around with one hand while shooting enemies with the other, all while taking in your surroundings in full 360-degree wonder.
While most powers are pulled off by aiming and pressing a button, some, like the ground pound, are accessed by pressing and holding a button. You aim the reticule with your head, and punch forward to smash all the enemies on the ground.
Ironically, the limitations of the PSVR controllers are what give the movement in Iron Man VR such freedom.
Ironically, the limitations of the PSVR controllers are what give the movement that feeling of freedom. Because this type of movement is already associated with the character, and fits how you've always used PSVR, it feels authentic to move yourself around this way. It's not perfect, as landing in specific areas can take a bit more work, but most people don't know what flying around like Iron Man feels like anyway.
Despite the fact that the PSVR only utilizes a single camera array to track controllers, Iron Man VR's movement never feels restrictive. I rarely had an issue with my virtual hands being in the wrong place (due to lost controller tracking), and I almost never experienced any glitching when turning around.
I never felt like the cord got in the way, either. The game builds in warnings about getting tangled in the cord if you spin around too many times (it actually keeps track for you), and will regularly fire up arrows on the screen to get you to turn and face the PlayStation Camera to enable best tracking. This is a game that you can absolutely play in a 360-degree fashion.
Iron Man VR Upgrades Galore
While you'll start the game with a fairly simple armory, things get a lot more interesting very quickly. By only chapter 2 you'll have access to Stark's garage where you can upgrade every facet of your suit, adorn your arms with missiles, and even create multiple types of armor with different sets of weapons altogether. Much like we saw in the stupendous Spiderman game on the PS4, Iron Man VR has a veritable smorgasbord of suits to choose from, ranging from the familiar red-and-gold to a camouflage suit, and even a star-spangled all-American red-white-and-blue paint job. Suits are unlocked as you play, while upgraded weapons can be purchased with tokens you'll earn in the game.
Iron Man VR has a veritable smorgasbord of suits (and upgrades) to choose from.
Tony's mansion is the hub-like area that you'll return to after every mission and can be explored pretty freely. Players will "walk" around by selecting pre-determined warp points throughout the home. This gives access to the mansion in a way that no other medium has, and even opens up a look into Tony's life that's seldom seem. There's even a minigame gym with weight lifting, boxing, and even a basketball arcade game.
Missions are accessed by spinning a holographic globe that's adorned with locations to visit. While each mission is linear and story-based, you're scored on every facet of the experience. Complete a mission quicker and you'll get a higher score. Miss fewer shots or take down enemies more efficiently and that score will also increase. You can replay any mission after completing it to get a better score, which will unlock more powers and suits for future use. As you can see, there's a lot to do.
Iron Man VR Constant motion
While things have come a long, long way in the world of VR, motion sickness is still a possibility. If you have a PSVR and are on the fence about motion sickness in the game, check out the free demo on the PlayStation Store to get an idea of what to expect. From the onset, you'll most certainly experience a fleeting moment of vertigo as you place your palms down and fire up those rocket boosters for the first time. I know I left my stomach on the ground the first time.
I know I left my stomach on the ground the first time I flew up in the air.
While I didn't have any vertigo issues outside of that initial take-off, I've also been regularly playing VR games since the Oculus DK1. Less seasoned players without their "VR legs" might have a slightly rougher time, but Camouflaj has taken great care to make all the default settings incredibly comfortable for most players. The usual tricks of vignetting, offering snap-turning, and even an always-there HUD that bobs with your head are all designed to keep players' perspectives pointed to the virtual horizon instead of into a toilet. You can even play the entirety of the game seated.
The HUD that's presented on-screen is designed to feel like the one inside Iron Man's helmet, and it does a good job of feeling authentic. The problem is that this design was clearly created to be a movie setpiece and simply doesn't work well in a practical sense. While the floating HUD certainly will help some players with motion sickness, the icons, text, and graphs on screen weren't practical. There's a lot of information here crammed into a tiny space and a lot of it isn't necessary, so it mostly just crowds your line of sight.
Iron Man VR Technical limitations are more than a flesh wound
From beginning to end, Iron Man VR pushses the absolute boundaries of what the PS4 can handle, and especially what it can deliver in VR. Even on a PS4 Pro, the game has occasional framerate drops (although they were never during important parts of gameplay). It can also look soft from time to time, which can be atributed to the lower than usual resolution. Trees tend to be simple, cities are a bit flat with a few polygonal buildings rising from the surface image in the distance, and animations can feel a bit stiff. These tendancies aren't consistent, as locations like Malibu and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Hover Carrier look a lot prettier than Shanghai, for instance.
This game is begging for the PS5 to be here already.
Some of it is also down to the lower graphical fidelity required to run something this complex on the PS4's aging hardware. I was often reminded that this was still a game running on some pretty ancient hardware.
However, as much as we could nitpick the visuals of a game that's coming out at the tail-end of a generation, nothing makes you salivate for faster hardware quite like loading times. Simply put, Iron Man VR has the longest loading times of any game I've played in several years, and it's something you'll regularly notice as you venture through the wonderful experience that Camouflaj crafted. This game is begging for the PS5 to be here already.
Bottom line: Is Iron Man VR worth playing?
When everything is taken into account, it's clear that Iron Man VR is a true marvel in design. While there's a lot that makes it obvious the game is running in VR on seven-year-old hardware, everything else makes these negative points easy to overlook. A 10-hour story and mechanics that feel perfectly aligned with any other AAA-level game on the PS4 makes Iron Man VR a must-have for any PSVR owner.
If the PSVR didn't still cost $350, I'd say it's worth buying a PSVR just to play the game. If nothing, this is the perfect excuse to jump into the PSVR ecosystem and introduce yourself to one of the absolute best VR experiences on any platform.
Simply put, Iron Man VR is in the top three best PSVR games available. This isn't just because the gameplay is great, not just because the story is worth playing through, and not just because it's a heckuva lot of fun. It's because it truly makes you feel like you're Iron Man. That, my friends, is proof of the kind of magic that only immersive VR experiences can deliver.
Becoming the hero
A Stark difference
Iron Man VR is about Tony Stark's transformation from pseudo-villain to genuine hero, and all the emotion that comes with such a transformation.
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