Marvel’s Iron Man VR REVIEW – A Virtual Reality Marvel
In many ways, the VR gold rush has come and gone, at least for now. It’s given us some cool experiences and awesome frights in particular, but, for the most part, it’s provided small, contained experiences which mostly boiled down to sandboxes and mini-games. Sure, there are exceptions, but I was genuinely surprised by how much Marvel’s Iron Man VR is a complete game. I went in half expecting it to be another slapped together arcade shooter with some scenarios to load up. Instead, it’s a full-fledged action game like any other, but in VR.
The overall story is very much in the vein of a good comic book romp. After some initial tutorials, the game starts with an attack on your private jet. Tony Stark’s past has come back to haunt him, and it’s up to you and your armor to stop a terrorist from using Stark’s tech to cause death and chaos. The hunt takes you all across the globe and many varied locations as you try to deal with this enigmatic enemy with an uncanny understanding of advanced technology.
Trekking across the world while inhabiting Iron Man is, for the most part, an enjoyable experience. You use the Move controllers as your thrusters and can jet around the level without much trouble. When enemies pop up, all you need to do is to raise your hands to activate your weapons and blow them to smithereens.
Iron Man’s mostly hand and wrist attached weaponry lends itself well to a VR experience, and the game is very responsive to what you do with your hands. For example, use one hand as a thruster while shooting with another to keep some air control, or flip your wrist forward to activate micro-rockets on the fly. Most of the trouble occurs when the game asks you to do too much too quickly. Combating dozens of enemies while making sharp turns around buildings can quickly become overwhelming.
The first metropolitan level is probably the most egregious for this, which is when you meet the missile launching hover tanks and gravity mines for the first time. Trying to navigate between the skyscrapers while dodging missiles, mines, and various lasers quickly turns into chaos, especially since the game also wants you to fight back. Sometimes I felt more like a rocket-powered pinball instead of a superhero.
It’s also on these occasions that I had the most trouble with motion sickness. It’s nowhere near the barf-fest you might think, and for the most part, I didn’t feel any discomfort at all in Iron Man VR. However, speeding around sharp corners while turning this way and that to shoot enemy drones, did cause my stomach to jump a bit from time to time. The game shoving bright lights in my face in the forms of enemy attacks didn’t help, either.
That said, when it all comes together and you get a good flow, the combat feels amazing. When you boost around the corner of a building, launch micro missiles at a tank, spin around and use repulsors at some drones, fly up into the air and finish with a ground pound, you actually approach feeling something resembling the hero we know and love from the comics and movies, as opposed to a bumbling drunk idiot with jets.
It’s not all high octane action, though. After a combat scenario has played out, you often have a chance to calm down and wander around as a civilian Tony. These episodes mostly take place in Stark’s house in Malibu, where you are able to interact with people and upgrade your suit. It’s also here that you can engage with some mild VR shenanigans. While these aren’t as extensive as I would have liked, it’s a good break from the fast-paced action. I think we all have to agree at some point that if a game is going to give you hands, we should be able to manipulate every object we can reach. Then again, I was able to pick up a few things and throw a couple of books at Pepper Potts. So, there is at least some fun to be had.
These calmer sequences are very important to the game as it creates a nice ebb and flow to the proceedings, both narratively and gameplay-wise. It’s fun to move around Tony’s house and look at artifacts from the comics and movies and engage in some breezy mini-game fun while deepening the plot and story.
Speaking of which, while the story is very much that of a comic book, the developers are clearly borrowing things from the MCU, to some mixed results. It’s most noticeable in the way the voice acting and writing portrays Tony Stark. They are both trying their very best to channel Robert Downey Jr’s version of the characters, but fail at reaching anywhere near those heights. Most of the time Tony’s quips and comments come off as a poor man’s version of Spider-Man. We really should start to move away from the movie versions of these characters as the comparison will rarely be favorable to the knock off.
Iron Man VR looks decent for a PSVR game on a base PS4. There are plenty of blurry textures, and the poly count isn’t very high. However, the game manages to paint a fairly large world, and you never feel particularly constrained. Also, I think the game’s simple graphics sometimes works in its favor; the framerate is consistent and stable, for one. But also, it works on an aesthetic level. Like the first city area you fly around in: it’s dark and sparsely populated with buildings, and the ground texture is just plain black. However, it did give me nostalgia for original PlayStation graphics. Some places felt like being in a VR version of G-Police, and who wouldn’t like that?
Iron Man VR is probably the first VR game I have played that feels like a fully fleshed out game, without much compromise. It has a decent and fairly lengthy campaign with most of the things we expect from a modern single-player mode. Iron Man mostly stumbles in the way it tries to chase after something it’s not, namely the movie license. By the end of the game, Tony’s comments and quips are like sandpaper to listen to. Likewise, the loading times on a stock PS4 are quite abysma — we’re talking over a minute here sometimes. This is a problem for many games this generation, but it becomes extra aggravating in VR as it’s something most people can’t do for long stretches at a time anyways.
All that being said, if you can stomach some of the dialogue, handle fast-paced VR and don’t mind the load times, Iron Man VR is a hell of an experience.
A PS4 EU code was supplied by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Marvel's Iron Man VR might not be without issues, but it’s hands down the most complete VR experience I have had to date.
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