Marvel’s Iron Man VR Demo Impressions
I was a late adopter to PSVR, having bought a bundle during Black Friday of 2019, and part of the reason besides the insane bundle and price, was my excitement for Iron Man VR. Donning the armor of Iron Man would only be second to that of pulling on Batman’s cowl. Interestingly enough, Camouflaj and Rocksteady (maker’s of Arkham VR) couldn’t have taken a more different path.
That initial reveal was a bit pie-in-the-sky for me. It looked a tad clunky, and I honestly wasn’t confident in how the Move controllers, of which that tech was pushing 10 years, would fare with one of the more technical games to come to the platform. Around the time of that reveal, there wasn’t really that big flagship vr-exclusive title, just no real system seller. That’s not to say there weren’t great experiences. Arkham VR is an outstanding title, albeit far too short for what fans had clamored for. Having said that, I could play that multiple times and still have a stupid grin on my face.
Resident Evil 7 proved that a full-fledged title can work with the addition of VR. Astrobot is one of the better gaming experiences of 2018 but never really seemed to capture mindshare and sell the platform, even though it showcases all you could want out of PSVR. So, could there be a game featuring a beloved character that uniquely stands on its own, and speculatively, sell the platform? Camouflaj seems to say yes, and I wholeheartedly agree after playing the Marvel Iron Man VR Demo.
Virtual reality is an interesting experience that brings along a slew of challenges, namely ensuring that motion sickness isn’t a factor or that it is alleviated as much as possible. There’s no possible way that Camouflaj could both bring the experience of rocketing through the air to life and mitigate the dreaded motion sickness… right?
Wrong. My fears were instantly alleviated early on in the demo. Flying across the ocean toward Stark Mansion was exhilarating and surprisingly intuitive. Be it the countless movies Iron Man has been in or just my inherent nerdom, it’s never been easier to pick up the locomotion of a VR game. Palms along your side facing down? Propels you up. Rotating your palms to face behind you? Propels forward and so on. Cool, I thought, but what about turning! That’s always an issue! Wrong again. While the option to turn is there with the press of a button on each Move controller, if you want to turn you just…. turn in real life. Yes. 360 degrees. Getting tangled in the PSVR cord be damned, it made me feel like I was actually Iron Man.
Of course, movement is only half the battle. Another key aspect that would have to be capitalized upon to sell the fantasy is the combat. Repulsors, a unibeam, a rocket punch and some nifty tracking missiles, those tools that truly sell the feeling. All of these look and sound absolutely spot on. The sheer power and sound of the unibeam as it blasts from your chest (albeit controlled via where you are looking), and thrusting your palms forward as you let repulsor bolts fly (even though you don’t need to push them, couldn’t help it), pretty much match their cinema counterparts. The only one I had an issue with was the tracking missiles. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of painting targets and letting a volley of rockets fly is to-notch and very on-brand, but I did have some slight issues with making this work consistently. Your supposed to extend your arm with your wrist pointed down and sort of paint the targets as if there was something extended from the top of your wrist. When achieved, the sound and impact of the smart missiles is smile-inducing, but I found too many times while I was trying to dodge around and initiate them it would only paint one target, or not initiate all together.
I changed the level of the PSVR camera a few times and nothing really seemed to help all that much. With that minor quibble (since it doesn’t happen all too frequently) aside, if there was ever a way to sell a PSVR glove, this would definitely be it.
The overall art direction in Iron Man mimics what you would expect. The Stark Mansion triggered the recall of what it looked like in the movies. The HUD as the mask pulls down in front of your face is reminiscent of what you’ve seen in the movies plenty of times. The sense of speed is sold via its smooth speed effects complemented with the stellar sound design. The only place where the illusion falters is when there are some slight frame rate hiccups. It’s nothing game-breaking, but the immersion does take a slight hit. With that said, it only happened twice throughout my various playthroughs.
Chapter 1 Story Impressions
The demo gives you an approximately 15-minute feel of a classic Iron Man scene. You resume the role of Tony Stark talking with Friday and Pepper Potts on your private jet when it’s hacked by a drone developed by Stark Industries (hello Iron Man 1) being controlled by a woman assuming the moniker of Ghost. What was most captivating thus far was how non-combat sequences were interspersed within this singular sequence. When the plane’s engine catches fire, you have to use a fire suppressant to extinguish it. Or, when the landing gear fails, you have to reach up and pull the flaps flapping it in place down. Both of these sequences kick off once you fly into the orange glowing area.
They aren’t necessarily game-changing, but they provide more levity to flesh out Tony Stark and Iron Man. Another aspect was just how in-tune the devs are with what we’ve come to expect from Tony Stark. An early sequence has you free-falling from a plane. Instinctively, I put my hands up just before a prompt told me to do so, obviously to suit-up. It’s all these world-building type of sequences where Camouflaj shines as devs.
The voice cast for the Chapter seems well-rounded, although I imagine Tony Stark (voiced by Josh Keaton) will pull people out simply because it, most obviously, isn’t Robert Downey Jr. He seems perfectly fine for what had been shown.
I don’t think it’s a secret that, with the new console generation soon to be upon us, PSVR is really starting to show its age. This is compounded by the fact that a handful of more technologically advanced headsets have come out since PSVR’s release, but does it really matter? With every ounce that Camouflaj was able to squeeze out of the demo, I’d have to lean toward no. The demo proved that they nail the essence of actually being Iron Man. The 360 tracking is also astounding on the current hardware.
Marvel’s Iron Man VR releases on July 3, 2020. Look for a review from us shortly after release.