Review – Iron Man VR

When it first got unveiled at one of the first State of Play conferences, Iron Man VR excited little to no people. I know it’s hard to properly showcase how good a VR game can be on a 2D screen, as well as in a short trailer, but I thought that the people at Sony and developer Camouflaj did a poor job trying to entice consumers with that announcement at the time. Things changed when I finally got the chance to play a demo of the game at Brasil Game Show 2019, quickly turning the game into one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. Now that the full version of the game is finally available, it’s time to tackle it and see if it was worth the wait.

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You can customize the color of your suit. I don’t know why you would want to do that, as you won’t be able to see it through the game.

We were all expecting for Iron Man VR to be a simplistic on-the-rails shooter, but the gameplay is a lot deeper than that. This is a full-fledged combat flight simulator, not unlike what we have seen from the VR sections featured in Ace Combat 7. You are given full control of Tony Stark’s suit and you’re tasked with completing a few missions on a small arena-like environment. More often than not, these revolve around destroying drones, destroying something else that’s being protected by drones, or defending a structure that’s being attacked by drones. Think of Rogue Squadron, but with a playboy billionaire as your playable character and some really impressive VR controls.

The best thing about Iron Man VR is how intuitive its controls are. You use the Move controllers to emulate the suit’s gauntlets. Pressing the triggers activates each hand’s boosters, and you’ll need to position your arms in a pseudo Naruto pose in order to accelerate, just like how Iron Man does in the movies. Activating the boosters with your arms in front of you makes you fly backwards, boosting with your palms facing the floor makes you gain altitude, and so on.

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Tony’s personality condensed in one PSVR game screenshot.

You use the main Move button in order to attack, all depending on the position of your hand. If you raise your arm and face your palm forward, you’ll be able to use Iron Man’s traditional laser attack. Extending your arm and facing your palm to the floor will activate your homing missiles. You can also hold a button to engage in a delightful melee mode, as well as activate your Unibeam with another button combination once you fill a meter by destroying loads of enemies in a level. You can turn the camera with the triangle and square buttons, be it with a faded or a natural transition, which was really well-implemented.

Iron Man VR‘s controls work really well because of the PS Move’s limitations. I don’t think the game would have played that well with any other kind of input, be it the Dualshock or the Vive/Rift controllers. It is incredibly well-designed to take advantage of those controllers’ limitations and deliver a control scheme that is easy to learn and not exactly that hard to master. Iron Man VR offers tons of tutorials and challenge sections to teach you more advanced controls in a very natural way, offering you research points that can be traded for suit upgrades as a reward.

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Say what you want about MCU fatigue, but flying around a Helicarrier in VR is freaking awesome.

I’ve read other reviews talking about how bland the story was, but I have to disagree. Sure, Iron Man VR doesn’t feature a deep story like the one featured in the most recent Spider-Man game, but it’s still interesting. It follows the typical internal struggles Tony has with his new life as someone who doesn’t make weapons for a living, combined with villains who want revenge because of Tony’s past as an arms dealer. It’s not unlike the first two Iron Man movies, but this isn’t set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It does take some influences from it, namely when it comes to some character and level designs, but it tries to be its own thing, just like Spider-Man did two years ago.

It is obviously not voiced by anyone featured in the MCU, but that doesn’t mean that the voice acting is underwhelming. Sure, some characters sound cheesy and amateurish, but I need to give props to the performance delivered by Tony Stark’s voice actor, Josh Keaton. He’s best known for his performances as Avad in Horizon: Zero Dawn and for voicing Ant-Man in pretty much every single cartoon and video game out there, including the recent Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.

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Just like in Superman 64, Iron Man VR has flying ring sections. Unlike Superman 64, however, these sections are really fun.

I need to point out that, even though I absolutely love Iron Man VR‘s premise and gameplay, the game has some noticeable issues, and they are centered around its performance. Whenever the game puts you in a cinematic, less action-oriented section, it looks stunning. Character models look detailed, and you can definitely notice that the people at Camouflaj put in a lot of effort when crafting these environments. That changes when you’re thrown into an arena-based level, like the heavily criticised Shanghai level presented in one of the most recent Iron Man VR trailers on Youtube. The game goes from detailed VR experience to an early PS3 era game at best, with blocky edges and underwhelming textures that stick out even when you’re flying around at high speeds.

And then there’s the framerate. Iron Man VR is the first game I’ve played on the PSVR in which I could definitely notice some really inconsistent framerates, depending on the amount of action happening onscreen. During the aforementioned story-heavy sections, everything runs as smoothly as you can imagine, but the framerate drops significantly when there are lots of drones and explosions occupying your field of view. While they were annoying hindrances, in no moment I felt sick or dizzy. Maybe I just grew accustomed to how VR works, or maybe the drops weren’t as heavy to make my stomach juices fly out through my nostrils. Another noticeable issue is the overabundance of long loading times in between levels and cutscenes. Other than that, there’s nothing else in Iron Man VR that deserves criticism.

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The buildings in Hulk: Ultimate Destruction were more detailed than the buildings in this game’s version of Shanghai.

One thing that saddens me about Iron Man VR is that not a lot of people will actually end up playing it. The PSVR is still a niche and expensive add-on, and virtual reality as a whole is still treated like a fad, like something that just won’t last for long. That’s a shame, because this isn’t just one of the most entertaining VR games I’ve played in years, but one of the most entertaining games in general I have played in a very long time. It is hindered by the limited horsepower provided by the PS4 and the PSVR, but what the people at Camouflaj have managed to achieve with so many limitations is absolutely impressive. This is probably the last major VR game that Sony will release for the PS4, and what a fantastic way to say goodbye to the system.

 

Graphics: 7.0

It looks really impressive when you’re in a less action-heavy section, but it looks like an early PS3 game at best when you’re flying around in an open area. It also suffers from an inconsistent framerate, something really rare to find in a VR game.

Gameplay: 9.5

Iron Man VR‘s controls don’t simply deal with the limitations imposed by the Move controllers. They actually take advantage of their design. Being able to freely fly around and shoot anything in sight with really precise controls is a fantastic experience.

Sound: 9.0

Most of the voice actors deliver great performances, even though they’re obviously not as good or iconic as their MCU counterparts. The game also features a pretty good blockbuster sounding soundtrack.

Fun Factor: 9.5

Iron Man VR is one of the most entertaining VR games of this entire generation. It allows you to immerse yourself into the world of Tony Stark with fantastic controls, a decent story, and tons of replayability. It is only hampered by some really long loading screens.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Iron Man VR is available now on PSVR.

Reviewed on PSVR.