You can forget Robert Downey Jr. and merrily disregard Tobey Maguire, because I think we all know that it was Wesley Snipes’ Blade that was truly responsible for the current glut of superhero movies. Still, what the first Iron Man movie and its handsome lead did for both Marvel and action blockbusters can’t be understated. Iron Man set the template for what we know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the process brought together the lynchpins of the entire organisation – Downey, Favreau, and Feige – in one fell swoop.
By his own admission, Tony Stark is Iron Man, but now you can be too. Marvel Iron Man VR turns the playboy’s alter ego into a VR experience, putting you in his armoured boots and letting you blast off into the sky so that you can blast everything else out of it.
Given the various alternatives being shield flinging, espionage, smashing stuff with green fists or virtual Thor-hair wafting in front of your virtual eyes, Iron Man is probably the Avenger you’d choose for a VR game. The smooth mix Tony Stark shenanigans play off brilliantly against the explosive, air-battling Iron Man action, and it’s easy to make structural comparisons between this and the hugely successful Batman: Arkham VR from the dawn of modern VR era.
Camouflaj have done an incredible job of capturing the feeling of being Iron Man. The sheer physicality on offer here easily puts Iron Man VR amongst the best virtual reality embodiments we’ve yet seen. While the PS Move controllers are fairly long in the tooth in the world of VR, here they’ve been used to fantastic effect, drawing on the wealth of control options, and helping to truly sell the fiction.
With a Move controller in each hand, it’s as easy as pretending to be Iron Man. Grasping the triggers with your palms facing down will see you fire Iron Man’s repulsors and take off into the sky, and you then angle each of them in order to change direction as you fly. With a satisfying hint of rumble, I doubt the control scheme for this could be any better. You feel like you’re Iron Man, and zipping through the air in each area feels intuitive and realistic.
The one sticking point becomes turning at speed. Your options are either to physically turn or you can make incremental turns by pressing the face buttons on either of your Move controllers. There’s a very real possibility of tangling yourself up in the PSVR’s cable if you do turn around, though smartly the game will know if you have done and pauses so you can untangle yourself.
The button presses are reliable, and probably help with any potential motion sickness you might have from flying around in VR, but there are points in the game where you have to fly as fast as possible and they don’t quite keep up. For large sections of the game it really won’t matter, but it can feel clunky when the rest of the flying experience is so perfect.
Iron Man’s armaments are fortunately just as intuitive as the main body of movement. Holding your palm up gives you access to Iron Man’s repulsors once again, though this time letting you fire blasts of energy at something other than the ground. Alternatively you can access your auxiliary weapons by angling your fist downward, and watch them pop out of a hatch in your forearm before using them to destroy everything in sight.
After so many films starring Downey, and his superhero alter-ego, you simply know how Iron Man moves; how his suit, and its weaponry, work in real world terms. Camouflaj have come as close as humanly possible with a wired VR headset and two glowing sticks in your hands, and it feels incredible.
Somehow, they’ve also done so without it causing a hint of motion sickness. In fact, the only time Marvel Iron Man VR gave me a jolt of stomach churning was during a section where you’re Tony Stark, and you’re stood in an elevator. None of the flying, shooting and spinning around miraculously made me feel sick at all. Whether it’s to do with the focal point of Iron Man’s helmet HUD being overlaid at all times, or simply some rather clever coding, you’ll be amazed at how smooth and sickness free the experience is.
Now, this obviously isn’t Downey’s Stark, but the role here has gone to superhero voice-acting royalty in the shape of Josh Keaton. There aren’t many people who can claim to have played Spider-Man, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Scott Lang, Aquaman and Cyclops, but Keaton has, and now he’s added Tony Stark to his resume. His rendition of Stark is as confident as you’d expect; capably bringing out Tony’s playful side, as well as his more authoritative qualities when needed.
The story that Iron Man VR puts you at the middle of feels like a blockbuster Marvel movie in every sense of the word. There’s plenty of action, but there’s also character development, and a real commitment to the blending of the two. There’s a decent villainous turn from Ghost, played here by Chantelle Barry, and the only downside is that you’ll likely see the conclusion coming a mile off. It doesn’t detract from a story, which is an absolute blast to be a part of.
It’s a shame then that some of the narrative momentum is stolen by the game’s excruciatingly long loading times. The majority of the loading screens attempt to keep you engaged by providing snippets of context that help to keep the narrative on track, the occasional Stark-fact, or information on how to unlock different colour schemes for your armour, but then some of them a plain old loading bars, which aren’t any more pleasurable to watch in VR than they are normally. You can’t escape them as easily as you can outside of VR, and they’re the main blemish on what is otherwise a fantastic VR experience.
There is plenty of meat on this particular VR bone; far more than your standard VR experience. While there are a couple of filler missions, there’s a good 8-10 hours of content on your first run through, and plenty of reasons to come back for more. Certainly some of the game’s best set pieces – it’s hard to beat a battle flying around a S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier – deserve returning to over and over again.
Iron Man VR manages to not quite overstay its welcome, despite most encounters having you face off against the same type of enemies. Still, the action remains as engaging at the beginning as at the end, and just being Iron Man is everything you’d hope it to be. It might simply be the case that Camouflaj have found the perfect length for a modern VR adventure.