Marvel’s Iron Man VR Review

Move over, RDJ.

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.

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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.

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Summary
Marvel's Iron Man VR is a brilliant superhero adventure, and one that replicates its star's physicality in VR in a truly incredible way.
Good
  • You are Iron Man
  • It's a true Marvel experience
  • Boasts one of the best VR control setups
Bad
  • Loading times are excruciatingly long
  • Some repetition to encounters once you've settled in
  • Eating virtual sandwiches doesn't fill you up
8
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

11 Comments

  1. “Your options are either to physically turn or you can make incremental turns by pressing the face buttons on either of your Move controllers”

    Did they remove the option from the demo to turn on smooth turning instead of the horrible snap-turning?

    And did they fix the way the triggers and the move buttons are the wrong way round? The triggers should be for firing, the Move buttons for, well, moving. Not the other way around, as it was in the demo. I guess you could learn to do it all the wrong way, but then you’ve broken your brain when it comes to every other game.

    • Ah, there is also smooth turning, but only so much as you have to press the button to do it too, which is all kinds of wrong for my brain.

      I’m not sure about ‘fixing’ the controls or them being the wrong way round. They felt absolutely bang on in terms of the fiction, and I didn’t have any problem with them.

  2. I think you have a serious misunderstanding and are quite drastically underestimating how important Robert Downey Jr.’s impersonation of Iron Man was for the current hype for all things Marvel and superheroes in general. But I accept that.

    What I find completely unacceptable, is that Sony deliberately limits the options how to play this game, by forcing everyone to use those awkward Move controllers. As much as I’d love to play Iron Man VR, I give this a pass, as I don’t have two of these and I don’t let them force me into buying additional controllers.
    What they did with TLOU2 with regard to accessibility is fantastic. What they did here is the opposite.

    • Move controllers belong on the list of “things you need for PSVR”, along with the headset, camera and “some sort of headphones so you don’t need to have your TV on causing confusing echoes, because nobody wants to hear their own voice. Just use the ones that come with it if you must, just turn your fucking TV down!”

      Sorry, that last bit frequently annoys me.

      In some cases, any controller is a reasonable choice. DS4, Move, Aim, whichever. Or even a combination of 2 types of controller. (An Aim for moving and your main gun and a Move for a sidearm is an interesting, but challenging, combination)

      But in some cases, the DS4 just isn’t going to work. Could they have designed it so it does? Sure. Fly around as Iron Man using the DS4. Could be fun. Not as good as using the Moves. But would that have an impact on the whole game? Would it have made it worse if you were using Moves? Quite probably.

      Adding Move support to a game designed for normal controllers can work. Sometimes it can work really well. It’s never going to be as good as if the whole game was designed for the Move.

      It’s more unacceptable to limit things for people with Move controllers. Got to work with the DS4 because some people only have that? What’s next? Can’t have VR because some people haven’t got a Fancy Hat? Sure, add a flat mode to a VR game if it will still work. But not if it’s going to bugger everything up for VR people. (Look at Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Nice VR game, they added a non-VR mode, and you end up with people who don’t talk in a game where that’s the whole point, because only the VR people are guaranteed to have a mic)

      • Let’s be reasonable: with a single-player game like this, an additional control scheme for controllers would not mess up anything for anyone, it would just add options. On Ars Technica there’s a (not so) nice review of this game by someone who got wrist pain due to the Move controllers in this game, so obviously it’s not the best option for everyone.

      • Options are good, sure. But in some cases, options aren’t really feasible. How would you add DS4 support without completely changing the game? Probably leaving the Move option worse off. Clearly they’ve decided what they want to do, and that Move controllers are the only way to do it. Are they supposed to compromise on that just to get potentially loads more people playing?

        And as for that Ars Technica “review”? That’s just hilariously shit. Clearly just a click-bait review written by someone who doesn’t like VR and who rushed through the game to review it, forgetting to investigate all the settings. Which anyone who actually enjoys VR games knows is the first thing you do. Or maybe he just doesn’t like Sony? The update to the “review” is still a bit “I don’t like VR, so VR is dead or dying”.

      • I don’t think this leads anywhere. You’re clearly on the wrong side of the fence, but are too stubborn to admit.
        Adding a switch to a DS4 controller somewhere in the options when you start up a game with Move controllers connected is not really what I find sensible to call ‘completely changing the game’. And calling a review you don’t like ‘hilariously sh**’ is not either.
        I think they were just either too lazy to add this controller option, or, more likely, deliberately decided against it to sell some more Move controllers. But it’s very rarely the case that adding accessibility options early on in development makes a software a worse experience for anyone.
        Do you really think ND made TLOU2 so much worse a game because they added all those accessibility options? It’s incredible then they still got these high review scores.

      • In the case of Iron Man VR I think that playing the game with a DS4 would legitimately make it a far worse experience. The way the control system is set up enables you to embody Iron Man – you fly like him, you blast things like him, you are him. Taking that away loses what the game is – you’re no longer playing a superhero simulator, instead it’d become a fairly simplistic shooter with your head inside it.

        I agree that options are always nice to have, but I can see why the developer hasn’t included a DS4 option; it would make the game worse.

      • Accessibility options are a good thing, obviously. They may even be legally required, although has that ever been legally tested?

        But saying “make this game, which has been clearly designed to work with Move controllers, somehow magically work with a DS4” is just silly and not like all those accessibility options in TLoU2. You could try and claim they should do it, but then that falls down when the law says you should do these things unless they’re “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. Letting you fly around as Iron Man using your hands (as that’s what Iron Man does) seems like a legitimate aim.

  3. I see where you’re coming from wanting an alternative with the DS, the move controllers crazy expensive and not perfect. I was lucky and had a pair left over from PS3 days. But without them I don’t think this game would be worth playing. The fun of the game is the fact your using your arms and hands, without that there’s be no buzz. it’d be like playing time crisis without a light gun. I’d encourage you to get a set of move controllers and enjoy all the games for them (walking dead, super hot, bridge crew, I expect you to die). We’re in the last year or so of PSVR now and there’s a ton of stuff to enjoy, in another year we’ll have moved on. If your stubborn about it you’ll have just missed out. There’s some great gaming out there get involved.

    • I think we’ve got more than a “year or so” of PSVR left. We’ve got the PS5 coming to give it a bit of a boost this year. Although Sony haven’t said anything other than PSVR works on the PS5, yet. We’ve still got PS4 VR games to come, which are guaranteed to work on the PS5 (Sony’s PS5 compatibility rules kick in soon), and hopefully they get a PS5 upgrade. And there’s already some PS5 VR games planned.

      Then we might get a PSVR2 in the next couple of years. Hopefully as a sort of optional upgrade. Keep using your PSVR on the PS5 (there’s 6 million of them out there after all), or have things look nicer with a PSVR2. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get new controllers next year and a new headset the year after. (Maybe new controllers needing the new PS5 camera?)

      I think we’ve got a couple of years of the current PSVR and then an upgrade.

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