Marvel's Iron Man VR Review
As one of the most beloved superheroes, Iron Man is nearly as recognizable as any other character in pop culture today. Despite his success in films and comic books, video game prosperity has thus far eluded Marvel’s icon. With Iron Man VR, developer Camoflaj lets you step into Tony Stark’s power armor as you fly, blast, and quip your way through several missions spanning the globe. Iron Man VR gives you all the thrills of saving the day, but even early in the adventure, it’s easy to notice the cracks in the armor.
You assume the role the popular Avenger who has served as one of Marvel’s most iconic characters for years. Once you don the Iron Man suit, you use PlayStation Move controllers and the PSVR headset itself to dictate how and where you fly. Tilt the controllers behind you and you hurtle forward, and change direction by adjusting the angle of your arms and where you’re looking. Flying forward feels intuitive and terrific; whenever I was speeding along a linear path, I truly felt like a capable hero.
Combat in Iron Man VR is superb. Using the motion controllers to access Iron Man’s full arsenal of weapons truly made me feel like I was one of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Whether I was blasting waves of drones with Stark’s signature repulsors or unleashing a furious wave of lock-on missiles at a stunned adversary, Iron Man VR effectively makes you feel like the man in the suit. My favorite combination to pull off was to ground pound a hovertank from the sky, then while it’s airborne from the shockwave, melting away its armor with a chaingun, and finishing it off with a cluster bomb. Chaining together combos to take down ferocious foes never ceases to satisfy, and I always looked forward to testing my aim and improvisation in the more intense firefights. If things get too hairy, defeating enemies charges your unibeam, an awesome ultimate attack that can level the playing field and shift the odds in your favor regardless of the situation.
Most missions take place in open areas, requiring you to complete objectives while fending off waves of enemies. As you turn at all angles and adjust your height, the frantic pace can be disorienting. The controls are imprecise if you physically turn around (and away from the sensors), but the only alternative is using the buttons to manually turn and readjust the camera, which completely ruins the thrilling sense of presence the game is intended to create. Even near the end of the campaign, as I began to feel like an expert in the flight controls, I often went soaring into walls and struggled to keep up with the more nimble bosses, fighting in environments full of beams and pillars. These encounters rarely resulted in my defeat, but they went on far longer than they held my interest.
Tony Stark is more than just Iron Man. Between missions, you take control of the complicated man behind the iron mask. In these sections, you move around by selecting waypoints in the environment and teleporting. While Stark’s mansion has fun Easter eggs and inconsequential minigames, the most valuable use of your time at home is customizing your armor. In addition to getting new paintjobs, you can use earned skill points to unlock upgrades. These improvements range from speed boosters and faster health regeneration to various new weapons. While I barely noticed the speed advantages granted by those upgrades, my two loadouts played very differently from each other by the end of the game thanks to the diverse selection of auxiliary bombs and guns available to equip.
During these heavily restricted in-between moments, you get a glimpse into the life of Tony Stark, the internal struggles of reconciling his past as an international arms dealer with his desire to be a heroic beacon for the world, and how his decisions affect not only those he cares about, but those he doesn’t even know exist. That premise serves as the backdrop to the story, as the supervillain Ghost seeks to avenge those killed by Stark Industry weapons using her hacking skills and high-tech suit. This assault on both fronts of Tony’s life leads to compelling situations and fun moments, even if Ghost’s sidekick, Living Laser, feels ripped from a Saturday morning cartoon.
As a huge fan of the iron Avenger, Iron Man VR has me torn. I love the feeling of putting on the iconic suit and destroying waves of enemies, but for every moment I felt like a seasoned superhero soaring into action and taking down the bad guys, the finicky flight controls made me feel more like someone who snuck into Stark’s workshop to take the suit for a spin with no prior training. Iron Man VR delivers a fun adventure for fans of Marvel’s iconic hero, but it too often feels hindered by the virtual-reality technology rather than elevated by it.