Review: Iron Man VR (PSVR)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 None
  • Move Required (2)
  • PS VR Aim Controller None
Title: Iron Man VR
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (49.53 GB)
Release Date: July 3, 2020
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Camouflaj
Original MSRP: $39.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

 

Video Review:

Gameplay:
In Nineteen-eighty-something, if you had told me that by 2020, I would be living the dream of flying like a superhero, I would have immediately thought that by this year, we’d have developed flying jet packs. And you wouldn’t be half wrong, since there are hydro-powered jetpacks in existence. But they don’t propel you at Mach speed towards a metallic drone enemy, and they absolutely don’t shoot rockets from your wrists…yet.

Enter virtual reality, and Sony’s Iron Man VR, and I am now as I close as I can be to realizing that childhood daydream. There have been other virtual reality games based on the comic book genre. But the choice to create one based on Iron Man seems like the a perfect one. And it absolutely shows in the gameplay.

If you have played the free demo on the PlayStation store, then you’ll understand how intuitive the flying mechanic can be after you get used to it. It’s intuitive, not only because it works well, but it also works within the realm of Tony Stark’s suit and how it’s depicted in the recent movies.

The team at Camouflaj could have mapped the entire game to a DualShock controller and you could have pressed a shoulder button to propel forward in flight. They could have also simply had you point your Move controller forward to fly. Instead, they chose to add to the immersion by making flight controls based on the mythology and physics of the Iron Man suit.

It takes a few minutes to get accustomed to it, and the pre-game tutorial is incredibly helpful with this. But once you get the controls down, the sky is literally the limit.

Iron Man VR is an open world game, but don’t expect “GTA in VR”. The environments allow for open exploration and flight, and some of them are pretty vast, but missions are selected from an interface within Tony’s base, and once you arrive at those locations, you are free to fly around, though not in an entire city or anything like that. I hate to use the term “arena” but they feel like large levels with multi-direction freedom of flight. Action always dictates where you should be focusing your attention.

It’s going between levels where I found one of my issues with the game.

Load times.

I know next generation promises to all but eliminate load times, and I realize they exist in modern games. But waiting for a game to load in VR is a very different experience than on the flat screen. With the former, you can check your email, grab a drink, watch a movie.

In VR, you are stuck under that headset. To their credit, Camouflaj added some interactive elements to the load screens. Not only can you see a mission log on your left, but you can also shoot the ground with pulses that send ripples through the virtual environments. Game tips also scroll as you wait. I wonder if it would have been possible to shoot some simple targets while the game loaded.

While Iron Man VR is primarily an action game, there are some engaging exploration elements and interactive components outside of the battlefield. I mean, right from the start you can score some hoops in Tony’s personal electronic basketball game.

This is also a very narrative-driven game, a welcoming element for certain, and one that separates it from the shorter VR experiences that lack purpose. Cinematics are told in first-person, where characters speak to you directly. Ever been berated by Nick Fury? You will be…you will be.

Additionally, you earn points during missions that can be used to augment your suit with new weapons and defensive attributes, as well as components to enhance your speed and boost. And the way you add these elements, and how your suit reacts to them are totally the stuff of a comic-book-geek dreams. You can even save loadouts for your suit to be used in different scenarios.

Combat can also take a moment to become an instinctual twitch. Since your hands are used to propel you around the environment, but also to shoot enemies down, you must manage how your hands will be used in different situations. Fortunately, you can use one hand to fly while the other one fires. You lose some speed doing this, but you want that level of control when fighting anyway. Also, when you release your flight boosters, your suit descends slowly allowing you to free fall while you blast enemies. Absolutely the best gameplay elements for Iron Man VR are the flight and combat mechanics.

Visuals:
We’re reaching the end of the PlayStation 4 era, and while flat games have never looked better, VR games are starting to show their age, particularly on PlayStation’s hardware.

Iron Man VR looks great when you consider the above, but also factor in how much is going on under the hood to make it possible. Some of the environments look fantastic, like Tony’s home and the surrounding area, while other environments lack some detail. I’m guessing the logic behind this is “why use resources to add detail to environments that are going to whiz by?” Can’t say I disagree, because I seldom had time to “smell the roses”.

Framerate also dipped from time to time. Nothing that caused any discomfort, but it was certainly noticeable at times.

Another thing worth mentioning is the user interface and its presentation. Floating augmented reality menus, and even the way Tony’s face mask interface is presented, bring the information right up to your face in 3D. Wait until you see how you analyze enemies you’ve encountered when back at the base.

The character models you interact with outside of the action are also designed with detail and animation that bring them to life in virtual reality. I shook hands with Nick Fury!

Audio:
It’s clear that Camouflaj didn’t skimp in the audio department. An epic score accompanies this journey, and a talented cast of voice actors lend their pipes to these very colorful characters. Sound design excels in the air as well, with Doppler effects for projectiles and explosions galore.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Let’s face it. Unless an asteroid hits Earth and radiation changes us all into superheroes and villains, the likelihood that we will experience what it’s like to be a comic book character is remote. While playing these characters on a flat TV certainly has its element of immersion, games like Iron Man VR are as close as it’s going to get, folks, at least until a true Holodeck is developed. Sure, the load screens were a little difficult sit through and, while the overall game is visually stunning, some framerate issues were difficult to ignore. But it’s clear that the overall package represents a step forward in VR development and shows the strength of the medium. This game was developed from the ground up with VR in mind, and it’s clear that the developer’s goal was to put you in the shoes of Iron Man (literally).

They absolutely succeeded.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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