Tony Stark has retired from making weapons and instead creates technology used to battle evil as Iron Man. After several years as a world-famous Super Hero, Tony is attacked by the mysterious Ghost, a hacker and anti-corporate activist who repurposes old Stark Industries weapons. In her efforts to topple his empire, Ghost attacks Stark’s corporate locations around the world, leading to ever-escalating stakes and a final showdown.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: PSVR (base PS4)
Cast: Josh Keaton, Jennifer Hale, Leila Birch, Chantelle Barry, Ike Amadi, Leonardo Nam
Developer: Camouflaj, Darkwind Media
Director: Ryan Payton
Writer: Brendan Murphy
If there’s one Marvel superhero that is best suited for the virtual reality treatment, it’s Iron Man. Not to say he was the first, we’ve had two short Spider-Man PSVR experiences that were – okay. However, this is the first fully-fledged Marvel character to receive a virtual reality makeover, and the first time you’ll get to step into the well-pressed suits of Tony Stark and raise the iron gauntlets as Iron Man.
Over the 6-8 hour campaign, you’ll play as Tony Stark as he deals with a personal attack on his company, his loved ones and himself. He dubs the attacker ‘Ghost’ as the person moves through solid walls into Tony’s high-level compounds, and walks through his high-level security to breach what barriers he thought were protecting him and his partner, Pepper Potts.
The opening level sets the bar for action high as you leap out of a plummeting Stark Jet that has just been attacked and call in the Iron Man suit mid-air. Having each part of the suit fly in and attach itself to you is going to be a religious experience for Iron Man superfans.
Iron Man VR features an original story from developer Camouflaj, but one deep-seated in Iron Man history and lore. You don’t need to have a history with the character to enjoy this game, but it will be more enjoyable if you at least known his basic origin story. The primary drive for Ghost wanting to destroy Tony is for things he’s done in his past and having that knowledge will help you understand, somewhat, where Ghost is coming from.
One chapter towards the end of the game slows things down and gives it a psychological horror atmosphere. A jump scare got me in an Iron Man game, and I bet you weren’t expecting to read that. As Iron Man’s armour; Tony Stark’s armour is stripped away, the game asks if he should be washed of his sins? Do his new actions make up for the sins of his past? The game never really answers that question, to be honest, but neither do the comics or movies for the most part. It’s still my favourite level in the game for at least diving into that psyche for even a brief moment.
Over the 12 chapters in the campaign, you’ll experience a couple of other moments like the opening plane level that feel like they’re pulled from a proper Marvel blockbuster. You’ll fly above the waters outside Tony’s home, all the way to Shangai and even do battle around a S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier. There’s some variety, even if you return to these locations a couple of times, and for the most part, the levels simply become an arena fight against drones. They’re broken up by slightly different objectives like rescuing civilians or stopping to weld a door shut, but they all boil down to flying and shooting. The good news is that being Iron Man is so much fun that you likely won’t care.
Using two PS Move controllers you control both of Iron Man’s hands inside the suit and will need to master both moving around in the air, and doing combat at the same time. It may seem confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll truly feel like a superhero as you fly, spin, punch and let off repulsor blasts like the real deal.
Holding the T Button on the back of the Move Controller propels you in whichever way you’d like. Move both hands by your side and you can hover upwards, move them to be a point behind you like rockets and you’ll propel yourself forward. Hold them in front of you and yes, you’ll go backwards. It’s simple physics.
Tony has four weapons inside the Iron Man suit. His basic repulsor fire can be aimed with either or both palms and fired with the Move Button on the top of the controller. If you angle your wrists downward you’ll activate the secondary fire. You’ll be able to upgrade several aspects of the Iron Man suit between missions, and selecting which secondary fire you want is one of those things. There’s access to an automatic machine gun, a grenade launcher, homing rockets and more. Mixing and matching what you like, for the way you prefer to play Iron Man is in your hands. Some weapons prefer and up-close-and-personal attack, while others are made for those constantly keeping their distance.
At first, you’ll probably be stopping your momentum to fire using both hands but as the game progresses it asks you to learn to move with one and fire with the other to take on certain drone types.
One pain-in-the-ass drone, in particular, is only susceptible to attacks as it fires at you. You can quickly double-tap the T Buttons to activate a boost and then use the face buttons to turn yourself around 180 degrees to get some damage in, but it’s not the most efficient use of time. If you’re able to dodge using one hand as a thruster and the other to fire, you’ll get more damage down and most of the time take the drone out in one counter-attack.
How you play the game with both Move Controllers is really intuitive, but it, like past PSVR exclusives, continues to show the tech holding back the game. Sometimes my hands would get lost as I held them behind my back to fly and other times I’d forget which way I was holding my hands as the move controllers don’t fit into your palms in a good way to get a feel for which direction your blasting. Put simply, holding the Move Controllers doesn’t make your hands feel-free as other VR controllers can. This is most evident when you are trying to put them beside you and blast upwards and having one hand even angled slightly will send you drifting sideways. Luckily the in-game HUD displays where your hands are at all times next to your body, so I’d often look to that to find out why I was flying a little bit of course.
There’s been no announcement of a PSVR 2 just yet, but I hope PlayStation go through the effort of porting games like Iron Man VR to the next system with, presumably, better controllers as it’d make for such a better experience. The visual improvements aside, the controllers are the must-upgrade item for PlayStation at the moment.
I’m not trying to scare you with the controls and you don’t have to be a pro-Iron Man to play the game — especially with three difficulty levels available for you — but on the ‘Invincible Iron Man (Hard)’ difficulty setting you’re going to get pummeled if you’re not moving at nearly all times.
In between chapters you’ll have downtime to look through upgrades for the suit as I mentioned or interact with both of Tony’s AI’s in his war room. ‘Friday’ is his most recent creation and the voice inside his head during missions, while ‘Guns Smith’ is an AI version of Tony from his past that helped create — in case you couldn’t guess — weapons of war. There’s also an assortment of mini-games to play with including a punching bag, basketball and a pull-ups bar for those seeking the miscellaneous trophies. Most importantly there is a shelf in Tony’s room that shows off all the PSN trophies as you unlock them. Fantastic detail.
Although you don’t interact with too many human faces in the game, they don’t look half-bad when you do. There’s certainly that play-dough look we’ve become accustomed to with VR but the facial animation and voice work bring them over. Jennifer Hale plays a warm and wonderful Pepper Potts for example. It’s disappointing she’s left in a hospital recovering for the majority of the game, but I hope a potential sequel will see her and Tony side-by-side for more of the game. Josh Keaton does both the voices of Tony Stark and Guns Smith with an exceptionally close, yet not mimicking Robert Downey Jr. Your brain automatically feels comfortable with his performance, but never like he’s trying to be the Iron Man you’ve been watching in movies for the past ten years.
One moment that’s not very movie-like at all are the constant loading screens and they’re my biggest complaint with Iron Man VR. They have improved slightly with the latest patch that went live prior to the review embargo, but it is still taking an average of thirty-seconds to load into a level. On top of this, during some levels, it’ll load as you move between scenes or locations. It’ll load that long when you die. You’ll spend a lot of time starring at load screens in this game. Loading in a VR game is more frustrating than a normal one because you’re left just standing there with nothing to do and no phone to quickly pick-up and doodle on. It’s simply frustrating.