The biggest surprise at last week's State of Play was arguably the announcement of Iron Man VR from Washington State-based Camouflaj (République). The trailer shown during the presentation was a little vague with regards to what kind of game we can expect but after having played a 20-minute demo and talked to game director Ryan Payton, we have a better picture of - and higher expectations for - PlayStation VR's new flagship title.
First things first: yes, Iron Man VR is a fully-fledged game and not an "experience". Camouflaj expects the game to clock in between 5-10 hours, and it will tell an original story set two or three years after Tony Stark has become Iron Man. It's been in development for two and a half years and will release later this year.
Structurally the game varies between cinematic story sequences, where you still have control over Tony and can interact with your surroundings, and action-based missions, which provide you with the wonderful opportunity of getting into the Iron Man suit and taking to the skies. The demo opened with a tutorial set close to Stark Mansion. Here, the game's intuitive but far from easy control scheme is introduced. Players use two Move controllers, which, naturally, represent Tony's hands. Three buttons are used: the Move button is your thrusters, the trigger your repulsors, and by holding down X you can punch to hit enemies and obstacles.
The biggest challenge is definitely controlling your thrusters. You basically use them to get around and since Iron Man isn't exactly known for taking it slow, it's all about navigating quickly and efficiently. Pressing the move buttons while your arms are in a downward direction will make you fly up, moving them behind your body will make you forwards, and so on. As said, it's pretty intuitive but not exactly easy stuff so it takes some practice, which, in our book, is a very good thing indeed. Your repulsors are fired by stretching your arms forward and pulling the trigger, while punches are executed by physically punching into thin air. The feedback from the rumble is satisfying and the sound effects are punchy enough for both to feel really good.
After the tutorial is done, we were thrown into a cinematic sequence, which was a longer version of the short scene on Stark's plane shown in the trailer. At one point a dialogue choice appeared and we asked Ryan Payton whether we can expect more of these and if so, will your choices matter? The answer for both was yes but he was quick to mention that there will only be one ending, no matter what. He also pointed out that this sequence was atypical in the sense that Tony Stark doesn't move about or interact with many objects, as opposed to most of these types of sequences in the full game.
Everything was going fine until the plane ride was abruptly disturbed by the villain, Ghost, who may or may not be the main antagonist. Tony is forced to jump out of the plane and don his suit mid-air to save the plane and Pepper. This initiates a fast-paced mission where Iron Man has to catch up to the plane and repair damage in classic VR minigame style. He also needs to avoid or destroy debris and neutralise combat drones with his trusty repulsors. The mission had variety, was entertaining, and everything worked as it should. It was, perhaps, a tad on the simple side but Payton assured us that most missions will be more open and complex.
Iron Man VR made a strong first impression and Camouflaj is obviously very passionate about the project. The controls are intuitive and well thought out and the fact that you have full control over Iron Man instead of being on-rails is great. In addition to this, we're really happy that we're getting a full, original Iron Man story.
One thing that did worry us a bit was the risk of motion sickness. During the game's tutorial, we felt somewhat uneasy when having to turn around a lot, but Camouflaj is aware of the risk and is working on minimising any inconvenience. Also, it should be noted that we didn't experience anything during the main mission. As mentioned previously, Iron Man VR should come out this year and it may very turn out to be one of 2019's essential VR games.
For more impressions from our recent PSVR round-up, head this way.
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