After a long wait and two postponements, the time has finally come to get into Tony Stark's combat suit and take to the skies in virtual reality!
The first thing I noticed is that this is, of course, an official Marvel game, but the license only partially relates to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - the locations look extremely similar to their movie counterparts (for legal reasons, the characters don't look anything like Robert Downey Jr and friends). Additionally, the story more or less fits on the back of a postcard (or rather in a 32-page graphic novel) and the solutions to the "secrets" found throughout the game are pushed on us so intrusively that there are hardly any surprises left to discover on your own.
But this isn't an arthouse indie game - it's a huge, first-party blockbuster in which we fly around as Iron Man himself and get to see (and create) all sorts of explosions - and this is the area where the game delivers the goods. After taking off in my new suit for the first time, I found myself in the beautiful coastal area around Tony Stark's villa in Malibu while I got to know the PlayStation Move controls. As someone who also plays PC-based virtual reality, I had my share of problems with the rubber sticks, but I wholeheartedly admit that the controls in Iron Man VR work very well and are perfectly adapted to these ageing devices. With a push on the trigger, the jets start and I'm up in the air, with weapons mapped to the thumb buttons (I think it would have been more intuitive if it was the other way around, but you can't change that in the settings). However, the controls follow the old mantra of "easy to learn, hard to master" and over time, you will get used to them and eventually learn to appreciate the set-up.
The game offers room to improve in all areas because the missions are rated up to five stars, stars which are used to buy extensions/upgrades for the suit, eventually making the difficult missions easier. This system invites us to perfect our results, even after playing through the story. Pleasingly, the developers have been inspired by Blood & Truth when it comes to the ebb and flow of the action, so there are some quiet scenes from time to time wherein we take a closer look at our surroundings or even experience a little creepy tension. It's a pity then that the transitions into the individual scenarios often appear somewhat choppy and are accompanied by long loading times - an SSD helps here.
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The game is around 50 GB in size and thus offers correspondingly extensive locations. Further on in the game, there's a cool world map in the form of an interactive globe that lets us start the side missions that need to be completed in order to earn more stars. To that end, we are invited to take part in things such as air races and target practice (in areas that are recycled for obvious reasons). Successful combat manoeuvres unlock new suit designs, although these are of limited use since we usually only see our arms in Iron Man VR, however, it was a lure that still motivated me to do well in combat.
The events in the main missions switch between explosive scenarios such as the rescue of a burning plane and then the visual splendour of Malibu, through to locations such as the nocturnal urban environment of Shanghai, which reminded me of a low-budget PSVR game called Megaton Rainfall. Nevertheless, the bottom line here is that Sony and Camouflaj have unleashed a really complex and graphically convincing VR adventure for PlayStation 4 (I played on a Pro). Even though you can now get a decent PC that's ready to play VR for well under £1,500 (including an Oculus HMD, for example), we have to consider the street price of around £500 for the PS4 Pro and a PSVR headset. For that amount of money, the quality of this virtual reality experience is really convincing.
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Even though the missions are somewhat similar and your enemies are mostly boring drones, flying around like a bird and fighting in a combat-focused mech suit is great fun - who would have guessed, right? With the right amount of practice, amazing manoeuvres can be performed combining various primary and secondary weapons with powerful ramming attacks. Even though collisions at full speed are lightly felt they still manage to feel somewhat credible, and the motion sickness that can plague VR for some hardly affected me here.
Comfort is further improved through the use of adjustable vignettes (darkening of the edges of the picture), as well as the heads-up display, which is always prominently visible and ultimately sells the illusion that we're the super-rich hero playing a role in an action-packed Marvel movie. This proves ones again that the feeling of being in the game, the thing that makes virtual reality truly special, simply can't be conveyed in any other way, at least not to anywhere near the same extent, and it is always surprising just how intense it feels when a capable developer create a convincing, immersive playground for us to explore. It's time to suit up, friends!
8 / 10
Great audio-visual presentation, lots of content, we get to be Iron Man!
Some repetitive gameplay sequences, long loading times, some uninspired-looking areas.