Lets be honest, PSVR has been showing its age of late.
I love Sony’s headset dearly, but the blur of No Man’s Sky Beyond proves that much. And that’s not to mention the archaic Move controllers, which grow more frustrating by the day. 180 degree tracking is getting harder and harder to excuse in 2019 and, thanks to Oculus Insight and SteamVR 2.0, the days of deadspots are practically over for PSVR’s competitors.
And yet, with Iron Man VR, I almost completely forgot about those nagging limitations. It’s something of a small miracle. Much has been said of developer Camouflaj’s heroically impressive showcase. The studio says that, with the help of some predictive algorithms and tricks, it can let players fly around with 360 degree tracking.
Even after seeing footage for myself, though, I doubted it could really be done. My skepticism was short-lived once I’d pulled the headset over my eyes. It turns out Iron Man isn’t just the perfect hero for VR, but specifically PSVR too. Tony Stark’s mechanical mode of flight means that you often have your hands down to your sides, simply rotating them to change direction. They’re often in view of the PlayStation Camera and, from what I understand, the software can compensate for when they’re not.
No matter what direction I turned when in VR, I didn’t suddenly start veering off on an unexpected path or come to an abrupt halt. I was able to do away with my usual concerns and lose myself in the experience that bit more. Well, almost. I did notice some blips when it came to combat. This is obviously much harder to predict than your flight path, and there were a handful of stutters when I brought my hands up to chest to fire repulsor blasts. Still, even these instances were remarkably few across my ten minute demo. I had to fight the tracking a little, but they quickly recalibrated.
More troublesome are the cables connecting PSVR to your console. I found myself getting tangled up in them every few minutes and at one point I even stepped on them accidentally and also pulled the headset off. That’ll have to be something everyone considers when they start setting up their play space for this one. Other than that, I found myself largely agreeing with other people’s impressions of the game so far.
Flight feels incredibly responsive and natural, if occasionally a touch too sensitive. Some more precise maneuvers are tricky to pull off (it seemed like the game automatically pulled you toward an objective marker when you neared it), but the level design seemed to compensate for this. In the game’s training mission, I was switching between soaring through the air and blasting away enemy drones with refreshing ease. Stark’s air punch move, meanwhile, is simple and satisfying to pull off. It captures the frantic multitasking of Iron Man’s cinematic action scenes quite nicely, though I’m definitely hoping the wider game utilizes more of Stark’s armory, like shoulder-mounted rockets and lasers. It would be nice to use a different armor or two as well (Hulkbuster fight, anyone?)
In fact, I could see Iron Man VR being one of the first VR games to invite truly skill-based speedrunning. Once people really get to grips with the navigation system I have no doubt we’ll start seeing people pulling off amazing things flying through levels and taking out enemies as quickly as possible. Personally, though, I’m interested to find out what direction Camoflaj, a developer known for its narrative focus, goes with Tony Stark in VR. Yes, there’s sure to be plenty of awesome action, but the studio has the chance to tell one of the first long-form superhero stories in VR. In an age where Marvel has never been bigger, that’s a lofty opportunity. After the disappointment of Marvel: Powers United VR, I’m really hoping the team makes up for lost ground.
Iron Man VR is due for launch later this year.