Unless you’ve been living in a cave and forced to build weapon parts for the past week, you should know by now that there’s a free demo of Marvel’s Iron Man VR on PSVR.
You might also know that it’s really, really good.
The full game isn’t out for an entire month yet, touching down on July 3rd. That gives us plenty of time to pour over this playable teaser and get some much-needed practice in. Based on our first playthrough, though, we’ve come up with a list of four things we love about the game (as well as a few things that could be improved). Read on for more!
What We Love
We’ve written about this at length at this point, but it was still hugely reassuring to get the demo in our homes and find it still holds up. Iron Man VR uses a lot of clever techniques to allow players to twist and turn unlike other PSVR titles. There are artificial turning options but the game holds up really well even if you turn your body almost completely the other way from the camera.
Flying in Iron Man VR requires you to keep your hands by your sides, so the Move controllers are almost always in view of the camera. But even if they’re not you won’t see your controllers go haywire like you would in other PSVR experiences. Aim at enemies with your repulsor blasts and, sure, Tony’s arm might not accurately extend like it would if you were facing the camera, but it still works on a mechanical level. We can’t wait to put this feature deeper to the test in the full game.
Of course, tracking wouldn’t really matter if the game didn’t play very well. But, thanks to smart movement and clever corner-cutting, Iron Man VR feels great to control. Triggers activate your jets and the Move button fires a repulsor blast (more on that in a bit). From there, everything is essentially determined by the direction of your hands. It surpasses the age-old issue of Move’s lack of analog sticks with remarkable grace.
Plus, there are some intelligent design choices that help navigate more intricate gameplay moments. Want to punch an enemy? You won’t need to worry about accuracy; throw your fist forward and you’ll lock on and dash towards the nearest foe. Plus the game will do a small bit of auto-piloting for cinematic moments, like the end of the first level in which you rescue Pepper from a jet. It can be a handful at times, but Iron Man VR largely feels great to control.
One of the key qualities that kept the Marvel Cinematic Universe so endearing over the past decade was that it didn’t forget superheroes were meant to save people, not just punch bad guys. Iron Man VR takes that principle to heart, or at least it does in its first level. Between bouts with enemy drones, you’ll return to a falling plane to put out fires, repair wings and, eventually rescue Pepper. These moments create dynamic, fresh-feeling gameplay experiences which, notably, aren’t just confined to mashing a button like they might be in a regular game. More of this, please.
The Story & Characters
One of the things that made Insomniac’s 2018 PS4-exclusive Spider-Man game such a hit was the freedom given to the developers to truly craft their own take on an iconic character. Insomniac basically designed its own alternate universe filled with interesting twists and turns for fans new and old. Iron Man VR looks like it might chart a similar path; we learn from the demo that Tony has been Iron Man for about five years and pick up with him in a similar position to the Iron Man 2 movie; he’s just handed control of Stark Industries over to Pepper Potts. We don’t get to see much more than this in the demo, but we can’t wait to see where Camouflaj (a studio that built itself on story-telling in games) goes from there.
But it’s not just the plot but also the characters and delivery. Iconic Stark AI, Friday, is given a playful makeover here, appearing as a holographic human with a personality all of her own. Pepper, too plays a major role and the moments in which you more directly interact with her (going to grab a cup of coffee, for example) suggest there’s a lot of gold to mine here. We can’t wait to see this side of the game expanded on.
What To Improve
The Performance & Visuals (At Least On Standard PS4s)
It’s painfully obvious that Iron Man VR is pushing the absolute limits of what’s possible on PSVR, both on a tracking and technical perspective. But, played on a standard PS4, this demo also butts heads with the latter factor. While the majority of the gameplay is silky smooth, we noticed a few instances of slowdown, particularly during more cinematic moments, which made movements feel clunky. I haven’t tried the game on PS4 Pro, so can’t judge how it runs there.
Visuals are also a little on the iffy side (again, on a standard PS4). While the first level benefits from having endless skies, the Malibu-set tutorial has some blurry textures and character models look a little rusty. Granted, this isn’t something we expect will change dramatically between now and July 3rd, but it would be nice.
This is a small one, but quite important to the overall flow of gameplay. As great as Iron Man VR controls, I often struggled with the button mapping, and can’t find a way to change it. After four years of playing PSVR titles, my brain is hard-wired to think of the Move’s trigger as the default ‘shoot’ button, not navigation. Similarly, the best Move locomotion schemes have used that main button as a ‘walk forwards’ option. Here, these two functions are essentially reversed and, in the heat of combat, I was tying my brain in knots trying to remember which was which.
Again, this is a small thing, so I’m really hoping some options to change the button mapping arrive in the full game.
Iron Man VR hits PSVR on July 3rd. What did you make of the demo? Let us know in the comments below!