If you surveyed a bunch of people to ask what superhero they'd want to be, a large number of them would probably say Iron Man. After all, the character's rich, he doesn't have to worry about hiding his true identity, and oh yeah, he has an arc reactor in his chest that can power up a suit of armor that makes him fly and shoot out of his palms. Iron Man has it all.
Iron Man VR, a new game developed by Camouflaj (of République fame) in partnership with Sony and Marvel, is a game that wants you to feel like Iron Man. After a lengthy demo with the upcoming superhero adventure, I found that it actually does a pretty decent job with that task.
"The intent with this is to make it a full-on game, as you would expect playing any video game. It just happens to be in VR," Ryan Darcey, a game designer at the 50-person studio of Camouflaj tells me during a PlayStation VR event where Iron Man VR is on display. "So it's totally a full-length experience; a mixture of what you saw, which was the combat, the cinematics, and then also at some point you get into the garage and tinker around there, but more on that later."
My demo led me through a tutorial, a slightly interactive cutscene, and a fuller action sequence. The tutorial taught me how to fly, shoot, and punch as Iron Man just outside of one of Tony Stark's more secluded residences. To fly, you rest your arms at your side, pressing buttons on the PS Move controllers as thrusters. Double tapping the buttons propels you forward with a boost, making you go faster. (You can also steady or slow yourself by only using one palm at a time if you get turned around or move too fast.)
In perhaps the most notable element, though, there is no snap turning with a button tap, which has become standard in a lot of recent VR games. Instead, you turn your whole body in the direction you want to go in. While I did get a little twisted up in the PSVR headset's cables as a result, it was never too much of an issue. (Plus, there was always a representative to help detangle me.)
"There's all the more traditional tricks about keeping people safe and comfortable in VR that are not unique to our game, but the thing that we do believe is unique to our game is the fact that in order to turn, you turn your body, like it's all connected one to one," says Darcey. "When your view turns it's actually your body turning. It's not on you pressing an analog stick or button to make you turn, and that one to one between your head and your body we believe actually has a lot to do with what makes you feel comfortable in the headset."
After hovering around the ocean off a cliffside of Stark's property—flying through virtual rings for practice, shooting and also punching targets (literally air punching while clutching my right PS Move controller)—I returned to Stark Manor. After a load screen, I found myself aboard Stark's private jet, chatting with F.R.I.D.A.Y., Stark's A.I. secretary. As Stark, I remained seated while watching the hologram beam around, letting me know that Stark's partner Pepper Potts wasn't happy about something he did. Right on cue, Potts barges into the room, angry at Stark for, well, being Stark.
The tense conversation is interrupted though when mysterious war drones, engineered by Stark Industries long ago, start blasting at the plane. A hole is blown on the private jet, sending Stark's briefcase-encased suit flying. Stark unsteadily stands up, and leaps out the plane toward it. The next sequence has you falling through the sky, summoning parts of the Iron Man suit back and blasting away debris before becoming whole again. Then it became much like what we saw in the trailer during Sony's recent State of Play event: a lot of flying, punching, and shooting at things while the villain Ghost hacked the intercom, saying sinister statements.
There are also some unexpected elements too. As you shoot and punch at the attackers, occasionally you'll return to the burning jet to fix things and douse fires. Flying, I found, was a lot harder in this sequence than in the tutorial. With enemies attacking from multiple angles, it's easy to take a lot of damage when you're just trying to stay afloat and shoot at one group of enemies. By the end of the demo though, all was well, and I saved Potts from the plane before it crashed down somewhere outside of Los Angeles.
Ghost, Darcey tells me, is going to be a big villain in Iron Man VR, but teases that "more will be revealed later." Iron Man VR will have an original Iron Man story too, not one rooted in the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe or a particular comic's plot, but Darcey adds that the team is taking inspiration from the comics of the last five decades. It will even have a unique game-specific new Iron Man suit, called the Impulse Armor. The suit is designed by longtime Marvel artist Adi Granov. As you progress, you'll be able to customize and augment the armor with new weaponry.
Iron Man VR doesn't have a concrete release window yet, but Darcey says it's aiming for release in 2019 and has been in active development for two years now.
"We just feel like Iron Man is the perfect fit for VR," says Darcey. "When you put on that headset and the HUD turns on, and you grab those PS Move controllers and put your hands at your side and start blasting forward, it just feels like it was made for Iron Man. And in addition to that, that full 360 movement that I was talking about earlier really makes it feel like it's special."