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Hands-On: Iron Man VR Really Nails The Sensation Of Flight

Hands-On: Iron Man VR Really Nails The Sensation Of Flight

Iron Man VR was a huge surprise announcement last week when it was first debuted during the PlayStation State of Play stream. The game is in development by Camouflaj (Republique VR) and is slated for release exclusively on PSVR later this year.

In it you play as Tony Stark himself in an original story created specifically for the game that’s not connected to any particular comic plot arc or the MCU films. This should theoretically give the developer quite a lot of freedom in how they tell the story and what happens. You can see some pre-rendered cutscenes and a small glimpse of actual gameplay in the trailer below:

Overall my demo build was surprisingly polished for a game that was just announced a day prior to me playing it. Things kick off with your suit logging on and showing the HUD around your eyes as the clouds fade into focus and you realize you’re actually flying. Before long I’m skimming over the top of the ocean coming up on Stark’s cliffside mansion as the Marvel and Camouflaj logos appear in the distance.

The words “Iron Man VR” erupt in front of me on top of a booming orchestral score and it certainly feels like I’ve stepped foot inside the Marvel Universe even if it isn’t technically related. What follows is a brief tutorial section that teaches me how to fly, shoot, and punch as all superheroes do.

Thankfully they absolutely nailed the sensation of flight. As someone that doesn’t get motion sick it’s hard to tell if it will be comfortable for everyone, but the HUD and clever UI effects should help battle that vertigo feeling. Luckily for me, I went full-speed at all times and felt amazing. You position your hands much like Iron Man would then pull the PS Move controller triggers, meaning the thrusters come out of your palm, not where you point your fist. While flying this means you rest your arms at your side, hands near your waist, and twist your wrists to steer while flying. It looks ridiculous, but feels amazing.

There is a real sense of speed here. As you start to go faster and faster, you can glide through the air, turn your body, and then hit the boost again to turn on a dime and go full-speed in a new direction. When you do this maneuver just right it feels a bit like you’re drifting through the air or skating across the clouds. Arcing your trajectory over hills, through archways, and around obstacles just really felt amazing. A bit like Windlands, but more precise and without a rope or chain tethering your momentum.

Combat was a bit less thrilling in this demo. You reach out and point your palm forward and press the PS Move center button to shoot beam pulses out wherever you’re pointing. If you’re aiming near an actual target or enemy then there is some light aim assist that seems to lock on a bit to make sure you hit your target. When I talked to the developer about it afterwards they told me it was just a normal amount that you’d see in any non-VR shooter. Combat got a lot more fun later on when I was flying through the sky in one direction, tracking enemy movement with my head in another direction, and then shooting pulses in two other directions while still flying at the same time. Eventually you’ll get other weapons and upgrades, but I just had standard beams in my demo.

The most impressive thing about flying and shooting for me, someone that uses all major headsets equally, is that the team at Camouflaj actually figured out a way to make PSVR 360-capable without losing tracking on the controllers. Normally you can’t turn around in PSVR because the single camera can’t see your controllers anymore. But what they’ve done here is estimated your hand position for shooting or flying and then using the accelerometer in the controller they can still track rotation. Then as soon as it’s back in view it resumes tracking. The end result is that as you’re turning or spinning to aim you don’t actually notice the split second of lost tracking like you do in other games — no controller drift or floating away or disappearing.

It’s a feeling I’d have thought was impossible on PSVR up until now.

While Iron Man VR promises an original story, we don’t know much yet. During the narrative bits we see Tony talking Friday, his AI assistant, and Pepper Pots, his wife. The demo is basically bookended by a training course, a slightly interactive narrative cutscene, and then combat. I get the feeling that’s probably what the pacing for most of the game will feel like. Ghost is the main villain and she hacks some of Tony’s drones to start attacking his flight, resulting in a big aerial battle.

Fighting in the air was fun and I’m sure combat will be a big focus, but it does make me a bit worried for the depth of the world and its missions. It certainly seems like flying around and shooting stuff will be the vast majority of the game and I just really hope it doesn’t devolve into a glorified shooting gallery. Fingers crossed, I suppose.

I asked about other Marvel characters, the Avengers, and whether we can expect to see or play as any other heroes, but they emphasized that they really want to focus on Tony Stark as Iron Man. It’s being described as a “full game” with a “deeply personal” story, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Even though it’s underpowered visually because of the PS4 and PSVR and the tracking isn’t as good as it could be (impressive given the limitations, though) I do have really high hopes for Iron Man VR. The source material is excellent and Iron Man is a great character for a VR game. Flying is so much fun I really look forward to zooming around the skies more once this one drops.

Iron Man VR does not have a specific release date but it is slated for 2019 and is exclusive to the PSVR platform as a joint project between Camouflaj as the developer and Marvel Studios in collaboration with PlayStation Worldwide as publishers. Let us know what you think down in the comments below!

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