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Review

Iron Man VR (Quest 2) Review

FPS – First Person Stark

Despite releasing two years ago on the PlayStation 4’s soon-to-be-superseded VR system, Iron Man VR achieves its true calling in the recently released Meta Quest 2 port. Developer Camouflaj could have easily made bank on this property by releasing a glorified VR tech demo that simulates stepping into the Armoured Avenger’s power suit with a sprinkle of fan service. What players get instead is a loving treatment of the obnoxious billionaire and an assortment of toys that kit out the high-flying hero. 

Events begin with Tony Stark celebrating the winding down of his company’s portfolio of weapons manufacturing, as is the case with the origins of his transition from lord of war to an apologist of disarmament. Of course, his assistant and vague love interest Pepper Potts is on side to provide some hit-and-miss banter but also a comfortably dialogue-driven approach to setting up the narrative. 

Based out of his seaside Malibu abode, the gameplay welcomes players both new and experienced with VR into a series of terrific flight and repulsor tutorials that are set around the cliffs of his home base. The satisfying ability for fans to simply take the Quest 2 controllers in each hand, engage the index triggers and stretch their arms while tilting their wrists to take flight and manage pitch with their bodies is immediately thrilling. 

Each mission features at least one interesting set piece

Players will likely bounce off rock formations and hit the sea face first when starting out, but the opening hour is all about encouraging players to whisk themselves about using their hands to stabilise and jet through marked checkpoints. Before you know it, you will be using one hand to hover and fly about while raising your other palm to fire beams of energy at targets. It is a balancing act that is both forgiving and rewarding of skill.

In between missions, players will step out of the armour and into Tony Stark’s casual slacks. This is my least favourite part of the game, as these intermissions typically come burdened with in-game cutscenes that leave the player standing idle on the spot for too long as they passively watch the drama play out between Stark’s anthropomorphic AI programs, Friday and Gunsmith. The former fills in as Tony’s assistant while Pepper Pots runs Stark Industries in another location, while the Gunsmith is an artificial personification of Tony that values the pragmatic use of weapons that the company formerly subsisted on. The back and forth between these two and Stark aren’t bad per se, but grind the otherwise exhilarating pace of the game to a dead halt. 

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While at the Malibu base, players can also customise their armour and embark on challenge missions to earn upgrade points. It is a breath of fresh air that almost none of these upgrades are a mere stat increase, but instead add utility like tracing missiles, emergency shield recovery and increased thrusters. Taking these upgrades into a mission provides an immediate and interesting change to how players navigate the suit.

Palms forward readies your repulsor beams, whereas palms folded inwards engages the smart missiles

Challenge missions I could take or leave, as they don’t feature the excitement of the set pieces that feature in each of the main missions. Whether that be guarding Stark Tower in Shanghai or freeing the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier from enemy control, there is a good drama and pace to carry forward the somewhat samey gameplay loop. The challenge missions strip this back to flight challenges, which are a great way to improve aerial navigation against a clock but are otherwise forgettable. Challenges are instead an opportunity to grind for some upgrades to spice up subsequent missions but left me a bit unenthused. 

The rhythm of the game’s main chapters follows predictable patterns of flying between mission markers, performing an action, and shooting down the drones that appear in between. The focus on drones as opponents is creatively unambitious considering this is a Marvel property with plenty of villains and enemies to draw from. Nevertheless, despite looking a bit boring, they provide ample challenge and ensure that the player is always moving to avoid their fire while taking them down. 

Graphically the game is a bit rough at times, with unmistakable blurring at distance and a noticeable absence of detail or activity in the environments. Fortunately, players will be so enthralled with the constant need to be dodging and weaving in the skies that the sparse landscapes will barely register. The low-poly environments only become a distraction when the game locks the player in place for a cutscene, but is forgiven once players can start jetting about again – especially considering the load times in between only take a couple of seconds!

Being forced to stand still and be fed dialogue dampens the game’s otherwise thrilling flow

Despite sometimes returning to locations in later missions, there are minor additions in each chapter to spice things up. Whether it is a new drone type that requires having its shield broken with a powered punch or disabling an objective with Iron Man’s unibeam, no two missions feel mechanically identical despite playing out in a similar manner. 

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As the challenge increases, something of a magic trick occurs that is sure to please fans. After about four hours, or halfway through the game, I realised the most effective way of piloting the suit was to move my body as I’ve seen Stark do in the comics and movies. If wanting to make a quick vertical climb, I tilt my head skyward while placing my palm thrusters towards the floor. In making quick turns, I want to stretch my arms out and make minor movements in my wrists to ensure my balance is maintained while maintaining velocity. I don’t mind that I look silly, there is nothing abstracting the fact that I am Iron Man and I would pay good money just to experience this sensation. Yet here I am, in the comfort of my own living room, feeling more heroic and superhuman than in almost any other Marvel game to have been released. 

I sincerely hope we get a sequel to this title on more advanced VR hardware that can push the graphics and out-of-suit experience further. Other than the unmemorable enemies, almost any other criticism I can level at this game could be reasoned to be a result of technical limitations. Caveats aside, ambition is something Camouflaj have approached this game with in spades. 

Of the Marvel villains to appear, you may recall Ghost from Ant-Man and The Wasp

Final Thoughts

As a stand-alone Marvel title, Iron Man VR does what so many superhero video games strive to accomplish but often fail. Not only does it provide a satisfying story bereft of continuity baggage, it realises the fantasy of stepping into Tony Stark’s super suit with minimal concessions or abstractions. This game achieves the superhero power fantasy just as Insomniac did for Spider-Man. You will be itching to skip past the expository, almost on-rails downtime between scenarios just to get back into the action, even if the low-detailed environments leave quite a bit to the imagination. 

Reviewed on Meta Quest 2 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Iron Man VR (Quest 2) Review
Become A Weekend Avenger
Iron Man VR is an achievement in fully realising a Marvel hero power fantasy and is a must-try experience for any interested Quest 2 owner.
The Good
Ambitious aerial movement and combat are skilful and satisfying
Plenty of suit upgrades and decals
Quick load times
The Bad
Low graphical fidelity on Quest 2
Lots of idle exposition between missions
Uninspired enemies and challenge missions
8
Get Around It
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  • Camouflaj
  • Oculus Studios
  • PSVR / Meta Quest 2
  • November 03, 2022

Iron Man VR (Quest 2) Review
Become A Weekend Avenger
Iron Man VR is an achievement in fully realising a Marvel hero power fantasy and is a must-try experience for any interested Quest 2 owner.
The Good
Ambitious aerial movement and combat are skilful and satisfying
Plenty of suit upgrades and decals
Quick load times
The Bad
Low graphical fidelity on Quest 2
Lots of idle exposition between missions
Uninspired enemies and challenge missions
8
Get Around It
Written By Nathan Hennessy

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