I. Am. Iron Man.
Through the wonders of VR, my teenage dreams of flying around in the invincible Iron Man suit are finally a reality… Sort of. Amid awkward controls and lacklustre visuals lies a genuinely challenging and – for the most part – fun VR game based on one of the most popular superheroes of all time.
With boyish anticipation, I slipped the VR visor over my skull and before the irkingly long load times could truly eviscerate the tension, the Iron Man HUD flickered to life on-screen with instructions that I should hit both triggers. Upon doing so, the repulsor jets crackled into animation and I began to lift off the ground. This moment was swiftly followed by a very shrill, short and joyous outburst of laughter as I experienced one of my most exciting seconds in VR.
Iron Man VR Review
The Man in the Iron Mask
Iron Man VR takes place two years after Tony announces that he is once and for all shifting the focus of Stark Enterprises from weapons development to clean energy, in a move which leaves behind the dark history of the company in the hopes of a brighter future.
Unfortunately, one super-villain can’t let Tony just walk away from past mistakes without some retribution and so, with an army of his own discontinued drones, aims to defeat Iron Man.
This story is told via some interactive cutscenes, which is a good thing because I can’t see any good way that they could have done pre-rendered cutscenes in VR which wouldn’t come across strangely or ruin what immersion there is. Other than these storytelling segments there are various interactions to be had with NPCs such as Pepper Potts and FRIDAY which will offer more exposition as well as introductions to the various mechanics and systems available to the player.
These interactions are often found within small somewhat-free-roam segments within which you can explore Tony’s mansion. Here, you’ll find opportunities for miscellaneous trophies, optional exposition, and suit upgrade/management.
There is also an exposition-filled monologue performed by Tony at the start of every level. This is in a dark room with a few particles floating around, but you’re left staring at the fabric-like texture of the VR Headset’s screen for an irritating length of time which can cause eye strain because it’s impossible to focus on with both eyes. This is often preceded by a lengthy loading screen and also followed by one too, which can make the whole thing even more annoying because the sheer number and length of loading screens in this game is maddening.
All in all, though, the story is pretty exciting. It has some twists and turns and – though they’re laughably predictable and you’ll likely have solved the biggest mystery as soon as it’s presented to you – they help to keep the suspense and excitement alive. You won’t find yourself as invested as the developers might have hoped you’d be, but it’s a great Iron Man story-line none-the-less, with plenty of interesting locations to visit and well-known characters to meet.
Actual gameplay involves dog-fighting mostly. Some enemies are found at ground level, but are intended to be fought in the air, as evidenced by the lack of effort put into the environment at ground level. Whilst in the air, you’ll be hit with wave after wave of drone enemies, who will mostly use projectile attacks to hit you from a distance, giving you opportunity to dodge and retaliate.. Or so it should be, but the combat is actually a little frustrating…
Fighting with a Full Deck
There are a few different inputs to juggle here. Pointing your palms flat towards the ground and hitting the triggers will allow you to move upwards. You can then change the angle of your palms to gain (or cancel) momentum in any direction and the direction your head is pointing will also help to guide this fiddly process. Given the amount of concentration required to precisely control the Iron Man suit, there’s little room for additional inputs… But the game demands this anyway.
Aiming with your palm out and hitting will fire a repulsor shot at your target and you can also use “Auxiliary” weapons – one of six per arm – which are fired by aiming with your knuckles instead. It’s possible to also punch by pressing the lower-inside face button on either controller and then performing a punching gesture. Dodging requires a quick double-tap of the triggers while your palms are facing the direction you want to move away from and you can quick-turn using the and buttons on either controller.
Sound like a lot? Well it is. And in the fast-paced combat scenarios you often find yourself in – with multiple Droids surrounding you, preparing different attacks for you to dodge – it is far too much to handle in any cool or accurate manner. Instead, gameplay consists of mostly panicked fumbling and wild flailing as you do your best to switch from one gesture to another.
It’s like trying to handle a full deck of cards all at once and being told “ACE OF SPADES. NO, WAIT, NOW WE NEED A QUEEN OF HEARTS. TOO LATE, GET ME A JACK OF CLUBS” and you’re just doing your best to rifle through the cards at light speed and pull out the ones we need.
Take the combat out of the gameplay though – as is the case in FRIDAY’s flight challenge courses – and it’s a whole lot more fun. Trying to beat the record time by upgrading your suit and finding the quickest way to zip around a course is actually a lot of fun. It reminds me of the Sprint Vector PSVR game and how much I loved that – only with a lot less physical exertion.
The hardest Flight Challenges are those which do require you to quickly switch between flying, punching, and shooting all while racing against the clock, and the wild fumbling makes it extremely difficult to achieve a 5-star rating. It doesn’t help that VR already brings a few complications to the table which only help to worsen this experience.
VR: Virtually Ruined
The biggest downfalls this game faces in my opinion come from the issues with VR in general. The game’s sprawling and action-packed scenes are limited to the graphical fidelity of the technology, so most things fall very flat on murky low-res textures framed by pathetic anti-aliasing.
In a lot of ways it feels like a PS3 game with slightly better lighting, but graphical fidelity is a worthy trade-off for the immersive experience that VR offers.
Controlling the game, though – which I’ve already noted is quite difficult – is made much more difficult by the PSVR. In desperate need of an upgrade next gen, the PSVR’s camera + gyroscope combo is far from perfect, and in a game like Iron Man VR where you need pretty precise control quite frequently, it’s certainly not ideal.
Admittedly, these things could potentially be improved with a better personal setup. My camera sits on my TV and I don’t have a huge space available so I often leave the bounds of the camera. Positioning it higher and further away would be better. The lighting is also bad in my living room, as a lot of light gets in from outside (even with our pathetic blinds closed), so unless I play very early or very late in the day, the bright light interferes with the camera’s tracking abilities.
There are a lot of good things to be said about Iron Man VR’s use of the VR system though. Due to the way the movement controls are set up, you never leave the spot you’re standing in, and never feel the need to do so. Often when I play something like Skyrim, Doom, or Sprint Vector in VR I’ll take the headset off to find I’m not facing the camera at all and I’ve taken a few steps in a random direction.
Iron Man VR is perfectly set up to keep you aware at all times of where you need to be stood and when you’re not facing the camera and it works great. Despite the awkwardness of the movement controls – using your palms to direct the propulsion – it’s actually one of the better movement methods I’ve experienced and is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Iron Man’s suit is actually kind of perfect for VR in that respect.
Are We There Yet?
I have one last gripe with Iron Man VR that I can’t let go un-emphasised. The loading times in this game are unbelievable. Honestly, you could be stood waiting for the game to load for as long as 5 minutes, with nothing to do but swing your arms around and switch your weight from one foot to the other as you slowly become more and more aware of how much your heels are starting to hurt on the hard-wood flooring.
It just really kills any momentum the game’s story ever picks up, and I find myself so often stood staring at another loading screen and thinking “I think I’ll stop after this mission”.
What made this worse was when I began working through the different challenge missions available in the game. Some of these are only 3 minutes in length or even less if you’re good at them. Having to wait around for the game to load for 3 minutes of gameplay is absolutely infuriating, especially when you’re playing the challenges back-to-back like I was.
I really want to dislike this game. The controls were frustrating, load times were maddening and the graphics were laughable but… God damn if I didn’t love playing it. I was addicted. Whenever I decided to stop playing it was mostly because I’d become unwittingly aware of how much my feet hurt from standing around, but you can safely bet that as soon as my feet began to feel better I was already thinking about booting the game up again.
I probably would have booted it up more often, too, if not for how long it took to load. I had to be sure I had at least a few hours to dedicate to the game so that I was confident I was getting plenty of gameplay time between all of the waiting.
There really is just something magical about flying around in that iron suit, though, and having so many different destructive abilities just a gesture and a button-press away. As far as VR experiences go it has to be one of my favourite and most exciting VR games yet. I think I just expected more, with big names like MARVEL (which, these days, means Disney) and Sony backing this game’s production I expected a masterclass in VR and instead we got a pretty decent, yet flawed, new VR title.
My Iron Man VR Platinum Experience
Before beginning my playthrough, I did a little research on what to expect. I was able to find out two crucial pieces of information. Firstly, that you can upgrade the Iron Man suit and secondly that the daunting hard-mode trophy could be done via a chapter select, allowing you to preserve the acquired suit upgrades and have an easier time with Hard Mode.
A quick scan of the trophy list after that and I was off! The gameplay was a little jarring at first, with all the different postures I needed to adopt and then be able to swiftly flick between, though after a while I did begin to feel a little more confident with it.
My main objective here was just to experience the story and become more competent with the controls, knowing what I would be up against in the future with the “Invincible” difficulty.
Along the way I looked for opportunities to earn miscellaneous trophies, such as the one for catching a Grape in my mouth or the one for reaching a High Score (of 8 hoops) on the basketball machine. Some of these were more difficult than others, the basketball one alone took me about 20 minutes because the finicky and inconsistent VR controls made it very difficult to make the same shot every time.
Other misc trophies I had on my radar were the combat challenges, such as using the Unibeam to destroy 12 enemies in a single use, or using Auxiliary weaponry to take out 6 enemies at once. These took a lot longer and did require a bit of effort.
For example, I probably wouldn’t even rocket-punch an enemy because it’s just such a fiddly maneuver to pull off. You have to be at the right distance with the right momentum and it needs to charge a little before you can use it. But there’s two trophies tied to using the Rocket Punch so I was obviously using it as much as seemed reasonable.
During Chapter 11 there was a missable collectable trophy – the only one in the game – and I managed to get it accidentally, just due to a genuine curiosity in my surroundings.
At the end of this phase I had 13 story-based trophies, 2 unmissable additional trophies, 1 missable collectable trophy, 2 difficulty trophies, 4 misc Stark Mansion trophies and 7 of the 8 Combat trophies, the last of which I hoped to earn during the next phase of my journey…
Flight & Combat Challenges and Suit Upgrades
The Flight and Combat challenges slowly become available throughout progression, but can be accessed via the globe hologram in the Garage once unlocked. I did play through a few of these during phase 1 of my trophy journey but I slowly became aware that additional suit upgrades would give me a better chance of earning high scores on these.
So I either avoided playing them, or played them for 3-4 upgrade points (5-star is very hard to earn and you get an upgrade point per star) which I could then spend to improve my chances in the campaign missions.
Once I was done with the main campaign I turned my attention to these challenges. My upgraded suit afforded me a fighting chance, and the additional upgrade points could come in handy for my Invincible Difficulty run.
Whilst I was working on simply completing these challenges (you DO NOT NEED 5 star ratings on every mission for the Platinum) I was also able to earn enough points to buy the rest of the suit upgrades – awarding me all 3 suit upgrade trophies. – and complete the rest of the Combat trophies.
At this point I had just three trophies left; complete every story mission on Invincible Difficulty, get a 5-star rating on five missions, and the Platinum Trophy.
After a quick review of my standing, I could see that I had four 5-star ratings out of the five I needed. Little did I know at this point, three of them – the Prologue, the Epilogue and Chapter 2 – didn’t count!
Playing on a harder difficulty gives you a certain amount of bonus score, which can – I thought – potentially contribute to additional 5-star ratings. In reality, after playing every mission on invincible difficulty.
Invincible difficulty is just too hard. Enemies are more numerous, have more health, and hit very hard. I spent a lot of time flying around each level just trying to recover health and more than a few times I even died. Dying is a huge pain in the ass because you not only have to endure a long loading screen again, you also need to sit through any cutscenes which happened since the last checkpoint, and the checkpoints aren’t very frequent.
Finishing a stage in a short amount of time, with a lot of health and having destroyed a lot of enemies in a combo are all the best ways to earn high ratings on a mission, but it’s just too unreasonable of a thing to manage on Invincible difficulty.
For the first few missions I was having a relatively easy time getting through these stages, but as more and more difficult enemies were added to each stage I found myself dying all-too-frequently. By mission 6 I was really struggling, Chapter 9 took me over an hour of repeatedly dying and when I finally completed Chapter 11 I was shaking. Luckily the last chapter has a few more convenient Checkpoints and I was able to make it through relatively easy.
With time, patience, and a lot of practice, I eventually made it safely out the other side with all missions completed and one trophy left to earn.
Unfortunately, when I reached this stage I had not earned any additional five-star ratings, I switched back to Normal difficulty and hoped my new experience and the dropped difficulty would mean I could complete missions quicker and with more finesse.
Rather than replaying extremely long missions, though, I decided to try and earn the remaining 5-star ratings from the quicker and slightly easier Combat Challenges. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle, it took me a while to figure out the nuances of the score system and the best things to do to earn additional score. Once I was on top of that, though, I began earning 5-star ratings back-to-back and 4 absolutely smashed Combat Challenges later I was looking at my platinum with a huge grin on my face.
Obviously, I then had to go back to the Stark Mansion to gawk at my trophy shelf. Very strangely, I had every trophy except the Platinum on there, but by closing the game and re-opening it, I was able to force it to load in.
Initial Story Playthrough
Flight & Combat Challenges
Remaining Star Cleanup
Iron Man VR Trophy Guide & Road Map
I’m very proud to present a full Trophy Guide for this game as earning the platinum proved to be quite the challenge and guides for it are practically non-existent (at least at the time of me writing this) so without further adieu, click here to be taken to the Iron Man VR Trophy Guide.
That concludes my Iron Man VR Trophy Review. If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!
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