Everybody dreams of being a superhero, right?
And of all the supers out there, Iron Man always seemed like the wisest choice for an average Joe with a bit too much waistline and a bit too few metahuman powers. I mean, all you have to do is slip on a fancy, high-tech metal suit and you’re good to go. That’s how this comicbook geek’s logic goes, anyhoo. And now, said geeks of the world can get a chance to play out their fantasy.
Marvel’s Iron Man VR only demands that you have an aging PlayStation 4 console and an aging PSVR system with two PlayStation Move wands. With that gear, any aging or youthful super wannabe is ready to go. But does it soar? And for that matter, is it a game with more than drones and missiles to duck away from? Let’s see.
First of all, let’s talk story. And you know what? It’s a pretty decent one, with a twist or two in tow. The narrative here doesn’t go back and start over with Tony Stark’s iron-clad robo-beginnings, but it gears up soon after. Tony has now had a change of heart (kinda literally) and has stepped away from the über-destructive weapons-making business in favor of being a semi-fulltime hero and letting Pepper Potts shape the tech-forward Stark Industries.
But Tony’s weapons-selling past is hot on his rocket-boosted heels. A mysterious, phase-shifting character named the Ghost and a baddie called the Living Laser are both out to pay Tony back for the deadly destruction his company’s wares once unleashed. To do so they create terrorist attacks around the globe—destroying Stark buildings and other explosive locales—that Iron Man (and you) must rocket off to and disarm and destroy before many innocent lives are lost.
To aid in that demanding quest, Tony relies on the help of his strategic hologram sidekick Friday, and he dusts off a weapons-savvy hologram version of himself, nicknamed Gunsmith, to help him boost his Iron Man weaponry. Together this trio must figure out how to take out these superpowered foes without reverting to Tony’s mass-destructive ways of days gone by.
The fun story doesn’t pull in any other Avengers, but it does involve Nick Fury. And it gives gamers a chance to pilot a couple different Iron Man suits—including Tony’s original Mark 1.
Regarding those suit-piloting VR mechanics, the gameplay is pretty good, if a bit quirky at times. The PS Move wands let you aim and move from point A to point B while on the ground, and pick things up on a nearby table or briefcase. It’s a bit awkward, but doable. When you’re suited up, however, things become more of a treat.
Slipping into the Iron Man helmet is pretty cool, as you go from metal mask to a VR heads-up display with full peripheral view. And the controllers let you fly fairly smoothly with a movement control that is surprisingly free of that queasy, disorienting motion-sickness that some VR games produce. You can use one arm pointed down to maneuver while in flight and the other arm to blast at drones, missiles and debris that zip into your flight path.
You attack enemies by aiming your palm at foes, then tapping a button. Aiming with the palm up shoots repulsor blasts; palm down, rockets. It’s pretty simple at first. But fair warning, that maneuvering and blasting formula can get a bit daunting as the suit weaponry upgrades in later missions and the incoming, auto-aiming missiles and foes start piling up and swarming in from all directions. You’ve heard of typewriter’s wrist? Well, after several missions of wave after wave of incoming attackers, repulsor’s-wrist can feel like a real thing, too. (Repeated breaks are highly recommended.)
Other than those small issues, though, other concerns are pretty minor. A smattering of profanity turns up in the dialogue in the form of one or two uses each of “h—” and “a–.”
Violence-wise, the battles can certainly be explosive and lasers and gunfire zip and zing all around. You can make out the cries of innocents trapped in buildings and elevators as you fly in to give aid and rescue. Tony also has his arc reactor painfully ripped from his chest plate at one point. There are depicted acts of violence and execution seen in blurry-edged hologram form. But there’s no gore or mess in the mix.
The heroics here are pretty fun and high flying, all in all. But one of the real plusses for me was that I could fulfill my superhero dreams in a high-tech suit made of iron … without the need for an iron stomach, too.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.