fly with Tony Stark, in Virtual Reality

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From comics to feature films, without forgetting cartoons and various derivative works, they have now been 57 years Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark and his alter-ego Iron Man continue to fascinate and amuse us with adrenaline-pumping aerial combat, increasingly avant-garde metal exoskeletons and a strong sense of humor. Yet, despite the incredible popularity of the character – who has grown dramatically in recent years thanks to the extraordinary interpretation of Robert Downey Jr. – the adventures of the Marvel superhero have inspired very few playful transpositions, moreover forgettable and unable to do justice to the iron giant.

Surprised announced in March 2019 by the guys from Camouflaj, Marvel’s Iron Man VR represents not only the perfect chance of redemption for Tony Stark, but also an unexpected opportunity for fans to observe and “live” the deeds of the billionaire hero from an absolutely unprecedented point of view: from within his own wingsuit! After several postponements, in recent days we have therefore worn the legendary armor marked red and gold to explore in minute detail what, from the first moment, has been presented to us as one of the most ambitious productions so far made exclusively for PlayStation VR. So turn on your thrusters and dart along with us through the skies of Malibu, to discover the most recent (dis) adventure of the philanthropist in armor born from the pencils of the late Stan Lee.

What is missing for a man who owns the world?

Marvel’s Iron Man VR opens with this specific question, inviting the player to reflect on what could ever be missing from an individual like Tony Stark. The answer, if you think about it, is quite simple: the opportunity to make a contribution.

Endowed with an immeasurable and enviable genius as much as his bank account, Tony has governed for years an empire linked to the development and sale of advanced weapons, except to completely stop production following a kidnapping and subsequent imprisonment. Escaped from Afghanistan and built his first armor, Tony later dedicated his “second life” to restoring order where his weapons had only brought war and death, aware that sooner or later he would have to answer for countless lives broken by their inventions. Characterized by an entirely original story, the plot of Marvel’s Iron Man VR faces (in the true sense of the word) the ghosts of the past of the ex-maker of arms, who during the privatization of peace finds himself having to deal with a female incarnation of a historical enemy: Ghost.

Moved by a deep desire for justice and a deep-seated grudge for Tony, the woman has in fact come into possession of an almost infinite supply of military drones produced by Stark Industries and does not hesitate to use them to attack and destroy the various properties of the billionaire, for the purpose of attract his attention and make him fall into well thought out traps.

Placed by the new opponent, Tony Stark is therefore forced to collaborate with the Artificial Intelligences he created to further enhance the Mark 3 and prevent people related to him, such as Virginia “Pepper” Potts and Nick Fury, from being involved in the diabolical plans hatched from time to time by Phantom.

Despite being clearly inspired by the cinematic origins of the superhero, the title developed by Camouflaj it is not closely related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from which he inherited the unbridled habit of playing down the main moments of tension with inspired and often out of place jokes.

Thanks to a sparkling screenplay and in line with the characterization of the protagonist, Marvel’s Iron Man VR in fact enjoys a fun and fairly simple story, which, however, succeeds in the fundamental task of intriguing the player and keeping his interest rate high.

Net of some somewhat predictable twists, especially in the central part of the story, the 7-8 hours needed to reach the end credits therefore seemed smooth and satisfactory, also because the narrative, on balance, is not the heart pulsating experience, but a mere and all in all functional expedient with which to justify the continuous upgrades made by Tony to the expensive exoskeletal armor.

Experiences to the limit

As expected, the centerpiece of Marvel’s Iron Man VR is represented by the gameplay and by the extraordinary level of immersion offered by virtual reality, thanks to which we have been able to juggle in satisfying aerial conflicts. Before going into the mechanics related to combat, however, it is advisable to examine in detail the controls and movement system, also in light of the perplexities highlighted last May, when we tried a demo of Marvel’s Iron Man VR evidently dated and published on the PlayStation Store.

If in the above the Iron Man’s movements were entirely entrusted to the arms of the players, something has changed in the final version of the product: actually the flight it still requires the positioning of the hands on the hips (the typical somewhat funny pose taken by the superhero during takeoff and landing), but now the direction is mostly established by the player’s gaze. The mechanism, in fact, recognizes even the slightest movement of the head and consequently causes the character to move in the direction observed, returning a much more precise and intuitive control system than that experienced only a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, once again we found some slight difficulties related to the landing, but the initial discomfort decreases with the passing of the hours, until it disappears almost completely, especially in the spacious rooms. In closed structures, however, not even experience can completely prevent clumsy collisions with the walls or the elements of the scenario.

Moving on to the actual attack phase, the PlayStation Moves held with both hands allow our hero to open fire against hordes of drones and to resort, according to the position of the upper limb, to the iconic repulsor rays or auxiliary weapons: when a hand is in fact pointed upwards, Tony shoots rays from his palms; vice versa, the superhero has access to a series of optional tools ranging from tracer missiles to the automatic cannon, thanks to which it is possible to annihilate large groups of enemies in a few moments.

The alternation, however, does not only have a strategic value, since it allows you to use one of the two weapons when the other is being reloaded, so that Iron Man never remains completely dry from shots. The filling of an indicator placed in a corner of the screen, on the other hand, unlocks the access to the devastating Uniraggio, that is a marvelous laser that the Mark 3 emits from the chest for a few seconds and with which it can quickly annihilate any target. A devastating weapon that, if used wisely, is able to promptly reverse situations of extreme danger in a few moments, facilitating the elimination of entire squadrons of killer drones.

Overall, therefore, we are very satisfied with the result achieved by the Camouflaj title, which is also the only game for PlayStation VR in which the player can turn on himself without running into the irritating connection interruptions between Move and PlayStation Camera. Although the aforementioned movement can be carried out with the body or in any case with the pressure of the so-called curve keys, the first solution is undoubtedly the most natural and effective, especially in the most agitated situations.

It’s just a shame that the Sony viewer cable tends to become an annoying obstacle all the time, since in the middle of the battle and at every 360 ┬░ turn it inevitably ends up twisting around the player, regardless of whether he is standing or not.

Ironically, Marvel’s Iron Man VR in short, it is the most advanced title for PS VR – at least as regards the movement system – and at the same time the one that suffers the most for its limitations, not least the imprecise PS Camera, which sometimes struggles to recognize the movements of the body at first sight.

The adoption of the right precautions, such as the regular use of short breaks to loosen any knots in the cable and restore their correct position, still allows the player to appreciate and get involved in the spectacular and lively aerial battles, which thanks to the level of difficulty selected can become quite challenging and fulfilling.

HUB, decorations and power-ups

Marvel’s Iron Man VR, however, it does not only include combat phases, but also boasts a vast HUB where you can customize your armor and try your hand at recreational activities such as lifting weights and pulling the bar. In the villa on the cliff of Malib├╣, among other things, you will also find a punching bag against which to vent your anger or a basket with which to try to set new records.

About the customization of the armor, we must first specify that Marvel’s Iron Man VR has about twenty unlockable power-ups, which range from the aforementioned auxiliary weapons to the extra thrusters, without forgetting various boosts and tools capable of accelerating the total recovery integrity.

By completing the main chapters of the campaign and the numerous optional challenges, both flight and combat, players come from time to time rewarded with precious Research Points, whose only utility is precisely linked to the acquisition of new components with which to modify the wingsuit. Then there are a dozen decorations that radically alter the appearance of the Mark 3, without however changing its war capacity: it is in fact purely cosmic skins with a dubious utility, which unfortunately do not confer any extra ability. If on the one hand we still liked the possibility of changing the main colors of the metal exoskeleton, on the other we would have preferred that the various skins had special and exclusive capabilities, as happened for the many suits that Peter Parker can wear in Marvel’s Spider- Man developed by the guys from Insomniac.

Small power losses

Although the demo available on the PlayStation Store had put the spotlight on a technical sector a little subdued, we hoped until the very end that the final product would give us back scenarios of higher quality. Unfortunately, however, it hurts us to note that most of the not many locations included in Marvel’s Iron Man VR it is affected by fairly spartan textures, whose low quality will only catch your eye during the breaks between a gunfight and another.

On the other hand, the polygonal models are quite beautiful and detailed and the frame rate remains stable at 30 frames per second even on the base model of PlayStation 4, ensuring an adequately fluid experience even when the screen is literally invaded by enemies.

Not having fully convinced us is the soundtrack, which performs its task without praise and without infamy, proposing songs that are not very energetic and far from the rhythms assumed by our hero. Excellent, however, subtitles and dubbing in Italian, which in this case boasts more than satisfactory acting performances and vocal combinations perfectly in line with the characterization of the various characters.





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