With the Meta Quest 2 and Playstation's upcoming PSVR 2, it feels like we're finally reaching a tipping point in virtual reality gaming. Headset fidelity and motion tracking feel sharp and focused, and games are growing larger, sporting longer runtimes, and feeling more robust. With the release of Marvel's Iron Man VR on the Meta Quest 2 (it was originally released on PSVR), we're seeing the fruits of those labors firsthand. But does the Meta Quest 2 do justice to the story of Tony Stark his super-suit? And does flying around and blasting foes as Iron Man feel satisfying in the VR space? Read on to find out!
The story of Marvel's Iron Man VR blessedly wastes no time with our goateed hero's origin story (though we'll visit his origins later in the game). Instead, we jump right into the action, with Tony Stark giving a sort of TED-Talk to a crowd about his decision to stop manufacturing weapons of war, and the trouble that soon followed. Not long after he announces that Stark Industries will no longer make military-grade weapons, his private jet is hacked and attacked by Stark Drones! Suiting up as Tony in his Iron Man gear after a brief prologue where you learn the basic controls, you'll have to save Pepper Potts from the crashing jet and fend off waves of drones.
From here, the plot goes surprisingly deep for a VR game, as a superb hacker named Ghost attempts to kill Stark and show the world the damage wrought by Stark Industries' weaponry. To help face this threat, Stark decides to reactivate The Gunsmith, an AI program Tony designed to match his personality and help him with the creation of his weapons. As the game goes on, Gunsmith's ego and lust for power and destruction grow in the background while Ghost's hacking, hard light technology, and army of stolen and repurposed Stark drones attack in the foreground.
You'll travel to Malibu, New York, Shanghai, a S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier, rocky canyons, and even a very special cave in Afghanistan in your quest to unmask Ghost and stop her nefarious plans. I really felt engaged in and engrossed by the story, and appreciated the tough questions it asks about our love of weapons and the impact that has on the wider world.
But what does it feel like to be Iron Man in virtual reality? That's the real question, and where this game truly shines like no other I've yet experienced in VR. To fly around in the Iron Man suit, you position the Meta Quest 2 controllers so that your palms are facing down before holding down the trigger buttons on the controller. This boosts you up in the air via your hand rockets, and the slightest movements of your hands control how you fly. Want to speed forward? Arms behind you, palms out. Need to dodge to the right or left? Move your arms that way and your suit follows. I found this tricky to master in the prologue and opening chapters, but only because it was almost too intuitive. I kept overthinking how I should position my hands, but as I settled into chapter three, it clicked and the obvious thought finally dawned on me: How would Iron Man move to get away from this laser blast? Once I let go and gave in to this physical Iron Man logic, I was soaring, swirling, and rocketing toward my enemies.
Firing weapons in the game is equally easy to understand. If you hold your palm out with the controller and press the attack button, you'll fire blasts of energy from your palms. If you want to use special rockets, you hold your arm out, palm down, and the munitions launch from your forearm. You can even use your powerful unibeam, which you charge by destroying drones and fire as a stream of energy blasting from your chest. And then there's the punching and Iron Man's signature ground pound, which you achieve by clenching your fists and swinging wildly (be sure to keep a close eye on your Meta Quest room-scale boundaries, or you're liable to punch your TV!).
Along with the ten core missions of the game (plus a prologue and short epilogue), you can also embark on several flight tests around the globe, where you'll try to navigate to hit targets in a time trial. Each mission, and the flight tests, earn you "research points" depending on how well you complete them, which you can use to customize your loadout with different weapon options and suit upgrades. You can increase your speed, switch out homing missiles for scattershot missiles, and more. There's even a full suite of color options to customize for your suit, which is unlocked not with research points but by completing standing objectives across the game. It's more customization than I was expecting from Iron Man VR, as many VR games I've played are much more straightforward with little to do beyond working through the story of the game.
The long load times that bogged down the PSVR release have been significantly reduced, with little more than a few seconds spent on a loading screen in between major chapters. There were some buggy moments throughout that break the immersion when they crop up -- every once in a while Tony's arm will flail and jerk grotesquely, especially when not in his suit in the "walk around your Malibu home" parts of the game. But they were few and far between. Maybe I'm just bad at VR, but I found the "normal" difficulty setting to be a bit more challenging than I was expecting, and I can't imagine what it must play like at harder difficulties.
Visually, the game is gorgeous when viewed from a distance. Staring down a red-rock canyon or watching as a helicarrier glides through the air is breathtaking, but the up-close moments lose a bit of fidelity. Up close, the character models are designed to look more comic-book style vs. photorealistic, which is a smart choice, but much of the environment around you has been rendered to look real... and it doesn't always hit the mark. While it's fun to pick up an apple and take a bite, it's hard to shake the feeling that you've just chomped into a wax apple.
Iron Man VR Review | Verdict
Any quibbles I have with immersion-breaking moments are completely outweighed by the fact that it is, truly, a joy to fly around and shoot energy blasts as Iron Man. Marvel's Iron Man VR perfectly nails the most important point of an Iron Man game in virtual reality: you fly using your hands and shoot enemies with rockets and beams while spouting off (mostly) witty one-liners to the allies in your headset. With a story deeper than it needed to be that explores the toll of war and war profiteering, and a very healthy runtime (it took me about 7 hours to complete the game, and I didn't 5-star all the chapters and flight tests), Marvel's Iron Man VR on Meta Quest 2 is a triumph of the genre. Even if you're not a huge fan of Marvel movies or Iron Man, the gameplay is so satisfying and the experience so thrilling that this game truly deserves your time and attention.
TechRaptor reviewed Marvel's Iron Man VR on Meta Quest 2 with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation VR.
- Deep, Moving Story
- Intuitive, Satisfying Controls
- Fully Immersive VR Experience
- Small Moments of Bugginess
- Challenging At Normal Difficulty