Initially indefinitely delayed with The Last of Us Part 2, Iron Man VR will now be launching for Playstation VR come 3 July. It has a demo available, and we’d also gotten a taste of the game for ourselves, so enthusiasts with their kits will be able to take flight and be Iron Man, at least as long as they have their “suit” on. We speak with Ryan Darcey of Camoflaj, game designer of the team behind the game.
You can make the argument that VR is relatively new, especially compared with the rest of gaming’s history. We can reasonably assume that developing this title comes with its own set of challenges, besides the “traditional” ones. Camoflaj, of course, did have things in mind, as Darcey puts it:
“We wanted to make flying feel as joyful, as natural – it was key to the project.”
You’d be on a somewhat short leash even with all the freedom of movement VR can afford you, so motion is one of the more challenging aspects. They looked to the movies to see how Iron Man uses his hands, the wearing of the helmet, and worked to translate those movements to the game. The 360 degree freedom is important to really “feel” like Iron Man.
Nevertheless, Darcey feels Iron Man is a perfect fit for VR. You can simply look to the interface of the helmet in the movies, and how easily you can imagine that while wearing your VR visor, and likewise the flight mechanics with the motion of the hands. It still took many attempts for them to have it work like they envisioned, but the end goal will be to have you feel like you are Iron Man.
While we’d hope for further VR projects with Marvel characters, the initial pitch had Camoflaj develop a prototype to first show Marvel what they could do with Iron Man, which as Darcey had previously explained, “is a perfect fit for VR”. The importance is definitely placed on “feeling like Iron Man”, with the prototype needing to show the battle and the flights before the project would be green-lit. They’ve been working hand-in-hand with Marvel to ensure the “feel” is right. While the team may not have had much prior experience in VR specifically, it gave them the push to “try anything”, and they’d tweak it from there if it didn’t work at first.
“We just kept pushing to reach this point, and we’ve been seeing the comments to the demo, like, “Wow, I just spent an hour in the headset and this is perfect”. So yeah, I think we’re happy with where we’re at.”
By now, you might have already known and/or assumed Iron Man VR does not take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, instead having an original storyline.
“From a developer’s standpoint, it allows us the freedom to pull what we want from the movies, the comics, and we get to choose what locations the player travels to in-game, what characters will be there…”
Ghost is billed as the primary antagonist for the VR game, and with her being a hacker and technologically savvy, it plays into the VR experience too with all the gear you’re using. He gushes about the performances by the actors, and does seem pretty excited about what players will get to experience once they head into the campaign. Both the story and the gameplay will be tied together, tying the core combat loop tying into the narrative and they evolve together. Darcey estimates roughly 8 to 10 hours of campaign.
“The way we’re mixing things up is introducing new set pieces, new iconic Marvel locations, new weapons to unlock and upgrade, new enemies that are unique and challenging to players…”
“We’re taking what’s awesome from the demo and upping the ante to give new things for the players to explore and master across the campaign.”
With all that said, yes, the flying is cool, so how about being able to see yourself in motion, akin to a photo mode (or perhaps a cinematic mode, as it were). Darcey says the best way to view the suit up close and personal is in the garage, the hub. You’ll have your action-packed flying and fighting sequences, then you’ll have the downtime with cinematics with the various characters – Pepper Potts, Friday, Nick Fury – you’ll meet in the game. There is Iron Man, the hero, then Tony Stark, the person behind the mask. He cannot talk much regarding Ghost, or even the other characters who may be appearing, but they’ve been working with Marvel from the very beginning, so you can expect the story quality to hit that level.
It ties in to the customizations you may have heard mentioned regarding the suit. You’ll get to admire the suit up close, and tinker with it. The attachments/weapons have been showed off some in the demo, and it would sound like there’s plenty more firepower left to play around, besides passive upgrades you can also get. These will be unlocked as you progress through the campaign. Besides the suit upgrades, there’ll be custom decals for the cosmetics side.
Nonetheless, the COVID-19 pandemic did have effects on development, but Darcey says the team has responded well to the work from home transition, even if they did have some hiccups. They’re focusing on polish now, and be it on the flight controls to cinematics, they’re hard at work in the final stages. They want to see how much further they can take it without making the build unstable.
Now, Darcey feels that there’s two key areas in which Iron Man VR has contributed towards VR as a whole in being this unique experience:
- The flight controls and the freedom of movement
- Being able to tell an impactful story in this VR experience, that he feels “elevates the game to AAA quality in VR”, a complete package game that isn’t “merely” a tech demo
You can expect high frame rate with the game, as well as the closest possible, shall we say, mimicry of your movements to be translated into the game – ensuring both player and game respond to each other “in a way that makes sense”. They do still have the traditional snap turns and smooth turnings, but the “one to one connection of body and mind” is there to ensure the game is accessible to as many players as possible, so that you can walk away “feeling great”. Those with tendencies for VR motion sickness, much like the editor, can feel more hopeful that they will be able to enjoy being Iron Man regardless of your threshold of comfort.
“We didn’t take out anything from the game that we wanted in there.”
You can argue that VR has yet more room to grow, but Darcey says that they’ve nonetheless managed to put everything they wanted into the game, whether you feel the hardware has limitations or otherwise. The team are at present, focusing solely on releasing the game, so any post-launch content will have to wait.
There is one more curious thing: Darcey mentions Doom as an inspiration for the game, referring to the combat experience that is critical to the game. VR is still in relative infancy, so most of their inspirations are still drawn from other media like movies for them to apply into the game.
That’s all the time we had for the session. If you’ve been wanting to live your dreams to be Iron Man, your chance is here. With the apparent emphasis on combat, while not neglecting the story, this VR experience seems to be gunning for a spot to be interactive cinema, which will be interesting to see. While a lot of games can be immersive in their systems, this would be one of the times you will be able to be the character – so to speak – and having you closer to the character like never before.
Marvel fans should be especially eager to learn more about Ghost and the story, considering the close relations Camoflaj and Marvel have in making this title. What else can you learn about Tony Stark? His companions? The lore is out there for you to tie in to the massive universe that is Marvel, and it’ll be available 3 July 2020.