Iron Man VR makes flying as Tony Stark feel great

If you’re making a Spider-Man game, you have to nail the swinging. The fantasy of gliding through New York, thwipping from skyscraper to skyscraper, is essential.

Likewise, if you’re making an Iron Man game, you have to perfect how it would feel to fly around in that iconic metal suit with total freedom. Developer Camouflaj’s new virtual reality game based on the Marvel superhero pulls it off. Using a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, Marvel’s Iron Man VR made me feel like Tony Stark learning how to fly in his garage workshop, lifting and steering myself with Iron Man’s hand-mounted jets.

I moved my arms down, palms facing the floor, to float. I angled my arms behind me to thrust myself forward, then put my palms straight out in front of me to brake. It all worked just as I’d imagined.

Later, as part of a roughly 20-minute demo with the PlayStation VR game, I enjoyed controlling myself, as Iron Man, in free flight as I flew alongside a burning Stark airplane, trying to protect Pepper Potts from a swarm of rogue Stark drones. Shooting them down was slightly less satisfying — I often confused my left and right hands while aiming, a problem Tony Stark probably doesn’t have — but still got the job done.

Marvel’s Iron Man VR will exist in the shadow somewhat of Insomniac Games’ blockbuster Spider-Man. Both are PlayStation 4 exclusives. Both star two of Marvel’s most popular heroes. Both are original takes on their respective characters.

“Our Iron Man universe is not the films, it’s not the comics, but they’re inspiration,” Camouflaj founder Ryan Payton told Polygon. Iron Man VR is built around “that core fantasy of being Iron Man and pairing that perfectly with the strengths of VR. It’s also telling a story about Tony Stark that’s really personal and digs into him as being a really complex character.”

Payton said that part of Iron Man VR’s story will explore Tony Stark as “his own worst enemy.” He’ll also face off against Marvel supervillain Ghost, the person behind the hacked Stark drones that go after Stark and Potts.

“One of the things we want to do early on was to have a really interesting and deep and complex villain to face off against Tony,” Payton said. “So, with Marvel’s help, we decided to use Ghost…

“[We asked Marvel] ‘We’d love to get Ghost in our game, but we’d like to have more representation. Can we make Ghost a woman?’ And I said, I swear to god, like a year later, we’re all in the theater seeing the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp. We were like, ‘Oh my god, are you serious?’ To be honest, we were a little bit disappointed because we wanted to be the first group to have a female Ghost. But soon after that we thought, ‘You know what? This is actually helping us build confidence that we’re thinking along the same lines as Marvel.’”

Camouflaj, which has grown from a small team that developed République to more than 60 for Iron Man VR, has been working on the game in secret for years. Payton said that, almost from the get-go, Camouflaj figured out the 360-degree free-flying aspects of the game. But it was the HUD of Iron Man’s visor, seen in motion in a variety of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, that was harder to get right. Just as tough was making Iron Man’s arms work in first-person and with PlayStation Move controls. With the help of character designer and artist Adi Granov, Camouflaj spent “over a year and a half’s worth of work to get that all approved and working properly in VR,” Payton said.

While the demo was limited to a tutorial, interactive cutscenes, and a lengthy set-piece level, Payton said Marvel’s Iron Man VR will be, in terms of content, “a real big VR game.”

“It’s not gonna be as long as you’re standard flatscreen [game],” Payton said. “We’re building the game to be substantial. We don’t know exactly how long the campaign is, but it’s got a good mixture of big, epic set pieces.”

Marvel’s Iron Man VR is slated for release in 2019.

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