The impact that Iron Man has had on superhero movies as a genre cannot be understated. The original 2008 film not only showed the potential for superhero origin stories from a modern perspective, but kicked off the expansion of what would eventually be known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with SHIELD leader Nick Fury recruiting Tony Stark for the Avengers Initiative in the post-credits scene. Over the next eleven years, Stark reappeared across additional solo stories and team-ups as fans were able to follow his journey from a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” to the selfless and iconic figure that is willing to go to great risks to protect the ones he cares about. Despite Iron Man’s memorable journey on the big screen, the armored Avenger has yet to receive a proper video game adaptation, as the only two titles to come out were both coordinated with the first two films and were both poorly received by fans and critics alike. Last year, Republique developer Camouflaj announced their next project, a VR title starring Iron Man with Sony and Marvel’s help, and while the game currently has no set release date due to current world events, the core promise of soaring through the skies and shooting enemies as Iron Man is undeniably exciting.
While the core game mechanics may seem instantly enticing, a fitting Iron Man game that is truly looking to capture the key themes of the comics and movies needs to put a key emphasis on the story and the man inside of the suit. Iron Man VR has been confirmed to take place a few years after Stark has transitioned into his new role as full time superhero, although it is unclear if he has teamed up with his Avengers partners yet. In the introductory post on the PlayStation Blog, director Ryan Payton does hint at the presence of “iconic allies and Super Villains,” with the former category potentially including the likes of his love interest Pepper Potts or close friend James Rhodes, who eventually becomes his armored crime-fighting partner War Machine. But with the Marvel universe as deep and beloved as it is, the scope of allies could reach beyond those that are directly associated with Stark, which could come down to how willing Marvel and Sony are to allow Camouflaj access to additional super-powered friends.
Meanwhile, Camoflauj has revealed at least one of the key antagonists that Stark will find himself up against: Ghost, a mysterious hacker who is looking to exploit the less well-intentioned past of Stark Industries by re-purposing some of their old weapons. This peek into one of the key battles for Stark shows a strong understanding of his character arc, as he’s constantly haunted by the legacy of his time as a weapons provider for any faction, regardless of their motivations. Even as Stark tries to move on and help the world with his technological prowess, there are still those that see him only as his father’s son, who never wavered in his commitment to developing the deadliest weapons possible for the highest bidder. And yet, the PlayStation Blog post teases the presence of multiple Super Villains, so the return of Stark’s past and his pursuit of Ghost may not be the only challenges that face him throughout his journey.
With a forty dollar price point, fans can already reasonably expect that Iron Man VR won’t run the length of a traditional AAA title, but there still seems to be plenty of room to explore Stark and his personal motivations as he carries the weight of human lives on his shoulders. Payton directly states his praise for the Demon in a Bottle comic book storyline, which dives into some of the darkest moments of Stark’s ability to grapple with his troubled past and his struggle to move past it. While it may be tough to provide those themes the respect they deserve in a VR experience, the team’s acknowledgment of those key aspects of Stark’s motivations should help provide a more authentic approach to his deep character that fans have come to know and love. The potential of Iron Man VR’s core gameplay seems strong, but with a deeper look into Tony Stark’s friends, villains and the man himself, Camoflauj’s first licensed title could emerge as a strong addition to the PlayStation VR lineup upon its launch.