Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Iron Man

“I am Iron Man”. It’s as simple as that, really. You have a helmet over your head, a computer system pointing our targets and the power to fire an alarming array of missiles and lasers as you fly at incredible speeds across cities, deserts and oceans. You need only look at the legions of alien invaders or defunct tanks and they’ll explode into pieces thanks to a handy shoulder-mounted rocket or wrist-mounted laser.

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A few weeks ago we looked at how virtual reality (VR) might help bring us that bit closer to capturing the sensation of swinging through New York streets at Spider-Man. Since then, it’s stuck on our mind that if there’s one superhero that VR could really capture the essence of, it’s Iron Man. Marvel’s armoured Avenger became a mainstream hit with the 2008 movie and now it’s time for videogames and VR to reinvigorate his image once more.

When thinking of the Iron Man movies, it’s hard not to think of that iconic image of Tony Stark’s head appearing in a dark space with a number of computer systems rotating around his eyes and zig zagging around in front of him. Imagine having the opportunity to pull on an Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus headset and actually placing yourself in those scenes, with Stark’s software pointing out every detail to you as you scan an environment and JARVIS sarcastically advising you on how to proceed.

It’s one of the more literal translations of a franchise into VR that we can think of. The headset would effectively double that iconic helmet. Imagine slipping it on and looking down as the suit itself was attached to you, just like in the films, bridging that gap between stepping from real life into the virtual dimension.

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A few weeks ago in a VR vs. piece, we discussed the challenges of bringing some superheroes into the world of VR. Admittedly, Iron Man presents a challenge in maintaining a sense of presence when flying, but the beauty of his combat abilities are that they could be tied to motions. Imagine having a Sixense STEM motion controller in your hand, raising it in front of you, and effortlessly firing off an attack from the palm of your hand. Perhaps  with a PrioVR fully body motion suit you could even use certain motions  such as gesturing your torso forward to shoot from your chest.

Picture of scene filled with hundreds of enemies, pushing you to your limit as you prioritise targets, using every weapon at your disposal to try and bring down as many as possible as quickly as possible. Your arms would fling about the room blasting targets while you looked on towards another group in a completely different direction, assigning homing rockets as more to take care of them. Multitasking first-person combat is something that’s hard to achieve in videogames, but with VR it could be a tool to making action even more intense.

In fact, a VR Iron Man title has the potential to cater to a number of different experiences. Don’t forget that Tony Stark built a huge range of Iron Man armours in the third film and indeed the comic books. We could switch from super-strong Hulkbuster suits to underwater stealth get-ups for a huge range of different missions.

More than almost any other comic book superhero, Iron Man seems to fit VR. When you think about it, Tony Stark had to design his suit to allow for the best inputs to make his suit convenient and easy to use. All a VR videogame would have to do is effectively copy those inputs to create a seamless experience. Let’s hope that if superheroes ever do make a run at VR, Iron Man is leading the charge.

‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets. 

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