Preview: Marvel Powers United VR – MOBA-lite for the VR Fandom
Hulk smashing has never felt so good.
Sanzaru Games’ Marvel Powers United VR was the surprise announcement of San Diego Comic Con 2017, and since then has benefited from a constant stream of attention. Now, at Oculus Connect 4 in San Jose, the developer is hosting 4-player team sessions, allowing attendees to jump into the guise of one of their favourite Marvel superheroes like never before.
In this demonstration version the players are assigned a random character, though are able to choose a different superhero if they so wish. The Hulk, Crystal, Black Bolt, Rocket Raccoon, Deadpool and more are available in this limited preview build, each with unique attributes and a special moveset of their own.
Played in first-person, the demonstration of Marvel Powers United VR began with the hub area in which the player can choose which type of match they wish to enter; as well as access supplementary assets, such as battle records and a dancing Groot. Jumping into a local match (four PCs were synced for each match) VRFocus was cast as the Hulk; and an appropriately smashy time was set to be had.
The Hulk’s moveset is appropriately brutal, relying on slow and heavy attacks delivered in close proximity. Basic punches – performed simply by swinging your arms – will do some damage, but grabbing and throwing your opponents in a similar fashion to Robo Recall will break enemies with ease. Despite being very slow moving, a teleport attack is available that will launch the player forward and create an area-of-effect upon arriving at the destination. This will damage those affected, but also stun enemies not fatally wounded by the impact.
A second playthrough was made with Deadpool, which delivered a faster and more familiar first-person shooter (FPS) experience. One more keenly suited to those playing Marvel Powers United VR for the first time. SMGs, heavy pistols and katanas can be called upon at any time (with a cooldown period, which is sadly made less-than-obvious) and once ammunition is exhausted can simply be thrown away; in fact, the katanas can be used as projectiles along with shuriken should the player be in the position of waiting for a cooldown to end. Deadpool also has a teleport manoeuvre which has a much longer range than Hulk’s, but does far less damage upon impact.
The core gameplay loop of Marvel Powers United VR is to have the team of players defend a central objective. This begins simply by fending-off waves of increasingly varied and powerful enemies before evolving into a fetch-quest in which players must gather power cells. The final evolution of the formula sees boss characters enter the fray, requiring much more co-operation and a greater mix of skillsets to takedown.
This formula essentially makes Marvel Powers United VR a sort of co-operative MOBA. The players work together to defend waves of enemies as they build their own powers before executing on larger scale enemies. It eschews the tower defence ruleset of strategy-over-action and instead opts for a more immediate experience, and does so with the ideal that players can work together while still playing their own little battles with the enemy AI. The only real issue with this at present is that there’s no sense of depth on offer – is there more to each character than the four basic attacks? Marvel Powers United VR is part-FPS, part-MOBA, and with that looks to be an enjoyable experience for both VR newcomers and Marvel fans alike, but those familiar with the VR medium will have to wait and see if Sanzaru Games end up with just another wave shooter. Albeit one Marvel flavoured.