Review: Marvel Powers United VR
The variety starts in the character list, but ends before the gameplay.
When Marvel Powers United VR was first announced, the idea of a virtual reality (VR) videogame where you could be your favourite comic book character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed too good to be true. Traditional videogames that’ve tried to emulate the awesome powers of superheroes have generally fallen flat, so could Sanzaru Games buck the trend by bringing this might to VR? It would be great to say yes but unfortunately there are some issues.
In the weeks leading up to launch Sanzaru Games in conjunction with Oculus Studios ran quite the impressive promotional campaign releasing details on the characters you’d get to play, locations you’d be fighting in and the villains that would try and stop you. All in all there’s a whopping 18 heroes to choose from with most of the greats in there – Ironman is a glaring omission – which certainly makes for a bountiful supply of fighting options.
While the roster of playable superheroes is certainly eye catching and one of the main reasons to keep playing the title until you’ve tried each one, sadly it’s the actual gameplay itself that lets Marvel Powers United VR down considerably. The whole experience is a very repetitive, high score, wave-based fight. Once you’ve played it a couple of times you’ll know exactly what to do no matter which location is chosen.
Each and every match works like this. A shield node is dropped into the map and you and your team – either in single-player with AI or three other players – need to defend it for a certain amount of time. Once that’s been achieved a couple of times with the node splitting into two locations at one point you’ll then see a bigger node appear which needs to be filled with powers cells located around the map. Find those whilst killing enemies and you’re all done. A perfectly fine sequence with nothing particularly wrong about it. Except for the fact that it’s the only mission, not matter if it’s in Sakaar Arena or Jotunheim, all you do is repeat the same process again and again.
You could almost forgive Sanzaru Games for the lack of depth if the enemies had any sort of intelligence to make the fight sequences better, but they just tend to attack the nodes most of the time unless you are really close when they spawn. Of course there are the boss battles which do slightly make up for this as they solely focus on the heroes. Offering the biggest challenge in each mission like any boss in any videogame it’s about learning their patterns and staying out the way of each ones massive area-of-effect attack.
So surely playing as the characters is something of a boon? Well yes it is. Marvel Powers United VR is a beautiful videogame to look at, especially when it comes to the characters models and their detailing. The first time selecting Wolverine and seeing those adamantium claws ping out should instantly put a smile on most players’ faces. It’s certain the first title to bring you as close as possible to actually being that character – no matter how good a cosplayer you might be.
Yet repetition does seem to be Marvel Powers United VR’s greatest ability. It was never going to be easy making each character wholly unique in battle so a lot of them do play in a similar style. After you’ve tried them all then it does tend to fall back to how to like to play. Getting in and up close with the melee fighters, standing back to use ranged weaponry, or the easiest being a combination of those that can fly – you’ll stay permanently airborne unless selecting to land – with ranged abilities.
What about other features that’ll keep you coming back you may ask? Well completing missions will unlock crates that’ll give the superheroes new costumes and poses, which quite frankly isn’t that exciting. One addition that is comes from the collection of Cosmic Cubes. Attain 25 of the little things and you’ll get to fight big boss himself, Thanos. If you want to keep going back to fight him then you’ll need ten cubes to repeat the process.
Marvel Powers United VR really is a mixed bag of goodies. One the one hand are its high production values, with gorgeous character models and scenery, easy control schemes and comfortable gameplay style. It’s the repetition that lets it down, dissolving the gameplay down to basic wave-based combat. With four friends you’ll get some life out of Marvel Powers United VR, just not the heroic gameplay most were looking for.