How Is EA’s Iron Man Going To Solve The Flying Problem?

The biggest cliche about Insomniac’s Spider-Man games is that they’re so successful because they make you feel like Spider-Man. While I’d never use such a hacky line (I had to double-check my Spider-Man articles just to make sure) I can’t deny that there’s something to be said about how well those games capture every aspect of who Spider-Man is.



The exhilarating speed of web-swinging, the freedom of moving through New York high above the city streets, the expressiveness and fluidity of combat, and the creativity and usefulness of his gadgets are all finely tuned to perfectly replicate the experience of being Spider-Man. That’s a fantasy that every superhero game aspires to, and now they’ll all be expected to rise to Spider-Man’s level. Just look at how Crystal Dynamics fared when it introduced the webslinger to Marvel’s Avengers. If you don’t get it exactly right, then it’s completely wrong.

Related: EA Motive’s Iron Man Job Listing Suggests It Might Be Open-World

That’s why I’m worried about Motive Studio’s upcoming Iron Man game. Iron Man hasn’t had nearly as many turns in games as Spidey, but I’ve played him enough to know how hard it is to get him right. Like Spider-Man, the Iron Man armor has a totally unique way of moving and fighting, both in the air and on the ground, and Motive needs to nail his action and personality just as Insomniac nails Spidey’s. That’s a tall order, considering the video game examples of Iron Man we have.

For all its flaws, Marvel’s Avengers actually does a pretty good job of translating Earth’s Mightiest in combat. Iron Man is a bruiser-type that attacks with slow, heavy hits, but can also move unexpectedly fast with a burst of energy from his thrusters to dodge attacks or close distance with targets. Likewise, his ability to mix different kinds of ranged attacks, from quick laser beam passes to slow, charged repulsor shots, makes him both versatile and unpredictable in a fight. Marvel’s Avengers nails Iron Man on the ground, but misses the mark completely when it comes to fighting in the air.

iron man
via Marvel

There are two distinct modes Iron Man can adopt in the air in Marvel’s Avengers. He’s either flying forward at full speed, or hovering in place, while moving Iron Man is limited to ranged attacks that fire in the direction he’s looking. When he stops, he can access a variety of lasers, missiles and repulsor attacks, as well as a simple melee combo.

Marvel’s Avengers imposes significant limitations on how Iron Man is typically depicted in the air. Because it needs to balance multiple flying characters in a multiplayer setting, Iron Man has all the qualities of a magical flyer like Thor, who moves through the sky just as he moves on the ground. But Iron Man’s mobility has more in common with Spider-Man than Thor. He’s wearing an 80lb suit, propelled through the air by controlled explosions. He’s at the mercy of gravity, momentum, and inertia, and just as Spider-Man counteracts natural forces with his webs, Iron Man fights physics with bursts of concentrated energy.

For Iron Man, flying is a constant battle with the laws of nature, and Iron Man VR is the best example of what it would actually feel like to be him. By activating the thrusters in his palms individually, you can control Iron Man’s speed, elevation, and trajectory with precision. Iron Man VR shows how involved mechanical flying actually is as you try to move, look, and aim separately and simultaneously. Turning your wrist just right as you feather the thruster to bank around a corner with the perfect trajectory, while at the same time aiming you other hand to fire repulsors at a moving target, is essential to the experience of being Iron Man, and one that’s going to be damn hard to replicate outside of VR.

iron man vr playstation 4 tony stark flying

Iron Man VR has its own limitations too. It ignores the fact that Iron Man’s feet are just as important in the flying process, putting all of the mechanisms instead in his hands. It gives him a variety of ranged attacks, including a punch that’s super satisfying when it connects, but it’s missing the full breadth of Iron Man’s unique arsenal. There’s so much to Iron Man that Motive has to include to get him right, and it has to do it without any real, comprehensive examples to build from. We have decades of Spider-Man games that slowly but surely lead us to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but with Iron Man, Motive is flying in the dark.

Next: EA Will Release Three Marvel Games, Including Iron Man

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