Marvel Powers United VR: Deadpool reveal and gameplay roundup

Oculus and the developers over at Sanzaru Games are hard at work bringing Marvel heroes to your virtual doorstep and, Marvel exclusivity aside, it has now been announced that in addition to the Incredible Hulk, Captain Marvel, and Rocket Raccoon, Deadpool will officially be joining the team to slice, dice, and blast enemies left and right.

These iconic members of the Marvel Universe are the first additions to the 12-character roster coming to Marvel Powers United VR. Each hero (or antihero) will have access to a range of unique skills, abilities, and iconic weapons that they wield in the Marvel Universe, and with three of your friends you should be able to find plenty of innovative ways to make them shine in a virtual reality experience.

Deadpool, in particular, is a character that almost seems perfectly catered to a VR experience, but it’ll come down to some tricky game design and quality writing to make him stand out in a genre that already has plenty of teleporting, dual katana wielding, gun-toting mercenaries that slice through hordes of enemies like a hot knife through butter.  

That said, the official reveal trailer for Deadpool gives us  hope for some quality banter and hijinks, fueled by plungers, wit, and toilet humor. 

A VR Game for Your Team of Avengers

New heroes aside, one of the most promising tidbits we’ve seen thanks to the magic of San Diego Comic Con are the numerous gameplay demos now floating around from journalists that were invited to personally jump into Marvel’s VR world and duke it out Avengers-style in four player co-op action.

Each journalist got a chance to record their play session as a specific hero, demoing their powers, channeling their character, and kicking a whole bunch of butt on the Oculus Rift alongside their fellow heroes.

Marvel Powers United’s story revolves around a universe shattered by a series of Marvel villains who banded together under the illustrious title of “Masters of Evil.” These well-known villains reportedly got their hands on a shard of the Cosmic Cube and used it shatter reality into several pocket dimensions where each villain rules with an iron fist and an eye towards destroying all opposition.

In the demo, players had a chance to fight through at least one of these worlds, with a chance to kick Ronan the Accuser’s teeth in at the end. Ronan, of course, being the main antagonist in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, could hint that Rocket Raccoon isn’t going to be the only Guardian we see in Sanzaru’s VR exploration of the modern superhero.

As for the current heroes, the Incredible Hulk showed off a heck of a lot of melee potential, as you would expect from our not-so-jolly green giant, beating enemies senseless, throwing barrels and pretty much any other debris he could get his hands on, and snagging enemies by their skulls and tossing them about like so many playthings. Hulk also looks like he has his signature Hulk Smash that’s triggered by the player physically raising and slamming their hands down, sending a ripple of crushed stone 20 or 30 feet towards an enemy, and a jump attack that takes the place of VR’s normal teleportation locomotion. It’s worth noting that both abilities seem to toss the enemies into a sort of bullet time trip through the air, making grabbing and throwing them that much easier.

You can watch the IGN’s playthrough as the Hulk below.

Captain Marvel, by all accounts, offered gameplay more similar to a standard VR shooter, with her signature energy blasts erupting from her hands and the ability to teleport into the air and fly around to dispense healthy doses of radiation from a distance. Her energy blasts can be charged to deliver a powerful blast, triggered rapidly to spray down enemies like a minigun at the world’s most dangerous rave, and channeled into a small shield in front of her to absorb damage for a short amount of time. Additionally, her super strength allows her to pick up and throw barrels and other items, and likely makes her nearly as effective as the Hulk at smashing faces.

Road to VR had a great look at Captain Marvel’s abilities in the video below.

UploadVR had a great demonstration of Deadpool’s particularly potent set of skills. As we mentioned earlier, he uses a combination of guns, katanas, teleportation, and snarky quips to rip his enemies apart, but it’s important to note that he seems to have both hand cannons for longer range encounters, and a set of custom SMGs for spray and pray murder frenzies. Deadpool’s Katanas also appear to function as shields, allowing you to slice bullets out of the air. And, as if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also get a set of homing shuriken that deliver slice and dice action from a distance

Last, but certainly not least, we had a chance to see Rocket Raccoon deliver an adorable form of fuzzy murder. If you can see past his fuzzy little snout in the IGN gameplay below, you’ll notice that he has access to a variety of energy weapons and gadgets to mow through enemies, along with a jetpack to rain death from above. Your basic go-to weapons seem to be a set of rapid-fire laser pistols, and a two-handed beam cannon, both of which can be charged to deal a devastating energy blast. There were also a few variations of grenades and proximity mines, but we really didn’t get a chance to see what they did. With any luck, we’ll also see a healthy amount of tape and the occasional pocket doomsday device when the game hits its final build.

VR Implementation

It’s important to note that the current version of the game is a very early build, and several of the journalists that went hands on with the tech mentioned they experienced the occasional crash even with the developers standing by.

That said, the graphics looked pretty good considering you have four very powerful superheroes duking it out all at once, and aside from the occasional jitter and judder in the body tracking tech the gameplay looks smooth and relatively consistent. I am a little concerned that some of the gameplay shows a basic snap turning system, but it’s only in the one gameplay demo as far as I can tell, so it could indicate that it’s only an optional feature rather than a necessary gameplay feature.

VR locomotion is a combination of teleportation and traditional locomotion, which by all accounts seems to work well, and after an initial learning gap became a smooth compromise between the two. It is a little concerning that the teleportation seems tied entirely to player skills, which could create comfort issues for anyone playing the game as characters that don’t have the ability to teleport around.

Locomotion also seems particularly slow as a compromise to keep the player’s stomach firmly in place, but we’ve yet to see if this will pose an issue with open lobbies where characters that can teleport will be able to far outpace non-teleporting heroes. Additionally, it’s a little frustrating to see traditionally very fast characters seeming to move at a relative snail’s pace.

Ideally, we’ll see an option for players to adjust movement speed, teleportation, and manual turning based off comfort level when the game hits virtual Oculus shelves in 2018.

Team Play?

Again, although this is an early build of the game, it also doesn’t look like there’s a huge amount of team synergy among heroes, which is something that we would love to see, especially considering it’s kind of a staple in Marvel RPGs.

Even if we don’t see ridiculous Thor and Captain America thunder blasts, it does seem like a raid-style mission like this would heavily benefit from a bit of a variation in tank, healer, and DPS roles, or at least some kind of ability to buff and heal your allies. Otherwise, the game might quickly become a mundane gallery shooter that happens to feature superheroes rather than the quality VR experience Marvel seems to at least be attempting to create.

Additionally, there were more than a few reports of not feeling entirely immersed as a powerful superhero during the demo, which isn’t entirely surprising considering the lack of team synergy. The game could benefit from both challenging levels, a handy focus on AI, mechanics that force the players to think on their toes, and probably the occasional super move to make players feel like they each get a moment in the spotlight.

As it stands right now, it looks like the enemy density is extremely low when you have to compete with some of the power hitters like Hulk and Deadpool, making the slightly less mobile, more defense-minded heroes like Captain Marvel and Rocket Raccoon feel a bit useless and disconnected from the action, both by distance and the dissatisfaction of watching Hulk leap across the battlefield to steal their kills.

Of course, a lot of these issues could disappear in the coming months of development, and this is certainly a promising start, so here’s hoping that Sanzaru and Oculus iron out the game balance enough to make this a VR game that’ll last days, rather than hours.  

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