'Marvel Powers United VR,' Hands-On

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? Do you imagine slicing your enemies to shreds with adamantium claws, or crushing them with a mythical hammer, or blasting them away with optic lasers? We do! Unfortunately, none of us are speedsters, super soldiers, or billionaire-playboy-philanthropists (at least, not that we know of). The next best solution might just be Marvel Powers United VR, which we tried out this past weekend during Disney’s D23 Expo.

Marvel Powers United VR is being published by Oculus and developed by Sanzaru Games, the studio behind Ripcoil. Development started about a year ago; with superhero flicks dominating both the big and small screen, Oculus decided that it wanted to develop a big superhero game. At around the same time, Marvelhaving already gotten its hands in PC, console, and mobile gamingdecided to tackle VR. Oculus introduced Marvel to Sanzaru Games, and the rest is history.

Marvel Powers United VR throws you into a conflict against the Super Villains, who have gained possession of a Cosmic Cube. Their manipulation of the Cube is causing the very fabric of reality to tear apart, and it’s up to Marvel’s roster of heroes to stop them. The exact number of planned heroes hasn’t been revealed yet, but there will be at least a dozen at launch. So far, four have been confirmed: Captain Marvel, Rocket, The Hulk, and Deadpool.

The control scheme takes some getting used to, particularly when you're turning around. You can easily turn 360° with the Rift headset, but reorienting yourself on the Touch controller makes your character snap into place rather than turn seamlessly. According to Sanzaru, this was done because too much locomotion made players uncomfortable, and snapping into place was easier to stomach. However, smooth turning with the Touch controllers may be implemented in the future.

Several characters, such as Captain Marvel and Rocket, have the ability to fly. Similar to the snap-turning control scheme, aerial characters haven’t been given a first-person surface-to-air animation. Instead, your vision fades to black, then fades in again once you’re in the air. Ideally, a flying animation will be implemented for the full release.

During our first demo playthrough, we played as Deadpool, who was revealed today at Comic Con. As Deadpool, players can either hack away at enemies with his katanas, shoot them at range with a pair of submachine guns, or toss shuriken that stun your enemies. Using the Oculus Touch controllers, you can unsheath the katanas from behind your back, grab your guns from your belt, and grab stars from your forearm sleeves. You can also mix and match which weapons you use. For example, you can run around with a gun in one hand and a katana in the other.

We used Rocket during our second playthrough, and he had a different array of abilities. His primary weapons are two plasma guns that fire single rounds with each pull of the trigger. Alternatively, you can hold down the trigger to fire a charged shot. Rocket also has a scatter gun slung over his back. The scatter gun has two functions: holding it in one hand will fire a plasma-charged shotgun round, but holding it with two hands turns it into a long-range plasma rifle that can hit enemies behind cover. In addition, Rocket has sticky grenades on his chest, which are useful for clearing out groups of enemies. Finally, Rocket can take to skies with his jetpack and fire upon enemies below.

Each character has a unique arsenal that makes them distinct, and just because both Rocket and Deadpool use guns doesn’t mean that you’ll be shooting from behind corners as both. As Rocket, I found myself using the scatter gun-come-sniper rifle to snipe enemies from afar, but I dove in headfirst as Deadpool, chopping away at enemies while simultaneously gunning them down.

Another surprising quirk you'll find from the varied roster is different perceptions of height. When playing as Rocket, we were only a few feet off the ground, so seeing The Hulk standing at least a dozen feet higher made us feel truly small. If we had played as The Hulk instead, we're sure that both our allies and enemies would have looked like mere ants.

In Marvel Comics, hero team-ups are about as abundant as dead characters being brought back to life, so Sanzaru placed heavy emphasis on player co-op. Up to four players can participate in a mission simultaneously, and because the Super Villain's Cosmic Cube manipulation threatens all aspects of the Marvel universe, you’ll find a wide variety of unlikely hero team-ups. Players can perform team-up combos by stacking their ability effects on enemies. For example, The Hulk can ravage an enemy who has been stunned by one of Deadpool’s shuriken. Combos can be performed with two, three, or up to all four players.

The Cosmic Cube shenanigans don’t end there. Multiple enemies and Super Villains will rear their ugly heads in areas you might not expect. During the demo, we battled against the Kree and Ronan the Accuser, but if you play through the mission again, you might get a different set of enemies, a different level boss, and an entirely different level layout. This provides the game with a bit of replayability, and with multiple hero combinations, each mission should provide a refreshing experience.

Rocket's "Annihilation" Costume

As you play, you’ll gain experience and level up, and with each level you’ll unlock new content and additional features. For example, players may unlock Rocket’s “Annihilation” costume. Sanzaru is still working on the leveling system, but it plans to incentivize teamwork with extra experience. Team-up combos are one way you can earn a lot of experience during a brief fight.

Marvel Powers United VR will be released next year on the Oculus Store. Oculus will slowly reveal new characters until then.

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