Cold Iron is a first as far as I’m aware as it combines VR with a Puzzle game and a shooter – something I personally haven’t seen before and developed by Catch & Release who is an independent game studio which was founded by two brothers, James Tillman and Matthew Taylor. Their studio is best known for the iOS game Star Billions, which I downloaded a few hours ago and I’m loving so far, with Cold Iron being their first foray into Virtual Reality. The team promise “the boss rush of Cuphead, the white-knuckled western aesthetic of Red Dead Redemption, and the magic and mystery of ‘The Dark Tower” but does the game deliver? Join me as I see if Cold Iron is the new Sheriff in town or if the jig is up with this one…
**The images are captured off a recording of the social view – in-game it’s much clearer and in VR**
Cold Iron has an interesting story, some outlaws ride into town and gun down your father in front of you, whilst you are a child. Before they get hold of him, he hides his precious revolver in a place they will never find it, a place which only you knew of. Once you grow older and become more enraged with revenge and curiosity, you retrieve his revolver and set off in search of answers. Armed with nothing but the revolver and your courage, you must face many foes as you uncover the truth behind what happened and also the truth behind the mystical weapon you hold in your hand. That’s right, the revolver isn’t a normal firearm, it possesses magical qualities which you must harness in order to help you overcome those who seek to take you down.
Along your journey, you will encounter a number of different enemies each with their own unique attack style, patterns and draw speeds. You will face off against enemies such as your standard wild west bandits, futuristic snipers and even Groot-like beings. You must learn their attack patterns and adapt with lightning reflexes as the majority of them will shoot you within less than half a second of the draw commencing. The game isn’t very long but it brings with it a lot of diverse battles, trophies, environments, enemies, puzzles and challenges which will have you replaying the game many times in order to get better.
The gameplay mechanics are nice and simple, the game is basically a quick-drawn simulator with added puzzles. In terms of the actual gun mechanics – you hold the Move controller face down (only one Move controller is required and used) and your gun is automatically holstered, as soon as you hear a bell you pull the gun up, aim at the enemy and pull the trigger. It sounds simple but the game will throw a lot of obstacles and puzzles at you which makes it harder to determine where the opponent will appear. For example, in one of the stages there is a sniper who disappears and then, as you wait for the bell, she will re-appear anywhere in the buildings in front of you. You must spot her and prepare yourself so you know where to aim and shoot once the bell tolls. If you are unable to spot her then you have to be really quick in order to try and shoot her before she shoots you, which is usually in less than a second.
The puzzle which I thought was awesome was one which I was sceptical about. There is an enemy who moves about in the dark but he has bright red eyes – so you can see where he is about to pop-up – well, in his final round he has no red eyes and the narrator tells you to close your eyes and let your gun guide you (which made me instantly think of Star Wars and Obi-Wan telling Luke to use the force to deflect the training laser blasts on the Millennium Falcon). So, I closed my eyes and holstered my gun, using only my hearing I listened to where the guy was moving to – each time I did that I was able to shoot him with 100% accuracy – it’s cool how the audio worked to help you pinpoint the enemy’s location.
I’ll let you discover and work out the answers to the rest of the puzzles on your own – some were a bit tricky and some were easy to work out. The thing to remember is, if you lose (by failing five times) then you can jump back in although you will have to start the chapter again (three enemies per chapter) so you can experiment and work out what the patterns are through trial and error.
One thing, which I think needs to be brought up here, is that the hitbox for the targets is pretty big. You don’t have to be pixel perfect in your shooting like you do in other stationary VR shooter games, it’s very generous in terms of what counts as a hit. What it does do it offer you a ‘bullseye’ bonus if you work out and shoot its bullseye location – so hitboxes are big but it rewards you for being accurate. Personally, I think this is great as it means the game is instantly more accessible for more people as I’ve taken my PSVR to my parents and friends houses and they often got annoyed when they weren’t 100% accurate at aiming, so the fact this game is more generous means they can still play, and get a good score, without having to worry.
The generous hitboxes are also apparent in the really fun bonus stages. The stages are basically the same but in different settings, you are stationed in front of some items and over time watermelons are thrown in the air both in the foreground and background. You have to see how many you can shoot before the end of the stage and each time you manage to blast one out of the sky, it explodes into fireworks which makes me wonder just what they had stuffed in those melons to make them so explosive! These stages are fun, they serve no purpose but an in-game trophy and a few PSN trophies, but they were a welcomed break between chapters.
While on the subject of bonus rounds and PSN Trophies, there are a few secrets I’ve discovered and a few trophies I’ve not unlocked yet. There appears to be a secret chicken you can shoot in a few levels (as per the trophies), various ways to finish certain enemies which don’t involve shooting them, and I found a few secrets at the beginning of the game which I won’t talk about as you should see if you can find them – there is no trophy for them, but they are fun to find.
The sound in the game is great, from the western music to the puzzles which revolve around sound – it all works perfectly. the voice over narration really fits the style of the game and the character and the dialogue are also well written and a joy to play through. I can’t really falter the sound design in the game. The graphics are good but I did have a few issues in the third chapter. I love the clean, bright aesthetic of the game – you can clearly see what everything is supposed to be and the gun is modelled really well in VR.
The issue I had in the third chapter (which I’ve informed them of) is one of the puzzles revolves around spotting an enemy as she teleports around the background, this could mean she is a few hundred meters away in a building or on a roof. If you have played a game on PSVR before then you will know the resolution isn’t the best within the headset – because if this it can be hard to see the enemy sometimes. It isn’t impossible, as I got 100% against her, but it does get a bit hard to see them sometimes. Another slight annoyance was at the beginning of the game as there is an intense white light which is so bright and comes without warning – I would have liked them to tone that down a bit as it is a bit too bright when you have the screens right up against your eyes.
Other than that, the VR works really well, you can look around 360 degrees, you can move your gun wherever and everything looks to be in perspective correctly with no screen judder. I didn’t have to recalibrate the screen at all once I did it the first time either, which is great as I’m usually all over the options-reset whilst playing PSVR games. One thing to bear in mind here is that you are stationary at all times, you don’t move unless the game moves for you – so you can comfortably play this game sat down or stood up.
Cold Iron isn’t a long game, it took me about 90 minutes or so to go from beginning to end but that’s not the end of the game. Upon completion, a new challenge awaits you! If you manage to collect all 16 in-game trophies then you get a chance to unlock a secret duel. Speaking of challenges, each opponent you defeat you are awarded a grade based on the number of lives lost, accuracy, bullseyes and speed – if you get an A against an opponent then you get a PSN trophy and a silver statue, if you get an S then you get a gold statue. So the game wants you to go back and continue playing until you master all of the patterns until you get a load of Gold status.
The game also has a PSN trophy for playing through the whole game without dying once (you can lose a round but not get five losses which result in a game over). This is most likely why the game is quite short, so you can either play the game in small chunks or all of it in one sitting. One thing the game was missing here which I thought would have been a nice addition was online leaderboards. Even if it wasn’t for competitive use – having online leaderboards usually makes people more competitive for number one, even if they get nothing out of it. Maybe the developer would consider implementing some in the future? Maybe even cross-platform the leaderboards with the PC and PS4 as it’s only a score – see how the PS4 crowd fares against the PC master race crowd!
Cold Iron is a short but sweet PSVR title. It combines VR with a stand-off shooting mechanic and puzzles in a way which has you yearning for more as the game comes to its climax at around 90 minutes. The challenges, secrets and temptation of a new bonus duel keep the game fresh and offers plenty of replayability – especially seeing as the outcome of the puzzles is different each time even though the solution is the same. There are a few moments when the PSVR limitations are apparent and causes issues with visibility, but that’s down to hardware and not the game. All-in-all, this is a great first attempt at VR and I would recommend it to anyone who wants something a little different for their PSVR which can be played both sat down and stood up.
**Update – the game received a massive free update, read more here: Cold Iron Wildcard Update**
- Great game to show off your PSVR with
- Interesting enemies, puzzles and environments
- Decent narrative and voice acting which helps immerse you
- Lots of challenges and replayability aspects
- Really fun to play and built so anyone can play it
- Some aspects are a bit hard to see on the PSVR screens due to the resolution
- No leader-boards - locally or online - for competitive ranking
- Game is a bit short if you're only in it for the main game (about 70-90 mins)