Bone claws still cut through a lotIn late March, I had the opportunity to join fellow members of the press for an event held by Activision to sit down and play the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine videogame for several hours, as well as get a look at developers fighting two of the game's "big boss" battles. The presentation came first, and we got to see a substantial piece of Wolverine’s boss fight against The Blob. This happens later in the game than press or fans have seen up until this point. It is also one of the times the game diverges from the movie; the movie fight between the characters had the location change, but the game uses the original setting, a grocery store, for the battle. That means lots of narrow corridors, lots of environmental weapons, and lots of shelves for Wolverine to get thrown through. The coolest part of the fight, however, wasn’t the flashiness, but the little nuances. When Wolverine gets hurled halfway across the store, he skids to a stop by digging his claws into the ground. Those little bits help to really make you feel like Wolverine while you play or even watch. The Lunge is an important move in the game The other boss battle we got to see in a slightly fast forwarded full fight was the much-ballyhooed fight against a Sentinel. The battle sees Wolverine getting attacked by a never ending legion of soldiers while simultaneously doing battle with a robot that is literally more than 30 times his size. The shear scale is beautiful, and made it a lot of fun to watch. After doing enough damage to the mutant hunter, it takes off, with Wolvie barely hanging on by his claws, and a series of climbing and strategically slashing makes for an awesome in-air battle. Just watching it made me salivate to play it, and many of the Raven employees said they’d played the fight ten, twenty, or even thirty times, just cause it’s fun. After the presentation, it was time to dive (back) into the game. I elected to play from the start again, playing through the first mission, which I’d already played just prior to February's New York Comic Con. Jumping in was easy, once again, and I felt like an old hat at the game, even after nearly two months of not playing it. After running through that first mission, I got to move on and play the rest of the entire first section, including a A huge variety of enemies face down Logan substantial escape from Alkali Lake sequence. New enemies brought with them new unique quick kills. One of the most vicious is when Logan goes up against soldiers augmented with a cybernetic right arm. After softening them up, his quick kill has him tearing the arm from the soldier’s body, and beating him to death with it. It’s vicious, violent, and just ridiculous fun that shows off how mean Wolverine can get when he’s backed into a corner.
The other premium moments came in the form of environmental kills. It’s always fun to simply grab and throw enemies around, finding new things to impale, decapitate, and maim villains with. One room found Wolverine attacked from all sides by a stream of no less than 8 soldiers at a time in very cramped quarters. An industrial fan, which looked like it was just a drawn part of the wall, spun rapidly on one entire side of the room. The first throw produced a satisfying splat and limbs flying in every direction. After throwing two entire waves of enemies into the fan, it finally broke, and I unlocked the achievement “Environmentally Friendly.” This mixture of violence with a hefty dose of sense of humor keeps things light and cartoony, allowing for the more ridiculous to be present without getting gross. Make no mistake, this is a violent, M-rated take on Wolverine, but it won’t leave you with murderous dreams.
A flashback sequence injected into the gameplay allowed for my first showdown with Sabretooth. His fighting style isMany grabs and throws are actually done by impaling enemies on your claws more of a brute than Wolverine, while using some similar attacks. This throwdown was one of the best parts of the game so far; I absolutely felt like I was playing something directly off a comic book page. Lunges, throws, and quick kills keep the fighting exciting, as well as easy to pull off combos, insane special moves, and easter eggs galore. To relearn how to access his feral senses after the adamantium injection, for example, Wolverine uses a familiar looking helmet to mimic them at first. This is just one of about fifteen little comic shoutouts I noted in just three hours with the game, which played out to be about a fourth or fifth of the total single player experience, depending on how many collectibles and achievements (or trophies for PS3 gamers) you’re looking for. The biggest thing to note with this game, again with only a few hours of it, is how it just doesn’t stop being fun. It’s fun when you’re kicking ass, it’s fun when you’re getting your ass kicked (the real time injury and healing is incredible to watch, getting The Sentinel chases you before the big showdown to the point that you can see environment through holes in Wolvie’s torso; don’t worry, his pants stay on, as that’s the “no zone” according to Raven). It’s fun when you’re pulling off elaborate moves and combos, it’s fun when you’re button mashing. It’s fun to play, and nearly equally fun to watch. It’s fun to advance the story, it’s fun to just bash on the cannon fodder. They’ve really distilled Wolverine into video game form in a nearly perfect way. Regardless of if the movie winds up being great, mediocre, or not good at all, this game looks to be a killer. Oh, and one last thing, I did in fact get to play as Wolverine in one of his now-being-announced unlockable costumes, in the shade of Brown and Tan. I can’t wait to "Snikt" again in about 3 weeks. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is set to launch with the movie on May 1st, 2009. It’s shipping for nearly all current systems. The version previewed here is for Xbox 360 and PS3