Activision is no stranger to movie-based games. They’ve scored several hits with their child-oriented games based on animated films. They’ve also had a stinker or two, and of course have to battle against the “quick cash-in” stigma of movie games. Luckily, with the assistance of developer Raven Software, they’ve broken the curse with the game version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and proven that a good, adult game can be made based off a movie.
I usually try to separate a license from the gameplay when looking at a game critically. You can do that here to a point, and say that the gameplay at heart is the same as many popular action games like God of War. However, the presentation, the specific combos and results of the attacks are so uniquely Wolverine, it is hard to truly separate him from the core. There are certainly elements borrowed from other games, like dragging and carrying objects for puzzle solving, wall-climbing, and the ever present chainable combos, but everything is done in a way that can only be done by Wolverine, adding to the overall feel that this is his game.
The game, as I mentioned in my previous hands-on previews, is bloody and violent, brutally so. There are even achievements/trophies for certain number of dismemberments, there are quick-kills designed specifically to take off heads, and there are finishers that just plain look painful. This is a savage beast who is barely in control, and it shows all the way through. Covering his pre-hero days, it allows for a bit more leeway in his brutality without taking anything away from the character. As you fight the basic soldiers and more advanced enemies, you learn “combat reflexes” that make Wolverine more effective against that type of unit, so as they get more difficult, you get stronger against them to balance it out.
Aside from claw fodder, there are of course boss battles, but there are also several mini-bosses. These are much stronger and larger enemies that Wolverine has to take on, usually by dodging and lunging onto their backs. These fights get a little formulaic at times, but overall they’re satisfying enough, especially the first couple of times for each enemy type. It also breaks up the hack and slash of the basic enemies.
The boss battles are where this game really shines. The major battles from the movie are recreated here, but there are also some major ones you won’t see on the big screen. MINOR SPOILERS ONThe boss battle the developers have touted quite a bit is the one against the gigantic mutant hunting robot, the Sentinel. It is indeed incredible, with a 100% straight action sequence, with no “quick-time event” button sequences (though the button mash does come into play at the very end). Raven made a beautiful cinematic sequence, and really captured the 6’ vs. 200’ feel of the fight. However, the true stand out of the game is without a doubt the Gambit battle. It takes place across an entire level, covering about 6 different pieces of scenery. Even when you’re not doing so hot and getting smacked around by the Ragin’ Cajun, it’s so damn cool to look at that it doesn’t matter. Honestly, even if you don’t like the hack and slash action genre, this game is worth playing just for this boss sequence.MINOR SPOILERS OFF
So, fun, vicious standard gameplay, incredible over-the-top boss battles, bonus sequences included; where does this game go wrong? Not in many places. There were a couple of small glitches that made a couple larger fights more difficult, but they didn’t happen with any kind of consistency. The graphics are great, with lush, detailed scenery, and plenty of environment that you can interact with; by interact, of course, I mean use to kill enemies. The real-time injury and regeneration is endlessly cool to look at. I sometimes found myself destroying exploding barrels just to take a chunk out of my side. The puzzles are very nicely spread out, and there really aren’t any long stretches where Wolverine is only puzzle solving and not killing bad guys. As far as the sound goes, Wolvie’s one-liners could get old against standard enemies, but he really doesn’t deliver them that often, instead opting for cutting off limbs and letting that speak for itself. Only Hugh Jackman, Live Schreiber, and will.i.am. lent their voices to the game, but the replacements for the other movie characters were all experienced, accomplished voice actors. My only complaint would be that if you do any kind of building up throughout the game, the last couple of boss battles are very easy on Normal difficulty. A Hard difficulty that unlocks after completion forces you to start from scratch, and definitely takes care of that problem.
In short, X-Men Origins: Wolverine doesn’t just beat the “movie game curse,” it actually shows how this kind of story may in fact be better in an interactive format. While the movie may be getting mixed reviews, this game coming out is alone a fantastic reason for the movie to have been made. It’s a fun game, it’s a well built game (few glitches and about a 14 hour first playthrough), and it is most definitely a Wolverine game. Action fans and Wolverine fans alike will not want to miss this game under any circumstances. Raven Software was already a top developer, and this should make them superstars.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is in stores today, May 1st, for all major platforms. The version reviewed here is available on Xbox360, PS3, and PC, and is rated M for Mature