Holding the Marvel movie license, SEGA has two big games coming this summer, one based on the world of Captain America: The First Avenger, and one surrounding the movie world of Thor. The game company recently invited us to a press event in New York City to get some hands-on time with both games.
Thor: God of Thunder is the first up, hitting shelves three days before the film hits theaters, on May 3, 2011. The game takes place entirely in the mystical/godly realms of Asgard, and pits Thor against the monstrous villains known from the comics.
The basic controls have you using a combination of smashing foes with Mjolnir, Thor's signature hammer, throwing the weapon around for long range attacks, and activating devastating screen-filling god powers based around lightning, thunder, and wind. The basic attacks can be strung together in combos, and ending with a god power makes for some massive hits. The god powers have a limited amount of energy, so you can't just blow through levels wreaking untold havoc but when you do use them, whether it's calling down a massive lightning storm or knocking a host of foes off their feet with a thunderous earthquake, it is truly a godly event.
Movement is centered around running from place to place, with occasional points that let you take a "godly leap." That's the closest you'll get to flying in this game; according to developers, that's because Thor "doesn't really fly in the films." it's a strange gameplay choice, as Thor is often fighting massive giants and towering enemies here. Not being able to fly up so you can simply smash Surtur in the face with your hammer is frankly ridiculous, especially since he has flown in other games. Either the game is a "movie game" or it's not; it just seemed like a strange decision that didn't have a real reason for its exclusion.
As for those massive boss battles, they follow a pretty standard action-adventure big boss formula. You break the boss down with smaller, more standard attacks, until hitting a stun point that lets you leap or climb up them. Once you choose the position of attack (there are usually 2 or 3 on any given boss), you can melee or god power them to strike them down for the big finish. Unfortunately, the final attack starts off a quicktime event button-pressing sequence, the bane of action adventure fans. Curiously, the button prompts are all in a small, dimly lit bottom right corner of the screen, meaning you should be prepared to fail at these sequences often. They also use not only face buttons, but shoulder buttons as well, further adding to possible frustrations. If the whole point of QTEs is to keep the action fast-paced and present a cinematic feel to a big fight, that goal is not reached here. If your eyes aren't trained on that corner of the screen, meaning you are missing the actual action being depicted, you will fail, repeatedly.
There are some other levels that change the formula up a bit, like a nearly-on-rails "shooter" style mission, and a battle with a few more Thor-sized villains instead of monstrous giants. Ultimately, this seems like it will be an average game, not terrible with the "curse of movie games" on it, but not one that will be imbued with godly powers, either.
Thor: God of Thunder ships for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 May 3, 2011. A different game by the same title will also ship for Nintendo Wii.