Gamers around the globe cringe with the mere mention of a movie-licensed game. These games are found languishing in the “horrible” sections of review sites and collecting dust in bargain bins. On rare occasions you get a gem such as Chronicles of Riddick which is actually better that its movie counterparts, but these are few and far between.
Raven Software’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game we have clamored for our adamantium hero to star in. No, it is not an epic story worthy of its own film. Instead, Wolverine is no longer restrained and weakened as in previous games with health bars and dull claws. In this translation to pixels, Logan is as powerful as he should be, and equally angry to boot.
Violence is absolutely over the top and why shouldn’t it be when the protagonist has claws that can slice through anything? Playing through is easily one of the bloodiest adventures I have journeyed with a game controller of late, and also the most fun. Limbs are amputated with gory precision, heads roll, and swarms of bodies are skewered and eviscerated in your wake. Without a doubt Raven has created the closest representation of the iconic comic character seen to date on any platform.
The opening cinematic scene’s gore will make your jaw hang slack as it plays out like a Kill Bill movie on steroids. Wolverine impales a soldier’s head through a wall after dismembering a dozen of his comrades, only to skewer another. He holds this poor bugger up in the air impaled on one set of claws, while he repeatedly skewers him with the other. Definitely not for the faint of heart or for young gamers, but I was grinning the entire time.
A notorious issue with Wolverine in past games was his mutant ability of healing regeneration. Developers have either chosen to ignore this ability and given Logan a health bar or just come up with some lame excuse as to why his regenerative powers do not work. Raven, fearing a rabid backlash from fans, has remedied this.
First off, you get to see all the awesome damage Wolverine can take. Get shot, and the wounds will bleed. Get hit with an explosion and you can actually see Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton underneath his flesh. Damage can affect four layers in real-time, including clothes, skin, muscles, and skeleton, but the coolest feature is that you can also see these layers heal. Once you take damage, and the battle slows, you can watch Wolverine’s wounds heal in real-time and witness muscles and tissue growing back.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not without its faults which begin with the visual quality. Pop in is constant, lighting is mediocre, and character models are less than impressive. You will face swarms of the exact same looking enemy which is only fun for so long. Even the Wolverine model is pretty blasé, which is odd given that he is the star. Sure it looks like Hugh Jackman, and the healing powers are nice to gawk at, but never does the aesthetic make an impression.
Once you get past the gory thrills, the game play becomes a bit of a chore as well. Your slash and skewer tactics during the first ten minutes of play is pretty much the same thing you will be doing for the next five hours. There are a variety of special movies to learn and master, but none of them really have any impact on playing when you can pretty much complete the game using your basic attacks as well as the “Lunge.” Almost every boss in the game is defeated in the exact same fashion — with the same moves. Wait for an opening, “Lunge” on its back and slice. By the tenth boss a tear will flow from the repetition.
There is a fair amount of character management and hidden items such as dog tags, costumes, and power ups but once again they seem moot when nothing adversely affects the gameplay. A statistics feature is a fun addition where you can monitor all your killing mayhem, but everything else comes across as filler.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is without a doubt a blast to play. You would be hard pressed to find a better movie-licensed title in the last few years making it a rare gem indeed. While it excels at translating the experience of being Wolverine into a game better than any predecessor, it could have been much more. Improved graphics and deeper gameplay would cure a desire to walk away due to monotonous combat and lackluster visuals. Instead, Wolverine skewers its chance to become a classic.
– Jason Krahn