canuckeh's Iron Man (Xbox 360) review

It's the game based on the movie based on the comic book

Iron Man : The video game rushjob adaptation of the summer blockbuster motion picture.

Story : Like most movie-to-game adaptations, the plot here is an incoherent mishmash of cutscenes that assumes that the player has seen the movie, leaving the rest of the world to be confused and force them into paying money to see it to make sense out of how this series of events is happening. And really, the only movie-based games that can get away with this are Lego-based.

Playing Iron Man on the Xbox 360, one gets the impression that the developers at Secret Level Games had a grand vision for the iconic Marvel hero. Oh they weren’t content with making an ordinary action game with a sprite that somewhat resembles Iron Man like that Game Boy Advance platformer that nary anyone remembers. They wanted to make THE Iron Man experience, the mother of all video games, living up to all the unreasonably high expectations gamers on the internet whom have never programmed a game in their lives dream of when thinking of what a next-generation game should be.

Expectations like open-ended, non-linear worlds (regardless of whether or not there’s anything interesting in this open world), destructible environments, real life physics, and 20-40 hours of gameplay length. Iron Man is not only going for all of these ambitions but gunning for this while giving Iron Man the power to fly around freely without restraint; no fuel restrictions, no running to fill some kind of P-meter to temporarily fly, none of that nonsense. It’s easy for one to take for granted that making this kind of game needs a good deal of time, effort and thought to make function properly, and well the pressure to release a game alongside it’s movie counterpart to cash in on the movie buzz tends to cut off all but the most resourceful dev teams.

Come to think of it, I can’t really think of a great or even good game/movie tie-in from this current generation of consoles that wasn’t a broken mess.

The levels consist mainly of wide-open spaces, filled with a lot of air so that the player can freely zip around in and feel like they’re Super….ehhhh, Iron Man. Being that Iron Man is a master of aviation and thus bottomless pits and other platforming sequences present no threat, one must then find other ways to test the player. And thus the developers went to the Halo route and filled the levels with enemies and slapping on the marketing slogan “You Are a One Man Army.” However, games like Halo and…well pretty much every game has the player controlling one person fighting an army of minions, but games like Halo tend to have a rhyme to the reason, adequately arming the player with munitions, cover and the mobility to slay these minions through a sharp trigger-finger and some cunning. Iron Man literally throws tanks, copters, jets, gun turrets and foot soldiers with rocket launchers at the player and you the player have only the armor you entered the fray with to fend yourself. These open-ended environments wind up sabotaging the experience in that you’ll be shot at in every direction with no cover, and no means to see all these bullets coming.

Seeing the bullets coming becomes an issue when it comes to catching missiles. This game seems fixated on this little gameplay mechanic where, with a well-timed button press, you can catch an incoming missile and throw it back at the pilot. I assume that this is to be the preferred method of choice for taking down copters and planes since it seems to take a small munitions-depot worth of Tony Stark’s own firepower to destroy any of these vehicles. Of course this doesn’t work so well since missiles can fly at you at any direction and thus you can expect to take a rectal pounding of explosives. Well there’s another quick way to destroy vehicles; you can approach vehicles and engage in a mini-game where you mash a button repeatedly and hope you pressed it fast and hard enough to break the tank, or else fail and have to try again. The issue here is that you’re going to get sick of doing this over and over since all of these vehicles have a habit of respawning. This respawning problem also goes back to my earlier point on open-world environments and being shot at from every direction; even if you tried to systematically destroy every enemy in your way, some tanks will still respawn behind you and shove a few warheads up your red and yellow metallic ass.

So this is a game that does a good job at simulating the feel of letting the player get shot at. I’m sure someone is thinking to themselves “gee, maybe you wouldn’t have to fear the reaper if you tried moving out of the way of all those bombs!” Again, poorly-planned out design haunts the game, this time from the perspective of Iron Man. Every single button on the controller is not only used but needed often, almost single-handedly defending Nintendo’s stance that games have become too complicated (…almost.) You have buttons to accelerate, hover, air-brake, fire missiles, fire the unibeam...some buttons have multiple uses and flying is its own convoluted mess. Doing the air side roll that’s supposed to be used to dodge incoming attacks requires an unintuitive button combination to use and is ultimately useless against bullets that move at the same speed as, well, bullets should move in real life. Oh, and in an attempt to simulate the Star Trek-esque fake science that has often shown up in Iron Man comics where Shellhead will talk of “rerouting power” to different parts of his suit to somehow make that part shoot more lasers, you can use the d-pad to reroute power to armor or weapons and whatnot to boost the stats in said area. It’s an idea that has potential to be interesting but telling your batteries to try even harder to pump energy into your shields doesn’t offer much solace against things that explode.

If Iron Man had about another year, give or take, of time in development and was perhaps a bit more thoroughly thought-out in the planning stages, then it could’ve had to potential to be something special. But like most games based on major motion pictures, the looming time limit before the movie is released and all of its subsequent buzz is in the air to be cashed in on will always restrain what can be accomplished in the game. Secret Level Games had a great vision for the Iron Man video game, but the existence of an Iron Man movie got in the way.

Pros : Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t phone in his voiceover performance as Tony Stark. One would think that the next Iron Man movie will deal with Tony Stark’s most well-known character trait – his alcoholism, and thus one wonders how the video game adaptation will incorporate this.

Cons : All I’ve been doing is ripping into this game. So I’ll use this section to explain how embarrassing it is that the above-mentioned Game Boy Advance Iron Man game is better than this.

2 stars

Frighteningly enough, Secret Level Games is also working on a new GOLDEN AXE game, due later this month.

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