Though it suffers from numerous technical issues, Wolverine's com
Generally movie tie-in games are among the worst in the industry. Usually quick cash ins with limited development time and tiny budgets, it's the rare movie game that rises above the lowest dredges of the gaming barrel. So going into X-Men Origins: Wolverine there was a general expectation that this experience would be a disappointing effort by the usually strong Raven Software. It was a great surprise then that Wolverine is a solid effort. It's still not among the upper echelons of the gaming landscape but it certainly runs head and shoulders above most other movie games.
Having not seen the movie, the story in Wolverine makes little sense. You play as the titular regenerating hero, both before and after adamantium is infused with your bones. The present day segments, where Wolverine attempts to take revenge on the men who tried to kill him, are interspersed with flashbacks of a jungle mission. The importance of the mission, it's eventual outcome, and the status of each of Wolverine's fellow commandos is largely left unexplained. The player never really comes to understand why the jungle mission made Wolverine quit the elite team of mutants lead by the nefarious Stryker. And when characters from that time start popping up in the present day in various different forms it becomes almost impossible to keep things straight without having seen the movie or being familiar with the characters through the comics. The story is generally unimportant in this type of game, but the obvious advantages of being a movie tie in are completely lost in this game's disjointed narrative.
All the player really needs to know, though, is that Wolverine can rapidly regenerate his body tissue and has three big claws coming out of each hand. Wolverine generally involves using said claws to slice and dice thousands of generic enemy foot soldiers, and the occasional boss, to pieces on your way to vengeance. The game plays very similar to God of War. You have a standard attack that can be chained together in increasingly longer combos as you level up, and a strong attack that can either knock and enemy in the air or provide a devastating finisher to your normal combos. While this derivative combat system may add nothing to the action genre, it is as fun here as it is in God of War or any like game. Wolverine is responsive, and his attacks feel devastating as enemy's limbs fly through the air and blood spurts in every direction. Wolverine himself also takes damage very realistically. His skin will slowly tear apart as it is hit by bullets and blades, eventually revealing his inner organs. When this happens your controller starts beating like a heart and it is time to get to safety to let your skin regenerate.
While this simple regenerating health mechanic works well during the gameplay, it seems at odds with the cutscenes and cinematics in the game. Whereas Wolverine in the cutscenes can survive 2000 foot drops, hold together amidst massive explosions, and otherwise survive even the most horrendous injuries, during the actual game, you have to fend off machete wielding jungle natives and commandos with SMG's. It doesn't make much sense that a character who can survive detonating a C4 charge with his own body would have any issue with a couple of bullets.
In addition to combat there are some light platforming and puzzle solving elements in Wolverine. These parts of the game are generally dull and half broken breathers in between the intense combat sections, and it is doubtful that they add anything to the game. It seems out of place for Wolverine to be moving around boxes and crates to open doors when his claws should have no trouble slicing through any object in his path. The jumping mechanics are also far too loose and clumsy to make the platforming sections enjoyable. Simply put, Wolverine would have been a better, albeit even shorter, game had Raven decided to focus solely on the combat and skipped over the dull padding.
In fact, had Raven strengthened their focus, Wolverine might not be the buggy mess that it is right now. On the PS3 version the framerate is horrendous, dropping into single digits at least two or three times a level, and enemies often get stuck on the environment, or simply stand in place oblivious of your presence. Bosses are the worst offenders. In the battle against Gambit, the villain got stuck on a piece of falling rubble forcing a restart, and in the final battle, several attempts were lost due to a glitchy opponent who would teleport around the arena, often into places where he couldn't be reached. Other times he would disappear entirely, or have his health inexplicably regenerate fully. It's an utter shame that what should have been the best parts of the game turned out to be the most broken and glitchy, obviously suffering from severely limited quality assurance testing.
The graphics are also victim of the rushed development cycle. While Wolverine and his enemies animate relatively well, aliasing is prominent in almost all areas, and textures pop into high resolution so slowly that it's common to walk up to a wall only to have its textures pop in when you are less than a foot from it. These textures will then suddenly disappear when you walk just a couple steps backwards. While the Unreal Engine is known for its terribly underperforming texture loading, the problem is so prominent in Wolverine that it distracts constantly from what you are trying to do.
The audio is also a mixed bag. While the voice actors do a commendable job during cutscenes, Wolverine tends to repeat his one-liners so often during boss battles that it's almost worthwhile to play them on mute. The score and ambient noises are thankfully less obtrusive, but they are hardly noteworthy otherwise.
Wolverine will take you around six or seven hours to beat and doing so will unlock a hard difficulty mode. Players looking for all of the trophies will have to play the game several times, and there are unlockable costumes that can be found hidden throughout the levels. Still, without any form of multiplayer or any real challenge modes or leaderboards, Wolverine will quickly wear out its welcome.
It's obvious that Wolverine was rushed to have its release coincide with that of the movie it is based on, and the game is undeniably weaker for it. Regardless of the nearly endless stream of technical issues, though, the core combat in Wolverine is just so enjoyable, and each kill so satisfying that it's worthwhile to wade through all the bugs and boring puzzle sections just to fight the next massive array of helpless grunts. Just don't expect to understand Wolverine's origin story by the end.