God of Warverine.
I wasn't wowed by the Wolverine movie, but I didn't think it was completely useless either, and it certainly didn't deserve the almost universal panning it received from the critics. I wasn't even considering buying the game, given the history of movie franchises as games. But then Sony put the demo on the PSN. I downloaded it, played it through and thought it was pretty good. I deleted it off my crammed hard drive and promptly downloaded it again a few days later, remembering how good it was. It was still good. One visit to Amazon later and I have the full game. A week after that, I've completed it on normal and started hard mode. And when you start up a game again from the beginning mere moments after you've finished it, there must be something special there.
Gameplay and story
X-Men Origins: Wolverine kind of hovers around the movie plot, but deviates from it as well, giving more backstory than the movie and having a little fun with time travel. You start off in the African jungle, trying to hook up with the rest of your scattered squad, but the levels change at key points, playing out parts of Logan's past, kind of reliving his memories. Some liberties are taken, and it doesn't quite all hang together – I'm almost tempted to suggest that a videogame is not the best medium for this type of storytelling, but the hazy story arc is perhaps the first indication of the game's rushed nature.
As you'd expect from one of Marvel's most vicious characters, the game focuses on Wolverine's combat abilities and you will not be disappointed in the game. The movies (X-men included) toned down the character a bit to make a more family/action flick, and I don't blame them – the wider your demographic, the more cash you make. This is perhaps Raven studio's first stroke of genius, as they have released a much tamer version for the Wii and PS2, but 360 and PS3 gamers get this one, the uncaged edition, and it's much truer to Wolverine's brutal nature.
The gore is almost over the top and too much, and for sure, there'll be points where you think ‘Holy crap!' at the death animations, but it's not enough to make you look away from the screen or anything. It's probably just a notch below God Of War 3's Helios moment (check it out if you don't know what I'm talking about) but there's dismemberments aplenty, blood hitting the screen, numerous brutal kills and a plethora of environment-specific slayings to rack up. It plays almost exactly like God of War; third-person camera, expansive environments and plenty of claw-fodder to chew up.
Wolverine gets a bunch of upgrades as he levels up, and you can tailor his abilities somewhat. All the moves you'd expect are there, like claw spin and claw drill, as well as Logan's rage mode where he goes berserk and is noticeably faster and stronger. You probably won't use all of his abilities, and just level up the one's you like, and the game allows this – you're never at a disadvantage because of your upgrade choices. The range of enemies is actually quite varied and they often appear as a mix, so you'll have to adapt on the fly in order to take on the horde.
Boss battles don't disappoint at all, although they are almost all crammed into the final third of the game, so the pacing might seem a little off, although a friend of mine commented that he felt more like things were building to a suitable climax.
All in all, the combat is satisfying and brutal. The environments are intelligently designed, and there's plenty of rewards for exploration in the form of health upgrades, mutagens to enhance your skills and dog tags to build experience faster. One other aspect of the game that I really liked, but which isn't strictly part of the core gameplay, is that you are rewarded at a steady pace, in terms of trophies. Just playing through the game will net you a fair amount of bronze trophies and even a few silvers too, which is nice. Put it this way, just playing through on normal, without going out of my way to get certain achievements got me 52% of the trophies, including some hidden ones.
The looks department is a tale of two worlds, I'm afraid to say. On one hand, pre-rendered cut-scenes look amazing; the bit where Logan is injected with the adamantium is near-movie quality, but the same cannot be said for the game-engine cut-scenes, where you see the characters up close. Actually, the models of Wolverine and Sabretooth are really close to their movie counterparts (in fact, the in game Wolverine model looks more like Jackman than the rendered one), but everyone else is, well, damn ugly. For one they look nothing like the movie actors (but, I thought, perhaps more like the comics, sometimes) and they just don't look as polished as the Wolverine and Sabretooth models, and again, the player is led to thinking that perhaps the game was rushed into production to tie in with the film. The Stryker character is almost frighteningly ugly – you've been warned.
Environments typically fare better than the characters. The jungle ruins are great, crumbling away amid lush greens and blue skies, and even the interior levels try to vary it a little, moving away from the typical grey corridors with some neat lighting touches and clever layouts.
The sound effects are pretty good, the sound of Wolverine's blades coming out never gets old, and the cries of the enemies as you slash your way through them is satisfying; sometimes they even cry for help! The music is suitable enough, but it's forgettable too. There's no stick in your head tunes for sure, but the music keeps the tempo of the game up. There are times when Logan's ‘hilarious' one-liners get a bit repetitive, especially if a boss battle becomes drawn-out (I'm looking at you, Fred Dukes), but it's not a game-breaker by any means.
However, speaking of game-breakers, this game sure has a few. I've alluded to the rushed nature of the game, and there WILL be times when the game screws up. Just read the boards, and you'll hear tales of woe involving disappearing ropes and ladders, game freezes, floating objects, enemies disappearing through walls, textures not drawing in and boss battles becoming unfinishable. I personally experienced the boss glitch twice when trying to defeat the Sentinel – upon landing on his chest for the final blow, I would wind up inside the Sentinel, unable to do damage (although he could still hurt me) and therefore hitting the reset button. The game has just point blank frozen on me twice in about 10-12 hours of play, and it all adds up to some mild frustration. To be honest, I had so much fun playing the game, the glitches did not annoy me unduly. You just have to shrug it off and start again. Checkpoints are generous, so you rarely have to play through large chunks of the game repeatedly. But the bugs and glitches leave you with a feeling of what might have been – what would another month of development have done for this title? It's still a great and satisfying challenge to play through, with solid core gameplay and excellent set-pieces. Just forgive the unfinished nature of the game and go along for a visceral, claw-driven ride.
And yes, there's a specific button to bring out your claws.
And he calls people Bub.