Fast-paced and thrilling, but not quite worth the price tag.
This time of year, it's not at all uncommon for a wide array of movie tie-ins to begin cluttering the new release shelf at whatever venue it is from which you purchase games. Much like backpacks, lunchboxes and action figures, these titles are acutely time sensitive. As such, the development time is severely reduced when compared to even the most average of game releases, resulting in a generally appalling experience that the vast majority of us have learned to avoid.
That said, there have been a few titles that have slipped through the filtered preferences of the average hardcore gaming consumer. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay easily comes to mind, garnering such popularity and praise that it greatly outshone its big-screen counterpart, as does Goldeneye which likely birthed an entire new generation of first-person shooter fans. X-Men Origins: Wolverine seems to hum the same tune in a much lower key, slowly filtering into the mainstream with its exceptional presentation and over-the-top action.
Origins follows essentially the same plot as the film, though there are some notable changes and much needed diversions thrown in to keep the story working as a game. Everything happens about twenty years before the original X-Men film, handing out a generic background on Wolverine as he transforms from a mutant into an adamantium-laced weapon. Much like in the movie itself, the narrative exists only to allow for a definitive beginning and end to the experience while moving the action forward.
That's really what Origins is all about: the action. The entirety of the game plays like some sort of God of War-meets- Prince of Persia hybrid with Wolverine combo-slinging through crowds of enemies, wall-climbing like a champ, and jumping between more platforms than you can shake six sharp claws at. The combination works well initially and continues to do so into the latter parts of the game, only growing a bit tired as everything begins to wrap up.
Combat is obviously Origins' selling point. The system is simple, fluid and filled with more action than you really even need in one game. Lunging across entire rooms at distant foes never ceases to be thrilling, and there are plenty of simple combos and special abilities present to keep things interesting for most of the game. As fun as the combat is however, there is really no challenge to it. Most of the standard enemies go down with relative ease, and Wolverine's innate ability to regenerate his bodily injuries make it almost impossible to find yourself in an irreparably difficult scenario.
The variety of enemies encountered as the game progresses is rather disappointing. You'll find yourself wading through the same groups over and over as time goes on, with the occasional surprise thrown in. Aside from a few unique boss encounters, Origins is also filled with only a couple of boss-type enemies, all of them appearing repetitively throughout. Though they're new and exciting the first few times, these mini-bosses quickly become tiring to combat, especially as their appearances become much more (and far too) frequent. Toward the end of the game, combating enemies of all times becomes a time consuming affair as even the most basic of enemies become far more adamant in their wanting to live.
Another point that simply has to be addressed is the sheer amount of over-the-top violence found in this title. Other entertainment mediums have done everything possible to tone down the amount of carnage dished out and taken in by Wolverine, but Origins sidesteps that idea. Instead, it goes out of its way to detail just how lethal retractable fist-claws are, blood splattering with every vicious one of the mutant's swift movements. Also visible is the amount of abuse sustained by Wolverine, flesh giving way to bone and organs as his health slowly depletes during combat before quickly regenerating. The level of violence that the game radiates could be a good or bad thing depending on your personal stance on the matter. In all reality, the amount of blood set on display seems to be posed as more of a reward for your efforts than anything else, though thinking back I honestly can't imagine the game without it. Half the fun of combat is, after all, being satisfied with the end result.
Along with the fast-paced action, Origins also tosses in some platforming as well as some very light puzzle solving elements. The platforming--jumping between areas, climbing, ledge-hanging--works well enough. Wolverine's feral senses help out with moving forward, highlighting important objects and nudging you down the correct road to the finish. Minor actions such as knocking down steel towers or slicing ropes to forge paths objectify this facet of the game, giving it long enough legs to stomach for the duration. The puzzle solving is a different story entirely, however, and seems to serve only to disrupt the otherwise decent pacing and to drag out the game. Luckily most of these puzzles easy to solve and aren't encountered nearly as often as they could have been.
As far as visuals are concerned, Origins sports some relatively detailed environments. Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine is well represented, as are most of the other characters. The portions of the game taking place in Africa are well designed and glistening with atmosphere. My only complaint with the graphics is an apparent extra layer of gloss rolled over each character, something that seems to be present in a few too many games these days.
All in all, X-Men Origins: Wolverine will take about eight full hours to complete, and though that amount of time seems to be rapidly becoming the average length of a game, it honestly seems to run a little long. It could have just as easily been an hour or two shorter and I likely would have come away just as satisfied (if not more so) with what I experienced. The game certainly has its fair share of flaws, and it I can't honestly tell you what you're getting is worth the current asking price. If you're looking for a substantial amount of quick and bloody fun, Origins is most definitely worth a rental, or even a purchase assuming the price drops in a timely fashion.