X-Men Origins: Wolverine is great fun, but it doesn't last.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a video game developed by Raven Software, the same people that brought us X-Men: Legends I & II, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (They like colons). They’ve certainly established themselves as one of (if not the) top comic book game developers, but what about a game about one of the most popular, and arguably most ridiculously bad ass Marvel characters of all time? I couldn’t help but investigate this personally.
Let’s start with Raven’s biggest selling point for this game: the graphic, gratuitous violence. It’s in there. There’s no doubt about it, “violent” is a word I would use to describe this game. You can amputate, decapitate, and otherwise obliterate anyone or anything that stands in your way. You’re often able to use environmental hazards, or an enemy’s weapon against them, in very satisfying ways. Even Wolverine gets in on the action, and gets beaten, hacked, shot, and blown to bits. The main reason I wanted to play this game so bad was because of the insanely ridiculous level of violence. I played the demo three times in a row, and then giggled excitedly as I interrupted my fiancée and her maid of honor’s wedding planning session to tell them about how I just sliced a dude in half from the neck down. Raven wanted to make a game that lived up to the character’s brutally violent nature (even though the movie didn’t), and I’d say they succeeded. The violence is the BEST part of Wolverine.
That being said, it’s not perfect. For the majority of your foes there are only about 5 or 6 different quick kills (The flashiest and generally most violent choice for dispatching your enemies), and you’ll easily go through most of them in the first chapter. There are some different ones for some of the specialized enemies, but those get old pretty quick too. You’ll be slicing off a lot of limbs, but that is only really exciting for the first 10 minutes or so because, there’s nothing special about it if it’s happening to every other enemy you fight. Another one of the big features of the game is Wolverine’s ability to get ripped (literally) to shreds, and then regenerate within a short amount of time. This is especially fun later in the game when you can have your ribs exposed, and still have close to full health. Side note: If a dude comes charging at you with his ribs, and organs exposed, you might want to move. I really liked this feature, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look great. The blood looks too reflective, and sticks to his body in a weird way. His insides look less like organs, and more like raspberry jam. Worst of all, while he’s healing, sometimes his skin grows back slightly quicker than his insides, which makes it look more like a shell, than actual flesh. I can’t really fault them for not having skin that hangs loosely on him, but it would certainly have worked better if they had changed the animation so that his muscle healed back completely before his skin started. I still love that you can run around with huge chunks of Wolverine missing; I just wish it looked better when you zoomed in.
I might not be so bothered by little things like Wolverine’s jelly-esque innards if the game didn’t look so good otherwise. Especially the outdoor levels, which offer some pretty nice views from time to time. I wouldn’t call the graphics “mind-blowing”, or “breathtaking”, or anything silly like that, but you can tell a lot of time was spent on making the game pretty while you slice dudes up. But then you get to the first in-engine cut scene. I’m talking about the one on the boat with the big ass machine gun. It just looks awful in comparison. It looks low rez, and fuzzy, and honestly un-rendered. It feels like I’m watching an early demo. They all look the same. It just looks cheap. I guess it’s not so disappointing since the acting, and the storytelling are pretty awful anyway. It just leaves me wondering what they did in all that time they were “polishing” the game.
The main plot of Wolverine very loosely follows the plot of the movie, as well as adding a lot of new stuff. It seems like they may have tried to keep some of their original material, but I’m only guessing. There’s more than one issue with the story, but as a whole it just seems like a means to move ahead. You don’t ever really care about any of the characters because you barely spend any time with any of them. On top of that, unless you’ve seen the movie, or are familiar with the comics, it can be hard to figure out who some of the characters are. The plot doesn’t take a back seat to the action, it’s not even in the car.
I do wish Raven had done a better job with the story, but in the end you can see where their focus was. I think they understood that most people who want to play a Wolverine game aren’t looking for drama, character development, or a deep, moving love story. They just want to cut some dudes up into little tiny pieces (myself included). It’s easy to focus on the bad in this game, but it’s also really hard to forget about the good.
This game is a blast. Sure the cut scenes were pretty lame, and the story sucked. I sighed, or cringed every time someone started talking, but all was forgotten when I got back in control. It doesn’t get much better than the sheer level of violence you’re exposed to throughout the 10 hours (give or take) it takes to complete it. A basic, but rewarding experience system along with collectable power-ups, un-lockable suits, and an un-lockable hard mode help to keep the game interesting. The ultimate satisfaction comes from going back through the earlier levels with a powered up, bad ass Wolverine. That’s where you get the true Wolverine experience. You’re practically invincible, and it feels great.
Wolverine is definitely fun to play, and it stays fresh for a good amount of time, but that initial feeling of “Awesomeness” will likely wear off pretty early on. About half way through the game, you’ll have fought just about everything, and what’s left won’t offer much variety. You only get 4 powers, and I only really liked 2 of them, but even then I never really needed to use them. The game starts to get more and more tedious as it goes on, and at some points it’s just downright annoying. I can remember one part where I had to jump from one hanging rope, to another, then another, and then another, and then a ledge below. Sounds simple, right? I had to try 10 times before finally getting it right, and each time I had to wait 15 seconds for the checkpoint to load. There were points in the game where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing. It all just got more frustrating by the end. I just wanted to go back to that first chapter, and go back to that original feeling.
In the end, I’d say X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a step in the right direction for movie games. It’s definitely a higher caliber than the ones we’ve seen in the past, but we’ve still got a long way to go. It’s amazing for the first half of the game, but it eventually becomes far too repetitive to stay interesting for multiple play throughs. Definitely worth a rent, but I wouldn’t buy it for more than $20.