If there were ever a comic-book character designed for graphic violence, it's Wolverine. X-Men Origins: Wolverine succeeds when it focuses on testing the limits of its hero's razor-sharp hand-knives and rapid health regeneration ability, often with results that would be gut-churning if they weren't so over-the-top. This is a game that earns its M rating with the gallons of viscera that pour forth from both Wolverine and his enemies, and it's definitely a more attention-grabbing game for it. The danger in relying on brutality and shock is that you have to keep upping the ante, or you'll quickly lose the player's attention. Wolverine heeds this maxim for a good two-thirds of its runtime, though it runs out of steam before it limps to its conclusion.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine takes its story cues from the movie of the same name, though like most of the enemies in the game, it's pretty well mangled. It still sheds some light on Wolverine's life before hooking up with the X-Men, but the chronology's all mixed up, certain aspects of the story have been either expanded or condensed, and there's a considerable number of new plot turns thrown in for good measure. Some changes seem to be for the benefit of the game; others just seem arbitrary. If you're a person of the comic-book persuasion, the story here will probably provide no end of infuriation, though even if you're not, the end result is that you won't really care about the story. The good news is you don't really have to, since Wolverine's only real apparent motivation is to murder everyone and everything in sight.
For the most part, X-Men Origins: Wolverine handles a lot like an easier, simpler God of War. There's a loose combo attack system, counterattacks, grab moves, environmental kills, some flashier rage attacks, and a lunge move that lets you rapidly get up-close and personal with an enemy. The combat is decidedly group-focused, though you'll regularly finding yourself squaring off against lumbering, goliath-type enemies. Aside from the lunge, which has a comically absurd edge to it, the pieces feel fairly common, but they fit together dynamically enough, and the bloody results are mighty satisfying.
For the first few hours it doesn't take much finesse to swiftly and brutally murder your foes, thanks in part to Wolverine's regenerating health. The enemies gradually get tougher, requiring you to be a little less sloppy and a little more thoughtful about how you take on your foes. There's an experience system at work here, so as the bad guys get stronger, so do you. Every time Wolverine levels up, you get a health bump and some points that you can sink into skills and attributes. There are mutagen collectibles you can find, which provide gameplay modifiers that can range from increasing the experience you earn from each kill to giving you back a sliver of health every time you attack an enemy.
As you might imagine from a character with six long-ass razor-sharp knives sticking out of his knuckles, every one of Wolverine's attacks is a blood-letting one, and the majority of his finishing moves leave his enemies in various states of vivisection, and the game isn't too squeamish not to slow down and zoom in on the carnage. Similarly, Wolverine himself can get pretty banged up, and it's not uncommon to see exposed muscle tissue or catch a peek at his adamantium-coated skeleton. The procedural battle damage can look a little goofy sometimes, particularly when dude's face is missing and he's walking around like nothing's doing, but it still reinforces the fact that you are playing as a gentleman who should not be trifled with. No, not at all.
The game breaks up all the piping-hot death with crazy skydiving set pieces, switch-and-jump-based puzzles, and outsized boss battles. The skydive sequences, one of which has you leaping from one helicopter to another, leaving each looking like a can of dog food in your wake, are pretty thrilling. The puzzles usually aren't that complicated, but Wolverine's handling definitely seems more calibrated for wild and furious combat than precision jumping, which can make these sections feel clunky. The boss fights, while often massive in scope, have a tendency to feel artificially padded out. It doesn't take long to figure out most boss weaknesses, but you'll still be required to perform the same attack pattern over and over again. This is a problem that ends up affecting all of the combat at a point, and eventually even the basic grunts seem like they take way too long to dispatch.
Coincidentally, this happened not too long after the game ran out of violent new tricks. Once the game stopped stunning me with new outrageous depictions of slaughter, the repetition of the combat started to set in, and I started noticing some of the game's other shortcomings, like the dodgy frame rate and buggy collision detection. These issues aside, if you've come to see Wolverine at his most brutal, this game does not disappoint. There is no shortage of unflinching dismemberment throughout X-Men Origins: Wolverine, even if some of the finer points aren't so sharp.