By Jesse Baguchinsky
Whenever anyone talks about the X-Men or Marvel Comics in general, Wolverine is usually the first thing that pops into peoples’ heads. Nowadays Wolverine is in just about everything Marvel related and it was only a matter of time before he got his own movie. Of course with any summer action movie comes the video game tie-in. Those of us who have seen the X-Men movies know that the violence factor associated with Wolverine has been toned down to suit a PG-13 audience. However, since the game is called the “uncaged edition” the developers brought Wolverine back to his glorious and very bloody roots.
The game starts out like any Wolverine game should: freefalling from a helicopter (with no parachute) into a group of unexpected and very unlucky soldiers below. After stabbing one soldier during your landing you are thrown right into combat. After killing the initial 10 or so soldiers you start Wolverine’s story of how he received his adamantium skeleton and ultimately lost his memory.
In the beginning of the game you are in Africa along with Victor Creed, Wade Wilson, David North, Fred Dukes and John Wraith looking for the adamantium reserves that are said to be there. During this section your squad is taking orders from William Stryker. The game continues to follow the basic plot of the movie, but with a few extra parts thrown in. For example: in one level you go through a factory that houses the sentinel project and Wolverine ends up fighting one of the prototypes. Also, at certain points in the game Wolverine will flashback to the Africa mission so that is prevalent throughout the story. Other than that the plot is tweaked in certain places such as where Wolverine meets certain characters, but the story remains the same.
The overall look and feel of the game is a lot better than I was expecting for a movie-based videogame. The menu system was very fluid and aesthetically pleasing. The environments and character models looked pretty good most of the time and the CGI cut scenes were very well done. The regular enemies are varied and new ones are introduced throughout the entire game. Wolverine fights many of the bosses multiple times so eventually fighting them becomes more of a science than having to employ any real strategy.
Even the loading screens are mildly entertaining. Whenever a loading screen pops up there is either a quote from Wolverine or a fun fact about his various storylines. The good thing about this is there are quite a few quotes and facts. I saw the same ones a few times, but new ones came up enough to keep the loading screens fresh. Even though all of these things are executed very well the one thing that impresses me the most about the look of this game is the healing factor.
In most games damage sustained by the main character is either not shown or shown with minor cuts or bruises. Since there was the whole healing factor thing to think about the developers decided to give Wolverine layers. From outside in the layers are clothing, skin, muscle, and skeleton. Damage such as bullets or slashes instantly rip through the clothing and the skin and the damage shows up accurately to where Wolverine was hit. Heavier damage such as rockets or other explosions expose his shiny skeleton as soon as he’s hit.
The way the damage system works is two health meters. There is a heart icon in a red circle on the upper left hand corner of the screen and a regular life meter extending to the right of it. When the meter extending from the heart is depleted Wolverine’s vitals are exposed. If the red circle around the heart is completely drained of red Wolverine dies, or is “captured.”
The part I never get tired of is watching him heal up. If his ribs were exposed I positioned the camera to watch the muscle grow back and then the skin. His wife beater won’t grow back so throughout most of the game you will be playing as shirtless Hugh Jackman, so if any ladies (or men) are interested in playing the game, there is always that. Pants stay on though… sorry.
On a side note, one weird thing I noticed was when Wolverine was too close to the camera he went transparent and while he was transparent there was no damage registered to his body and his wife beater was back on. It’s not a deal breaker. I just thought I’d mention it.
The game’s dialogue mostly consisted of various grunts and wails from characters but when they actually spoke it was done very well. It was nice to see Jackman, Schreiber and others from the cast of the movie lend their talents to the videogame. I’m not saying Mark Hamill did a bad job in X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, but it just wasn’t the same. Some of Wolverine’s witty one liners are pretty entertaining too. The sound effects for the claws were always pleasing to hear and the gunfire, explosions and all of those other things you hear in most other videogames sound like they do in most other videogames.
The game play in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is both a blessing and a curse. The controls are responsive and feel very natural once the tutorials are over. The combat is mostly mindless button mashing fun, but can get a little repetitive after a while. There are quick time events, but they don’t interrupt too much and generally enough time is given for these reflex challenges. Last but not least, there are collectables in the forms of dog tags and mutant power ups that offer you extra experience or things such as extra damage or faster healing.
The combat is probably about what you expect it to be. There is a lot of stabbing, slashing and dismembering. There are also special quick kills you can perform on the cannon fodder enemies by grabbing them and pressing the heavy attack button at a certain time. Those are fun to watch for the first 50 or so times you do them, but after that you just do it because it is undoubtedly the easiest way to kill people. The combat style is very reminiscent of the God of War series, only Wolverine’s blades aren’t on chains and you might get bored of it by the fourth level.
The game tries to force you to do different combos and combat moves by giving you more experience to level up your health, claw damage, rage or special moves, but I never noticed a huge impact on the amount of experience I got by doing the same moves over and over.
Before I get into the bugs and glitches I found I want to say that there is a time and a place for dramatic slowdown and this game isn’t it. During the tutorials for timing based attacks the game would slow down to attempt to help me understand when it was time to press the button for a quick kill or a counter, but it never told me exactly when to press it so I would end up messing it up. Also, during the final boss battle, the boss would destroy a piece of the platform Wolverine is walking on and it would go in slow motion. When that would happen I would try to jump, the speed would come back to normal and Wolverine would fall straight down.
In addition to that is a glitch I noticed many times. It happened on a few different types of enemies, but most often on the teleporting enemies. I would grab one and attempt a quick kill on it. Sometimes it would work, and other times the enemy and Wolverine would freak out and the quick kill looked like it was a badly animated segment with sections missing and it would result in one of two ways: either the kill wouldn’t register, or it would and Wolverine would still be slashing and stabbing in the air while the game kept telling you to mash the Y button.
Other than that glitch, there were a couple times where Wolverine got stuck and I had to reload, but with all the nooks and crannies in modern 3D games the developers can’t really avoid that. I don’t recall the game ever completely freezing on me which is a huge plus.
Overall I would say X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a short fun game that is worth a rental. The graphics usually hold up well and the voice acting from the film cast is very good. The levels never become too monotonous and the combat is usually fun and fun to watch. There are a few bugs, but they shouldn’t prevent you from playing the first game in a while where Wolverine actually shows us that he is the best at what he does.
— — — — — — — — — —
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Developer: Raven Software
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: May 1st, 2009 (US)
Genre: 3rd person adventure/beat ‘em up