The X-Men have had a few years away from the box office while Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Hulk have carried the Marvel torch on the big screen. All have failed at resulting in compelling video game adaptations. Logan's adamantium claws are perfect for an action-based video game, but is X-Men Origins: Wolverine what fans have clamored for, or is it a cut below the status quo?Version Tested: Xbox 360
The game's plot loosely follows the events of its silver screen counterpart, recounting Logan's past as part of a special military unit in Africa, his painful conversion into Weapon X, and the beginning of his long-standing feud with Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth. As these events happen years before the previous X-Men films, many characters have yet to adopt their more familiar aliases, so it pays to brush up on your comic book trivia.
Much of Wolverine's motivation is explained through flashbacks, bringing players back to his mission in Africa. While the Lost-style pacing may work on film and television, the frequent returns to familiar territory can be a bit of a drag here. Audio logs found on laptops throughout the game provide additional background, but it's annoying that you can't listen to them on the go.
Wolverine follows a linear path through five major chapters. You'll slash your way through the African jungle, escape the prison-like Weapon X facilities, trudge through snowy Canadian forests, and climb a New Orleans casino skyscraper before reaching your final destination.
Mowing down riffraff and finding dog tags nets you experience, with each level-up granting two skill points to assign as you wish. You can increase your health or rage meters, strengthen your claws, or maximize the effectiveness of rage attacks. As you battle specific types of enemies, Wolverine's combat reflexes increase, making you more effective against robots or jungle mutants. There are also hidden mutagens to collect, serving as augments that let you gain more experience, regenerate health more quickly, or boost your defenses. Altogether, the upgrade system gives you the freedom to beef up Wolverine however you like, but it doesn't get so complex that it slows the game down.
The journey lasts about 10 hours in all, but the first half of the game doesn't offer much for fans. Aside from a brief clash with Sabretooth, you'll spend much of your time fighting faceless soldiers, and there are about a dozen repetitive leviathan and wendigo boss fights to endure. Then, you'll suddenly find yourself in a string of awesome encounters. The pacing isn't the greatest, but there is plenty to look forward to after you clear the icy wasteland.
Wolverine's gameplay isn't a radical departure from other action games like Ninja Gaiden or 2007's Conan. Your basic moves are composed of weak and heavy slashes, throws, blocks, and counter attacks. Wolverine can also perform long-distance lunge moves, which double as a means for crossing wide gaps. As you progress, you unlock rage moves, unleashing Wolverine's fury in whirlwind spins, dismembering drills, or a high-powered berserk mode.
As if slashing people to pieces wasn't brutal enough, Wolverine can also perform a variety of quick kills. By grabbing an enemy and tapping Y, you can rip an enemy in half, stab them through the skull, or turn their own shotgun against them. Environmental hazards often present opportunities to impale your opponents on fork lifts, set them on fire, or shove a body into a cement mixer.
As you might expect from a game that revels in flying limbs, many enemies don't put up much of a fight, and at times, you'll see enemies standing around waiting to die or slashing vainly at thin air. However, you will need to quickly dispatch gun-toting soldiers before they wear down your health, and there are tougher mutants to deal with later on like the spear-wielding assassins.
Aside from combat, you will have to scale walls, push blocks to reach higher ground, find power cells, or move teleporters. Tapping up on the D-pad activates Wolverine's feral senses, allowing you to see hidden traps, interactive objects, and cloaked enemies.
It's not revolutionary, but the combat in Wolverine is tight and responsive, and it can be a lot of fun finding all the different ways to rip bad guys to shreds.
It's painfully obvious that Wolverine is a game aspiring to greatness that just didn't have the extra time for polish. There are constant elements that stand out amidst a presentation that can actually be quite impressive at times. One minute, you'll cross between a pair of enormous, beautiful statues, only to be greeted by a glitchy, flickering skyline a few moments later. There is a constant flow of carnage throughout the game with Wolverine taking enough damage for his bare ribs to show, but then, you rip the head off a huge monster and there's no blood.
High production pre-rendered clips are offset by pre-recorded in-game cut-scenes, as evidenced by disgusting video compression artifacts, even on the PS3 Blu-ray. None of these issues are game-breaking, but they reek of a rushed product and are often humorously distracting.
While X-Men Origins: Wolverine is clearly undercooked, it's still genuinely fun, and most importantly, it delivers the kind of visceral, untamed experience that fans expect from the character. It's been a long time coming. Just like Logan, it's a beast on the outside, but it has a good heart within.