[Paul Clark and Chris Carter both take a look at the latest hack and slash action title, X-Men Origins: Wolverine]
Voted the number one comic book character of all time, the “Canucklehead” has gone by many names and been seen in dozens of comic books, movies and games.
He has squared off against some of Marvel’s biggest and baddest, even fighting DC Comics’ villains sometimes too, but how does he fare when he has his own game to take control of?
Two quick things to note about this title are that Raven Software have developed a game that is better than the movie it is based on, as well as being better than most movie-based games that are released. Neither of these are high praise, but best to start low and work my way up.
The game takes place among three specific events of Wolverine’s life; a Team X mission in Africa, his escape from the Weapon X facility and lastly his search for vengeance as he gears up against Stryker and Victor Creed (Sabretooth). All the while you’ll see Wolverine progress as you level up and unlock more abilities as well as customising him to create your own bestial berserker tailored to your preferred method of killing; and in this game there is a lot of killing. You are able to put the points you earn at each level into more health, more rage, better damage or upgrading specific attacks, as well as these skill points; a small selection of ‘mutagens’ you are able to equip which will give you bonuses ranging from increased health to restoring life when you deal damage.
From the opening cinematic, you are made fully aware that this game does not adopt the ‘safe’ tone that the movie went for, but rather a brutal and vicious one that will see the walls dripping with blood, firmly earning the 18 (17+ in America) certificate displayed proudly on the box. Like Ninja Gaiden, you will see enemies dismembered amongst the rivers of blood, but it is not just the enemies who receive a catastrophic beating. Great detail has been put into the character model of Wolverine, and if you play anywhere near as badly as I do, then you will be sure to see many a grievous wound heal up in front of your eyes, and for once the ‘wait and heal’ mechanic actually fits the character you play as, rather than the everyday soldier you normally see with such a healing ability in most FPS games.
It is not just the player’s avatar that is beautifully crafted. there is amazing scenery throughout the game as well as impressive views as you climb to some staggering peaks. The game adopts a subtle balance of the previously mentioned Ninja Gaiden, paired with the puzzle solving and dungeon crawling aspects of Tomb Raider, although none of the puzzles you are presented with are ever more thought-provoking than finding where to place movable blocks.
The combat becomes repetitive at times when you find yourself facing the same Wendigo or Leviathan encounters time and time again, however enjoyable they may be the first time around, they soon become a tedious chore. Despite this flaw, there are generally a wide variety of enemies to fight, largely requiring specific strategies to defeat such as using heavy attacks to knock away shields or using your feral senses to track cloaked enemies. The game takes perhaps too long to get into its stride but once it does you will find yourself face to face with some adrenaline pumping boss fights such as one of Bolivar Trask’s infamous creations, the Sentinel.
The controls are not revolutionary, offering you the familiar choice of attacks in the form of light hit, heavy hit and a throw move, all of which can be chained together to form more a devastating flurry. As well as these, you are granted a small selection of special powers that will see you spinning, drilling and berserking your way through waves of nameless enemies. Possibly the most innovative feature of the game’s combat system is that of the lunge attack, used for closing the distance between those pesky gun wielding enemies, bouncing between moving vehicles or traversing those otherwise impossible gaps. The environment too can become part of your arsenal as you are able to interact with numerous parts of scenery to create brutal finishers such as spikes located on both the floor and walls, cement mixers, giant fans and even forklift trucks.
For the obsessive among us, there are a variety of hidden gems to find strewn amongst the levels. These include dog tags for additional experience points, figures for unlockable costumes as well as the mutagens previously mentioned to upgrade wolverine into a more formidable opponent.
Whilst the game lasts a solid amount of time to complete, it is lacking in any significant replay value. Aside from more difficult settings there are no alternative play modes to accomplish and no co-operative or multiplayer elements. While I personally have additional content in the form of extra levels, this was a benefit of pre-order and not standard content the game comes with. However, the fact they have developed content so readily for pre-orders, I would assume downloadable content will not be fair down the pipeline.
Gorgeous graphics in both environments and characters, a few noticeable glitches bring the score down.
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A solid game that is alot of fun, hampered by repetition in the enemies.
Good music and impressive voice acting, let down by some poor balance making some parts of the game inaudible.
A decent length at around 10 hours, but minimal to no replay value, except for the obsessive.
Essentially minor flaws don’t detract from the fact this game is alot of fun.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Who knew that 40 years after their original debut, The X-Men would become some of the biggest pop-culture film icons around. Whether you enjoyed the movies or loathed them, The X-Men are back on the forefront of conversation, and Wolverine is the poster boy. When successful movies are released, there’s a mad dash to create a movie-tie in. Most long-term gamers know not to get their hopes up, because of the rushed development times and lack of creativity due to the fact that the IP is tied to an already existing medium.
Gamers were biting their nails after seeing the theatrical release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine receive a 36% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and hoped somehow Raven Software could pull it through. Well, they did: X-Men Origins: Wolverine is leaps and bounds above the quality of the film, and is able to hold its own in the action genre.
Wolverine looks like an above average current generation title, the menus and HUD are very sleek, and the physics system is top notch. The only real detraction from the visual appeal of the game are the FMV cutscenes. Some characters will look photo realistic, and others have plastic-look to them. Loading screens also have neat little factoids that give you some backstory on Wolverine’s comic and movie adaptations, which is a nice touch.
The story isn’t going to win any awards for best writing, but the quality is leaps and bounds better than the feature film. For starters, a lot of the filler found in the film is cut out, and there’s an additional subplot involving the creation and mass production of the Sentinels. The game’s story begins years in the past, when Wolverine was working with Sabretooth and Striker in the search for the adamantium ore reserve. The narrative switches back and forth between the past and present, illuminating more back story on the relationships Wolverine had with his team as time goes on.
The cheesy lines also feel much more at home in an explosive action game than a big budget movie. Nearly all of the movie’s chase/action scenes are utterly different, and found in different locales. This time, instead of an abrupt “back lot brawl” with Gambit, you get to engage in an epic battle up top a neon casino sign, and explore the origins of the Sentinels in a high-tech factory. If you weren’t a fan of the settings found in the movie, don’t worry, because the game delivers.
One complaint that a few reviewers have made is the lack of diversity between enemy models. I felt like this wasn’t really that much of a problem, because every single stage introduces two to three completely new enemies that you have to adjust your tactics for in order to conquer. Considering a lot of big budget actions games have very few different enemies types in total (Uncharted), battling machete masters and robot sentries within minutes of each other is a blast. In a few of the game’s levels, you’re going to be facing former bosses in the form of mini-bosses. However, by the time this starts happening, you’ll have the berserker ability, and the encounters will be very short anyway.
Make a note: you’re going to be doing a lot of lunging in Wolverine. You’ll lunge at helicopters, to-and-fro boats on high speed water chases, and you’ll smash people through windows that lead to a 100 foot drop. Lunging is absolutely thrilling: you can lock onto any target at a medium distance, and dive straight towards them at high speed, claws pointed at their chest.
Combat is fast and furious: one minute you’ll be spinning your claws around in a cyclone motion, and the next, you’ll be picking your next lunge target across the room. In addition to lunges, you’ll have four special abilities, combos, and instant kill moves that require exact timing to execute. There are also a ton of little details that were put into X-Men Origins:Wolverine that make the combat experience that much better than average action titles. For instance, If you’re knocked back by a particularly powerful enemy, Wolverine will drag his claws against the ground to brace himself! There are also a couple of on-rails sections that break up the action and are over before you can say “stale”.
One of the best core aspects of Origins: Wolverine is it’s rewarding and simplistic level-up system. Every enemy you kill nets you a certain amount of experience points, which you can use to level up your statistics or attacks. Throughout the game you’ll also find “mutagen” power-ups, which essentially serve as equippable “perks” that you can sub in and out at any time. The beauty of the mutagen system is that you can customize Wolverine as you see fit. Whether you want him to be a defensive machine, a balanced fighter, or a berserker with high attack is your choice, and you can mix and match to suit different boss fights. Like Paul mentioned above, the game is extremely gory, and the blood effects look excellent. Wolverine will be ripping arms out of enemy sockets and ramming his claws through their chins (in that order): make no mistake!
The game’s XP system also has a neat little “Tony Hawk‘s Pro Skater” variation reward system. If you kill a string of enemies with different attacks, you’ll earn more experience points. Although leveling up your abilities is necessary for the game’s tough boss encounters, overall, I would say that I didn’t spend any time farming enemies for experience. By the end of the game, I had all but two of the remaining abilities: there’s no concern about about having to stop and collect experience to “beef up” for later encounters.
The feral sense ability is also another fascinating addition to the action franchise. Borrowing elements of Fable II’s “bread crumb trail”, by pressing up on the d-pad, you can switch to feral vision, which highlights various elements of the terrain to help you along. Traps will glow bright red, key items will glow green, and a blue light trail will show you the correct path you should be taking. Even though the puzzles and platforming sections aren’t all that demanding, 90% of the time you can use the feral sense ability to get a helpful hint. The beauty of this ability is that its infinite in use, and is completely optional barring a few specific events.
Wolverine’s big letdown is it’s longevity. Pre-orders came with an additional arena pack, which features various extra levels and an arena battle mode. The core game itself is about 10-15 hours long, and once you’re done with it, all you really get is hard mode, which doesn’t really change the gameplay outside of the fact that enemies have more health and do more damage.
There is a small collection element to the game for completionists, though: you can gather dog tags from scattered soldiers across the game, find hidden mutagens, and earn 3 new costumes for Wolverine to use (including his classic yellow and blue outfit!) If you’re an achievement/trophy fan, though, you’ll have a ton of fun decimating enemies in certain ways to unlock them. You’ll be particularly hard pressed to find the hatch from the TV series Lost, Arthas’ sword from World of Warcraft, and Portal’s cake.
Overall, Raven Software succeeded in making a classic action game that rises above the typical fare. Boss battles are epic in scale, and playing as Wolverine in them is a blast. The first time you are on the receiving end of a huge explosion and see Wolverine’s skin to the bone, you’ll feel like a badass. Despite some flaws and the lack of replay value, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a bloody good time.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
While the in-game graphics are great, some of the cut-scene models look very plastic. There's also some minor glitches present, and the extra costumes aren't visible during the in-game cutscenes.
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Playing as Wolverine has never been so fun. You'll be sticking heads in propeller blades, executing special ops with their own weaponry, and when all of the skin melts off your face in-game, you'll really feel like you're in the comics.
If any enemy is far away, the sound cuts out, so it sometimes takes you out of the action, but the music is exciting enough to keep you in. As far as the quality of the sound effects; Hugh Jackman does great, but everyone else is a bit sub-par.
Without the extra content pack that came with preorders, and is on sale now for 800 Microsoft Points, the replay value of the game goes down severely. It's decently long (15 hours if you die a lot), but after you're done, all you can really do is beat it again on hard mode.
This is a must-buy for Wolverine fans, and makes a lot of strides for the action genre in general.