X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review
I won't lie, I was pretty disappointed with how the Wolverine movie came out. It was too tame, and it didn't follow the actual storyline of Wolverine's origins very well, either. I also didn't expect to enjoy the game that coincided with the release of the movie, but surprisingly, I actually think I like the game more than the movie. Perhaps after the awful Wolverine's Revenge many years ago, my expectations were low. But perhaps this Wolverine is just genuinely fun, even if it is obviously flawed.
Immediately, the first thing you'll notice about this game is that 'hey, this plays a lot of God of War', and that's obviously the influence behind the game. It doesn't take a genius to realize that when you take a visceral character like Wolverine, the only way to make a great game with him is to use a formula that is every bit as chaotic as he is. You need a formula that captures the excitement and intensity, and this game does just that...and then some.
In keeping with the God of War likeness, Logan's next-gen game is also extremely violent. And I do mean extremely. Severed heads and limbs, bodies split in half, pools of blood with every strike, gruesomely aggressive and successive blows that pour said pools of blood...it's all really awesome. There may not be any nudity, but believe me, the M rating is well warranted here.
The story of the game does not follow the movie - there are events that are similar to the events of the movie, but otherwise, the game is very, very loosely based on the film. And that's a good thing, because the story of the movie wasn't very good or faithful. Not that the story in the game is faithful to the actual origins, but it does pay a few homages here and there, despite having to follow the loose path of the movie. Going beyond the movie, your boss battles will include not just Sabretooth and Gambit, but also Sentinels, Wendigos, Leviathans. There are quite a number of epic boss and mini-boss fights in the game, and I enjoyed them all.
Beyond all of the storyline bits, there lies a fun game. You'll run around pulling off devastating combos, hacking and slashing in the truest form. And along the way Wolverine will gain strength, earning new powers, abilities, combos, enhancements and so forth. Such true-to-character abilities include his rage attacks, relentless combat, regeneration, and even his enhanced senses. Tapping up on the D-pad will enable the use of Logan's feral senses, allowing you to see what Wolverine smells and feels by instinct. The enhanced senses will allow you to expose weak points in your enemies, in addition to tactical advantages and even help puzzle solving and finding escape routes.
To expand on the combat, Wolverine boasts over one hundred custom moves, all at your disposal, on top of reflex quick-kills and long-range lunge attacks. Furthermore, because you are Wolverine, you are free to fall 30,000 feet from the sky and walk away like nothing happened. Likewise, if you'd like to see Wolverine's real-time regeneration at work, when you're leaping from chopper to chopper, aim for the blades and see the effects of this really neat visual and gameplay touch. As far as Wolverine's rage goes, you can build up a gauge that'll eventually allow you to unleash special-moves, combos, and other specific attacks.
But here comes the not so great stuff. For starters, this game is reptitive. You start out consistently having a blast, but towards the middle of it you realize that some stages drag on for way too damn long (Chapter 2 is proof of this). And thus, because sections of the game drag on like this, you find yourself getting annoyed with the redundancy and the constant repetition of having to kill the same enemies over and over again. Then of course, when you have repetitive gameplay, you also have repetitive stage design that I like to call the Hanna-Barbera effect; You know when Fred Flintstone runs past the same lamp and window 20 times? Yeah, something like that.
Then come the bugs. As is always the problem with movie-licensed games, they're rushed. And some crippling problems in Wolverine make it just that obvious. I've had the game crash on me numerous times, in the middle of battle and in the middle of a loading screen. I've witnessed the framerate come crashing down to just a few meager frames per second - five, at most! I've also seen textures get drawn-in after spending many seconds looking at a textureless and bland object or character. Sure, the last one is a visual quirk, but the first two will annoy the hell out of you more than you can imagine.
When the visuals aren't having temper tantrums, the game looks pretty decent. Running on Unreal Engine III, there are some nice lighting effects, coupled with the occasional pretty texture, and the character modeling, especially the faces, is very well done. There are no questions that the in-game Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and will.i.am look just like their human counterparts. I do like how large the environments look, even if the game is very linear. But what I don't like is that the framerate doesn't feel like it's running at a perfect 30. Is it good enough? Yes, but it's definitely not consistent. Though I must admit that I do like the computer generated cutscenes quite a bit.
The audio is well done all around, on the other hand. Voice acting is performed by the aforementioned three Hollywood celebs, and they deliver the same caliber work you'd expect to find in an actual motion picture. So the voice acting is really easy on the ears, and quite enjoyable altogether. Sound effects also sound fantastic, as every slash and tear sounds awesome when coming through a nice audio setup. Furthermore, a soundtrack plays in the background setting the tone of the game, alternating between battle themes and a more ambient background.
All in all, Wolverine is the type of game that's actually worth a purchase. Is it worth the full $60? Eh, barely. But knock off 20 and it's definitely a game you should pick up while you wait for God of War 3. It may get repetitive and frustrating, but it still manages to be a fun game that you'll likely enjoy playing to the very end. It has a decent graphics engine, fun gameplay, good controls, and good sound. Download the demo if you're not sure.
5/27/2009 Arnold Katayev