Round One: Fight!
Oh boy, another movie tie-in! Not only that, but even a Wolverine-focused title at that; the last few times I played a game that veered away from the team dynamics of games like X-Men Legends and focused on the story of just one particular superhero character – games like Spider-Man 2, Iron Man or X-Men: Wolverine’s Revenge, I was left feeling cheated and devoid of having any fun due to their bland gameplay and story. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a game that manages, for the most part, to right these wrongs and satisfy my gaming appetites.
X-Men Origins is a brawler, pure and simple. But this one has some serious teeth to bite with! The combat is exactly as you’d expect from a down ‘n’ dirty scrapper like Wolverine: up-close, in-your-face, and visceral. Combat move sets and combos are very intuitive and flow extremely well; at all times I felt truly badass in my abilities to dispatch scores of foes quickly and efficiently. There are a number of combos that can be chained together, but this aspect feels more unnecessary; I was able to do quite well in the game simply mashing my two attack buttons in random combinations, throwing in a grab move every now and then.
Otherwise, the combat is brutal and satisfying – exactly what it needs to be. Wolverine moves, stalks, and leaps about the screen like a well-oiled machine, and pounces from foe to foe without hesitation. The camera helps keep the 3D battlefield in an easy-to-manage perspective most of the time – the only time I felt the camera put up its own fight against me was during moments when I was out of battle, thus not costing me any cheap deaths. Wolverine employs his trademark adamantium claws with relish, unleashing bloody and sometimes acrobatic quick kills on enemies. There are various random quick kill sequences, as well as some specific to enemy type and environmental kills. At one point, Wolverine picked up a soldier charging him, turned, and threw his flailing body across the room, impaling him on a spike protruding from a nearby wall. He then turned to face his next attacker, hoisted himself into the air using his enemy’s shoulders as springboards, vaulted vertically up, spun around in mid-air extending his claws, and came back down hard on his attacker, claw-first, burying the lethal blades in his opponent’s skull. The first time players see this unfold in slow-motion, they will know what it truly feels like to be Wolverine – an unstoppable agent of death and dismemberment.
Along with the cinematic dispatching of enemies, the game offers up some epic moments when you face down some truly memorable opponents of Wolverine’s. One particularly epic section of the game had me infiltrate the factory building Sentinel robots – the kind that were about the size of a tenement building. Wolverine escapes the facility, only to find a Sentinel Mark I on his tail. The ensuing showdown takes on legendary status as you initially engage the Mark I on the roof of the factory, ride shotgun clinging to his back as he blasts off to escape into the atmosphere, then free-fall after him as he plummets back towards Earth, slashing away every time you manage to maneuver your hurtling body close enough to his. Move over, Gandalf-Fighting-the-Balrog!
The Last Things You See and Hear Before You Die
Graphics-wise, the game is certainly acceptable. The environments can get a little stale and uninspired; this is especially true of the factories and lab facilities, which you spend a good half of the game traversing. But the levels by no means look bad, and my favorite environments were in and around a towering hotel in New Orleans that you ascend. The posh indoor architecture is pleasing to look at, and as you get closer to the top of the structure, the outside panoramic vista becomes more breathtaking. The highlight of the in-game graphics are the character models. Wolverine looks great, and the damage done to him is represented cosmetically at all times, including once his healing ability patches up his wounds. His shirt, however, will remain shredded and torn – a nice touch. Cinematic cutscenes look amazing, and really deliver a visual punch to this game.
Sadly, the sound in this game is less consistent. The voice acting for the characters is top-notch; several of the game’s main characters are voiced by the actors who portrayed their roles in the movie, including Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and Will.i.am. All of the game’s dialog is spoken – there is absolutely no written dialog at all. This is a minor complaint I had with the game: there is not even an option to have subtitles for the spoken conversation, and sometimes I missed what was said in an audio log I was listening to because Wolverine, possibly feeling abandoned after standing inactive for more than ten seconds, would suddenly start in on some idle chatter, completely obscuring anything I was trying to listen to. Finally, the game’s music is standard action fare; it wasn’t broken in any way, but usually wholly forgettable.
Picking Up the Pieces
There were only a few minor concerns that popped up otherwise. The levels were noticeably large; playing in short-bursts, it took me a few gaming sessions to clear some of the stages. The game follows the movie pretty closely, so expect only a handful of different (large) stages. The 3D aspect of the game doesn’t add anything to the level design – the player is generally on a very scripted path throughout each level, with little to no opportunity to veer off-course. The few times that Wolverine is allowed to venture down a side hallway it’s to discover a collectible power-up; it makes me wonder why bother to implement these large 3D levels, since exploration is not encouraged. In essence, this action-brawler is little more than a 2D side-scroller…not that there’s anything wrong with that!
A final caveat to mention is the game’s lack of difficulty: Wolverine is inherently a bad-tempered, unstoppable force of nature, and his self-healing ability makes him nigh invincible. But this game is a bit too forgiving in the damage department. Throughout the entire game experience, I died in a grand total of three different places, and that’s including the final duel with the boss of the game. Granted, I did play the game at its medium difficulty, but it still seemed severely unbalanced in my favor.
In short, Origins: Wolverine offered an enjoyable and satisfying outing in Wolverine’s shoes (and claws). While it didn’t blow me away in most game areas, it didn’t do anything embarrassingly badly, and did offer an entertaining fighting mechanic. It’s not going to win any awards for original plot or character development – it does faithfully recreate the movie it’s based on, after all – but it showed its mettle where it counted most, and what gamers got is a well-executed, fulfilling brawler – and a chance to show you who’s boss around here, bub!