Wednesday, May 20, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Uncaged Edition Review

Wolverine is pretty much a household name, right on par with Spider-Man or Captain America in the Marvel pool. Actual comic book fans might have different opinions on different X-Men, but for the masses Wolverine is pretty much the face of the X-Men.

So eventually, after three X-Men films starring Hugh Jackman, Hugh as Wolverine gets to star in his own summer movie. And like most summer movies, we get the inevitable crap movie tie-in game, right?

Actually, X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Uncaged Edition is actually pretty good. You may have heard it compared to God of War, although I've decided to dispute that.

The story follows the movie, although rather loosely. You play as Logan, aka Wolverine, aka Weapon X, with about 30% of the game being told as flashbacks to the mission in Africa that had Wolverine quit Stryker's team, and the other 70% sort of filling in what happened from the time Wolverine had the adamantium fused to his bones until the end of the film. While the film is loosley covered, some things happen differently and Wolverine goes to some different locations than he did in the movie, which helps to keep the game fresh.

The gameplay is mostly pretty simple. Bad guys, of which there are only a few types, will try to kill you. You kill them. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wolverine has several attacks at his disposal. You can do quick strikes and heavy strikes, which make for some combo building. You can grab most enemies and toss them around. He's got a lunging strike that helps close the distance between himself and enemy gunners. He's got a variety of quick-kills that are executed by grabbing an enemy and hitting the heavy attack, then a second time at just the right moment. He's got rage moves that are powerful attacks that use up the rage meter. By hitting the block button at just the right moment, you can parry many enemy attacks. And there are often environmental hazards that can be used to great affect.

The problem with Wolverines combat, and why it doesn't really hold up to comparisons to God of War, is that for all your options, you're actually not going to bother with most of it. The lunge attack will take out most weaker enemies. For 75% of the enemies in the game, the next best thing is to grab them. You can toss them over ledges or off buildings, you can toss them onto environmental hazards, or you can quick kill them a lot faster and easier than trying to fight them by slashing them with claws. If all else fails, parry. As for the rage attacks, you can go through the whole game with out using them once. I really only used them to whittle down bosses, and even then, most of the damage I did came from parrying.

Another thing that God of War has that Wolverine is lacking is really epic boss fights. While there are a few bosses in the game, most of them are pushovers. There's only one truly epic boss in the entire game, although that boss is almost enough to make you forget about the other lame bosses. Of course, that boss isn't even the final boss. After you take it out, you can expect four more pushovers before the credits.

I know, it almost sounds like I'm hating the game, but pointing out that a game doesn't live up to God of War is really just saying that the game isn't perfect. It does do a lot of things well. The level designs are solid, and even if you don't use most of Wolverine's repetoire, killing baddies is still entertaining. In fact, one of the things the game does well is show just how violent, how borderline animal Wolverine can be. In the cartoon, you never see Wolverine cut anyone living with his claws, and in the movies he might stab a few people, but there's no blood. There's plenty of blood in the game, as Wolverine often chooses to slice rather than to stab. You will see people lose limbs. Often. When you do quick kills, you might even see heads explode or people get ripped in half. The action is fast, fluid, and bloody.

Another thing I liked was that damage on yourself was more than just a missing portion of your health bar. As enemies slice and shoot at Wolverine, his body would become more and more mangled until you could see the skeleton underneath. Stay out of combat for a bit, and you could watch his healing factor kick in and his body would slowly regenerate.

The game has a decent length to it, with plenty to do besides kill. There are some puzzles to solve to progress, although they're not terribly complicated. There are some light RPG elements. And there are some upgrades to find. Most give you bonuses like extra health or more damage, but the best ones unlock bonus challenges. The challenges are pretty lame: you basically fight Wolverine in different costumes. The good thing about that is that once you beat him, you unlock the costume he's wearing. While Hugh Jackman running around in jeans and a wifebeater might be true to the movie, it doesn't have the same Wolverine feel that brown and yellow spandex does.

So, maybe Wolverine isn't as good as God of War. Hambugers don't really top a tasty steak, either, and that doesn't stop us from scarfing burgers. Wolverine is a solid action game that might be a rare case of a movie game being better than the movie it's based on.

Final Score: B+

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