Hugh Jackman has a good thing going with the X-Men series. Not only is he a hairy sex symbol with the ladies, he’s also a gruff take-no-prisoners antihero with the guys. That’s just the movies, of course, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which owned the box office for a few weeks before Kirk, a Terminator and talking museum pieces began ruling the roost. But Wolverine’s excellence is stretching far beyond the silver screen this year, with Activision’s outstanding X-Men Origins: Wolverine videogame for PS3 and Xbox 360. You thought the movie was action-packed and a bit bloody? The videogame adaptation is by far the most high-octane action game of 2009, not to mention one of the goriest.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine doesn’t stray too far from the theatrical source material as it lets gamers play through the lead character’s back story. From the terrorist-filled jungles to the high-tech X Facility, players traverse the full spectrum of Wolverine’s past, dishing out unbelievable — and unbelievably fast-paced — destruction through each level. To say X-Men Origins: Wolverine is action-packed is like saying Jackman sipped a little bit of muscle milk before principal photography began. So far in 2009, no game has delivered the same level of visceral intensity as Wolverine, not even Killzone 2. There are simply so many combo moves, enemies and battle tactics involved that Wolverine always keeps you on your adamantium toes.
The core gameplay seems like a hybrid of the acrobatic Devil May Cry and every combo-happy Marvel game to come along in the past three years. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is completely linear, as most action games are, but it’s almost to a fault in some areas. The environments are all fully rendered and 3D, but good luck trying to slash your way through invisible walls and oddly insurmountable shrubbery. The occasional switch-activating and puzzle-based “rooms” also feel somewhat odd considering the game’s otherwise fast pace, but the faux platforming and puzzle-solving at least provides a brief respite for your always-valuable thumbs and index fingers.
Yet unlike many Marvel-based action games, X-Men Origins: Wolverine avoids delving into button-mashing madness by using a combo system that’s much more refined than those in the Spider-man games yet not so deep that you feel like you’re playing a fighting game or action RPG. The controls never get in the way of the action, as so many deeper games do, yet they never feel so crippled or basic that the player feels hobbled or unable to feel like a complete and total army-eradicating badass.
That’s not to say there aren’t RPG-like elements, however. For starters, players can unlock and learn new combo moves, which is par for the course with more action games, but they can also upgrade individual attributes. The true RPG-lite element, though, comes in the ability to activate up to three mutagens at any one time. These mutagens, which are hidden in each level and must be found before being available, essentially act like a skill or attribute modifier/multiplier. Few action games have implemented a system like this with much success, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine absolutely drills it.
The game also drills the look of the film, with character likenesses in full swing and a game engine built on the Unreal technology. Amazingly, even though Unreal provides the basis of the engine, environments never feel wet or overly metallic, two common complaints with the technology. The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.A particularly nice touch — though it’s completely cosmetic — is the real-time regeneration. Wolverine’s self-healing capabilities provide a great gameplay solution for gamers used to Halo-like overshields or COD4-like recovery times, and they fit perfectly in the title character’s lore. However, the regeneration also provides one of the most purely enjoyable eye-candy aspects of the game, as players can watch in real time as Wolverine’s injuries morph back to a state of perfect health. Depending on the severity of the injuries (say, shotgun shells creating holes all the way through his arms or torso), Wolverine won’t return to normal lickety split. Big injuries like that take time to heal. Fortunately, the energy bar doesn’t take as long to replenish as the visuals themselves, so the regeneration graphics never have a tangible impact on the playable character.
Note that word: “character.” X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a completely single-player affair. This of course makes sense in the context of the film, but it’s something to make note of in light of previous Marvel games such as the Ultimate Alliance titles, which supported multiplayer elements. To be honest, though, the single-player campaign is more than sufficient to satisfy your action-game needs, and although the AI has a tendency to go gently into that good night, the game throws enough variety of enemy types (not to mention enough of them) to keep you occupied throughout the duration of the game.
I was pleasantly surprised with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which I anticipated would be nothing but a button-mashing fest of epic and bloody proportions. Turns out, I was only right about one of those things. Wolverine is one of the bloodiest games so far in 2009, complete with an automated slow-cam for the most gruesome of moments, and there’s no way a gamer younger than 13 should play. But the fantastic mix of action and RPG-lite elements somehow combine in one of the most fast-paced games I’ve played in months. If the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine left you wanting even more after the end credits rolled, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game will satisfy your need for more Hugh Jackman ass-kicking like raw meat satisfies a wild cat. Or, in this case, a wild weasel.
Buy X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition for PS3 from Amazon.com. Or, buy X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition for Xbox 360.
- Score: 8.5
- There’s seldom a dull moment in this game, and when one arises it’s intentional. Raven completely outdid themselves with this game, delivering one of the best Marvel games yet to ship.
— Jonas Allen