Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
So the movie has been out for several weeks now, and the game has been out for almost a month. While this review might be a bit overdue, I had so much fun playing the game that I couldn't help but write it anyway. If my pleasant surprised reaction strikes you as a bit unusual, then perhaps you're unaware of the track record of video games that accompany movies. If you want evidence of how much they suck, look no further than Ghostbusters 2. If you want a more recent example, consider Enter the Matrix or Iron Man. So often video games based on movies are complete wastes of time and money. When a not just decent but great example comes along, like Wolverine, gamers stand up and take notice.
I'm going to go a step further and not only state that the Wolverine game is a lot of fun (which it is), but that the game may actually be BETTER than the movie it's based on. I spoke in a recent review about how disappointed I was in the Wolverine movie and wrote in some detail about what I didn't like about it. I had the exact opposite response to the Wolverine game, and many of the things that I didn't like about the movie were actually rectified in the game.
For example, I felt that the overall tone of the movie was just too light, too PG-13 for one of Marvel's most R-rated characters. That's definitely not the case with the game, where Wolverine is free to be the feral, blood-letting animal we all know and love. In the game you get to use Wolverine's claws to slice, dice, and dismember at will. You get to take advantage of his healing ability to come back from otherwise fatal injuries, not to mention that you get to watch him mend and heal in real time, which is just too fucking cool. And you get to do all this from the very beginning. One of the problems with games based on the superheroes of the Marvel and DC universes is that sometimes the character is too powerful. To try and "balance" the game, you're often given a limited power set that you build upon as the game progresses. There's often on reason given for this artificial setup, and it can be incredibly frustating.
Wolverine doesn't fall into that trap. Part of the reason for this is simply that Wolverine doesn't have the power set of say, Superman, so it's not such a big deal. And there is some degree of advancement and unlocking of new abilities, but these aren't essential to the character, nor to your ability to beat the game.
Another trap that movie-based video games often fall into is the need to adapt a ~2 hour film into 8-10 hours of gameplay. The storyline is split up into levels, often these are expanded significantly, and in some cases levels that are unrelated to anything appearing in the film are added. An example of this that was actually pulled off with quite a bit of success is GoldenEye 007. While the film opened with Bond jumping off that damn and quickly infiltrating the chemical weapons facility in a matter of minutes, this was expanded into two full levels in the game. That scene where Bond and Simonova are trapped in the Tiger helicopter? A few minutes in the film, another full level in the game.
Wolverine is very similar, but as compared to GoldenEye 007 it actually goes a step further and expands on what we saw in the film. Instead of the scene with the drug lord's office building, we get a greatly expanded series of missions set in the African jungle that you play through in a series of flashbacks throughout the game. Did you think Logan's escape from Alkali Lake was a little too quick and easy? You'll think otherwise after playing through the same sequence in the game. Instead of Logan simply going to Las Vegas and having a chat with John Wraith, Logan finds that he's been abducted and must infilitrate a secret Sentinal construction facility to rescue him. And that fight with Gambit in a Bourbon Street back alley that lasted all of about 2 minutes in the film? Forget it. The showdown with Gambit in the game is an epic battle across the rooftops of downtown New Orleans. While it follows the same basic sequence of events that we got in the film, this expanded story is IMHO more satisfying and damn it, simply more fun than the film's.
I really only have a couple of complaints about the game. One is that there are a few times where cut scenes tend to skip and lag, though this isn't a major flaw. There is one point, during the battle with Gambit, where the game had a bug of some kind that almost ruined things. During the battle, things shift from normal gameplay to the style of prompted button mashing that God of War made so popular, and it seemed that for reasons unknown to me, there was a 60-70% chance this interactive cut scene wouldn't progress the way it was supposed to, Gambit would accidently fall off the rooftop, and you wouldn't be able to complete the battle. You'd have to restart from the beginning, something I think I did almost a dozen times before I made it successfully through to the finish (though I don't think I could take any credit for this).
This reminds me of something else I really enjoyed about this game. It makes very judicious use of the prompted button mashing sequences. And when these do occur, I believe all of them prompt you to mash only a single button repeatedly. The rest of the time, when the game goes from normal gameplay to a more cinematic "cut scene" of the action, you can simply sit back and enjoy the carnage, focusing on everything that transpires onscreen, and not just looking for what the next button you need to press will be.
All in all, X-Men Origins: Wolverine The Uncaged Edition is great fun. Whether you enjoyed the movie or not, if you like your Weapon X bloody and violent and your gameplay fast and brutal, pick up the game. I can think of much worse ways to spend a few hours of your summer.