Jun 23, 2010

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

  • Game: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

  • Platform: Xbox 360; PS3; PS2; PC

  • Publisher: Activision

  • Developer: Raven

  • ESRB: M for Mature

  • Genre: Hack and slash action

  • Players: 1

  • What's Hot: Plenty of visceral ways to dispatch foes, well modeled environments, skydiving sequences are a hoot

  • What's Not: Repetitive action, framerate issues, story goes off the rails at the end

  • Review by: Brandon "Beserker" Cackowski-Schnell

    Remember that time in the Wolverine comics when he picked that dude up and then tore him in half right before he lunged to that next dude and stuck his claws through the guy's face? Yeah, me neither, but that doesn't mean you can't do it in Wolvie's latest videogame. You can do that as well as impale people on tree limbs and stumps, chuck people off of ledges, slice arms and legs off, puncture groins and my personal favorite, throw four-armed ninja ladies into cement mixers. Yeah, that sentence doesn't make any sense to me either and I did the throwing.
    As you can probably tell, this isn’t your father's Wolverine game. Gone are the bloodless kills from the various digital incarnations of He Who Is The Best At What He Does, replaced with a bloody, action packed romp through waves and waves of soldiers, mutants and giant beasties. It's obvious that the folks at Raven enjoyed the God of War series, because Wolverine plays very similarly to Sony's action franchise. To a certain degree it makes sense. Kratos is a bare-chested Spartan with blades permanently attached to his forearms and Wolverine is a bare-chested Canadian with blades permanently attached to his forearms. Plus, if you're going to model your action game after something, God of War is a heck of a place to start.
    To do his dirty deeds, Wolverine has a full arsenal of light slashes, heavy attacks, airborne attacks, grabs and combinations of all of those things to dish out plenty of damage. Along with these moves, he has a quick kill move which allows him to grab enemies and then dismember them in all sorts of gruesome ways, provided the player presses the right button at the right time. It's not quite a quick time event, but timing is important. Wolvie also has a lunge attack, one of the most fun attacks in the game where the player can target an enemy with the right bumper and as long as Wolvie is in range, with a press of the left bumper Wolvie will fly across the screen and impale his opponent. The game uses the lunge attack in various forms, both as a means to quickly get out of the way of danger and attack enemies, as well as flying across great divides and jumping from vehicle to vehicle. Apparently Wolverine can only jump across a chasm if he intends on impaling someone.
    In addition to all of these attacks, Wolverine has Fury Attacks. Every time Wolverine kills someone, or breaks open items in the environment he'll collect rage. Get the rage meter high enough and Wolverine can pull off one of four Fury Attacks. Whether it's simply flipping on his berserker rage, or spinning around like a cross between a child's top and a weed-whacker, the Fury Attacks are great for when Wolverine gets overwhelmed with enemies, a common occurrence.
    To help you figure out what objects can be broken open for rage, or what objects in the environment Wolverine can use to kill enemies, pressing up on the d-pad turns on Wolvie's Feral Senses. It's a cool mode that not only helps navigate the environment with ledges and actionable items showing up as a nice bright green, but also helps Wolverine find certain cloaked enemies as well as get experience by collecting dog tags off of dead soldiers littered throughout the game.
    Yes, I said experience. The game sports an RPG-lite style of character customization so that you can tailor Wolverine to your needs. As you kill folks, you'll earn experience that lets Wolverine go up levels, amassing skill points along the way, points that can be used to increase claw damage, or the duration of fury attacks, or the size of his rage meter. In addition to this, the experience goes towards combat reflexes for each of the game's four enemy types. As Wolverine goes up levels in combat reflexes he'll do more damage to enemies of that particular type. Experience is gained simply by killing; however the player is rewarded for varying up how they kill as well as for chaining kills together. Along with upgrading skills, Wolverine can find and equip mutagens. If you want to harness Wolverine's rageaholism and focus on Fury Attacks, there are mutagens for that. If you want him to be a damage sponge as he bounces around, there are mutagens for that. It's not a terribly complex system, but it certainly gives incentive to do as much varied damage as possible and explore Wolverine's move set.
    There are plenty of enemies for Wolverine to gain experience off of, however combat still can feel repetitive as Wolverine moves from area to area, clearing them out. The machete guys in the African jungle aren't that much different from the knife wielding guys in the military installation. Even the mini-bosses are dealt with the exact same way: wait for a ground pound, dodge, lunge for the back and then hack away until the beastie goes to grab for you. Granted, the game isn't all the same. There are some very cool sequences that will have you free falling to catch up with an enemy helicopter, only to take it out and then jump away to the next one, as well as a sequence where Wolverine lunges from riverboat to riverboat, or truck to truck while taking out enemy soldiers. The problem is that these more varied sequences are sandwiched between lots of waves of the same enemies so they don't stand out as much.
    The story pops back and forth between Logan's memories before he had adamantium fused to his bones and what takes place once he escapes from the Weapon X facility post fusing. At the beginning of the game, the story structure of popping back and forth works as you'll do a level in the jungle and then a level in the military base, however as the game progresses the length of flashbacks get smaller while the frequency increases. Towards the end, at any point when playing "current time" you half expect Wolverine to see a desk chair, remember something that happened back in Africa for 30 seconds and then warp back to present day. The inclusion of characters from the movie also seems thrown in just to tie more into the movie, and results in not only an extremely annoying fight against Gambit, but one of the worst ending boss battles in recent memory against Weapon 11 (I refuse to call him Deadpool) as well as a story that doesn't end up making a whole lot of sense.
    Graphically the game does an admirable job of showing just what a man with blades in his arms is capable of. The combat animations are all very impressive with lots of variety to them. Even the quick kills will cycle between multiple animations for the same enemy and are very, very gory. There is a lot of blood in this game, plenty of which is Logan's as his character model will show bone, muscle and blood as he takes damage. I hope you like staring at Wolverine's bare chest as his tank tops don't last very long under a barrage of weapons fire and his clothes do not have regenerative powers. Personally, I think they went a bit overboard with the gore and the healing factor, but I'm somewhat old school with my Wolverine memories, so consider this the old fuddy-duddy opinion. That being said, watching him cram his claws down a dude's throat and then rip the guy open from mouth to crotch never gets old.
    The environments are all very well modeled with the jungle levels looking particularly lush and detailed. The aforementioned Feral Senses give a trippy, alternate take on the levels and are enjoyable to where you find yourself popping them up just to see how everything looks with them enabled. Unfortunately the frame rate suffers when there are a lot of enemies on screen, which makes for some annoying battles, especially when paired with a camera that decides to throw itself into the corner. Also, when there are a lot of enemies around picking who you're lunging to is hit or miss, particularly when there's a mini-boss in the mix. In that case, what Wolverine does best is run around while he hopes for the mini-boss to take out the other enemies for him.
    The game lasts for a good amount of time, clocking in around 8 - 10 hours. Normal mode is very doable, even for beginning players as Wolverine's healing powers means that you're more likely to die from a puzzle gone wrong than from combat. Once you play the game through you can try again on Hard, or replay certain levels to grind for achievements. If you found all of the character statues as you progressed through the game you can face off against one of three costumed versions of yourself in a Danger Room type area for the honor of wearing Wolverine's tan costume, blue and yellow costume, or black X-Force costume.
    At the end of the day X-Men Origins: Wolverine offers a fun, albeit repetitive romp as one of comics' most savage characters. For all of the emotional troubles and failings that have always been the hallmark of Marvel characters, you could always count on Wolverine to come out of a scrap alive. The only question was how badly he was going to mess his opponents up. That spirit carries over beautifully in the game, and even when you're fighting the twelfth room of the same guys, the variety with which you can take care of business gives a fun, visceral experience.

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