Things are about to get a whole lot uglier.
Finding a gamer in 2009 yet to be burned by a movie licence adaptation would certainly be a feat of some note. Quality renditions of our favourite silver screen protagonists are so rare that these iterations are lauded as instant classics(Goldeneye, Escape From Butcher Bay) and while the number of titles meeting those lofty standards could be counted on one hand, the faithful secretly hope their favourite character's foray into the interactive medium will be the next exception to the rule. A more realistic expectation is for an adaptation of a tried and true game mechanic handled by a quality developer capturing the feel of the central character and only loosely following the movie's story on which it is based. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that game.
Developer Raven Software have followed the path of licensed games such as Conan and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed delivering an unashamed God of War clone with exciting visceral combat that while a little repititious manages to remain fun for the duration of the game. The combat system requires no explanation to any veteran of the genre, different attacks mapped to the face buttons, XP based character progression system and the gradual unlocking of new moves and combos. There are however, a few features offering something new and giving the game its distinctive Wolverine feel.
The first is Wolverine's lunge attack, effectively granting the hairy one a range attack without the use of a firearm. Enemies can be locked onto at considerable distance allowing Logan to easily launch across the arena with claws leading and systematically pick apart large hordes of enemies. The highlight of the intense, fast paced combat is Logan's Quick Kills. There is a different one for each type of enemy, they are all intensely bloody and make up the majority of "that was friggin' awesome" moments. All I can say is, coming across a soldier with a bionic arm so large it would make Capcom's Commando feel inadequate then brutally removing it from the wearer and beating him to death with it never gets old.
This is my good pair of jeans dammit!
Did someone say bloody? Words alone can not prepare you for how unexpectedly gory this game is. The previous description is only a snippet of the claret soaked display your eyes will feast upon. Beheadings and amputations are a common occurrence, enemies will have their legs lopped off at the knee then writhe on the ground clutching the spurting stump. Is Michael Atkinson aware of this game's existence? Don't expect our surly anti-hero to escape unscathed either, at times you'll wonder whether you are Wolverine or The Terminator. Quite often your character's upper torso will be practically devoid of skin complete with your adamantium rib cage exposed until your flesh slowly regenerates in real time.
Secondary to the combat are some platforming and puzzle elements but the less said about them the better. The controls during these contrived sequences are clumsy at best and thankfully kept to a minimum. Boss battles at the end of levels are largely enjoyable and venture into the epic at times. However one in particular which should have been a shoo-in for epic is incredibly repetitive until surprisingly turned on its head halfway through. Just as it improves with an exciting aerial sequence it is then soured by one of the most ridiculously demanding QTE's ever seen. What is truly mundane are the mini-boss battles which are unfortunately numerous and totally unenjoyable. You'll be dreading the sight of each one after experiencing the game's first. It is these type of moments where the game loses its sheen.
I can feel a gory QTE comin' on.
Whilst overall Wolverine is short on innovation and new tricks there is some value in replayability. Replaying earlier levels with a XP beefed up character and overall improved combat skills were even more enjoyable a second time through. What is baffling is the requirement to reset your character to restart the game on a higher difficulty. Achievement and Trophy addicts will probably need 3 playthroughs to reach the lofty 1000 points or Platinum Trophy which is quite frankly asking a bit much for a game of this calibre.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine captures the feel of Wolverine beautifully with exciting, gore soaked combat and much like this year's Wanted: Weapons of Fate delivers a fun if not overly deep rendition of a universe translated from the big screen. This is the standard movie license games should aspire to, anything more should be a bonus, to expect such would be unrealistic.