Review: It's the best there is at what it does (being a Wolverine game that is)
Wolverine has not had a very successful track record when it comes to his appearances in video games. From his painful debut on the NES (and I mean that literally, he took damage whenever he used his claws
) up through the movie tie-ins X2: Wolverine's Revenge
and X-Men: The Official Game
, there has yet to be a "definitive" Wolverine game. With the character's first solo movie hitting theaters back in May, Activision and Raven Software took another crack at it with X-Men Origins: Wolverine
and while it's not a perfect Wolverine game, it's definitely the best one yet.
Origins follows Wolverine's humble beginnings (as long as you ignore the 100 years he'd lived before that) with Canada's Team X, a mutant strike team made up of himself, Sabretooth, Agent Zero, The Blob, Wade Wilson (AKA Deadpool) and John Wraith. The team was lead by William Stryker, the main baddie of X2: X-Men United
. Expanding upon the movie's storyline, the game uses flashbacks to tell the story of an African mission gone awry interspersed with the "present day" action at Alkali Lake (where Wolverine's undergoes the Adamantium bonding process), a Sentinel factory, New Orleans and the new Weapon X facility on Three Mile Island.
The game shares a lot in common with another recent licensed game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
. Both have taken franchises that have fallen on hard times recently and resurrected them as a brutal beat 'em up that showcases the dark edge both licenses have always had just below the surface. In the case of Origins, that dark edge is very apparent in the Xbox 360's "Uncaged Edition" (also available on the PC and PS3). The Uncaged Edition portrays the world that Wolverine lives in as it would really be: bloody, violent and with lots of dismemberment (the man has a pair of razor-sharp claws jutting out from the back of his hand after all). How brutal is it? In the first ten minutes Wolverine slices and dices on no less than a dozen heavily armed enemies after freefalling out of an exploding helicopter. He then leaps onto another helicopter, pulls the pilot out and decapitates him on the whirlybird's rotors.
That kind of vibe follows everyone's favorite Canuck throughout the entire game. Not surprisingly, Origins is one of the most cinematic games I've played in a long time. Slo-mos, cinematic camera angles, excellent cut scenes, awesome set pieces and level design, the game has it all. The flashbacks are integrated seamlessly into the story, so it never feels like a chore to jump into a time period that "already happened" and do what Wolverine does best.
And what is it that Wolverine does best? First and foremost is Logan's patented "Lunge" maneuver. Effortless leaping from enemy to enemy with claws raised is excellent. The player can also activate Wolverine's "Berserker Rage", effectively turning an already feral killing machine into a whirling dervish of destruction. Speaking of feral, X-Men Origins is one of the first games to truly nail Wolverine's Feral Senses. Pressing Up on the Control Pad washes away the color in the world but also highlights points of interest and a the correct path to continue on in the game. Even enemies that can become invisible are highlighted in Feral Sense mode as Wolverine can use his highly developed sense of smell to sniff them out.
Along with Wolverine's healing factor, all of these attack options create a character that is very hard to kill. Essentially, Wolverine can never "die." He can be captured if you let his health get down too low, but finding a quiet corner to regenerate is not hard and makes the character effectively immortal. His healing is a neat effect (gunfire actually removes layers of his flesh that then grows back as Wolverine heals), but it more often than not just looks like Logan's clothes have been splashed with mud. It's possible to just charge enemy soldiers as they tear into Wolverine with machine gun fire with few ill effects. It's mostly true to the character, but it's very easy to "brute force" the game, especially on the lower difficulty levels. Playing the game on Hard does offer a decent challenge, but then you're left wondering why it takes several dozen swipes from Wolverine's Adamantium claws
to kill a normal person wearing a t-shirt and jeans.
Of course, with a character like Wolverine, there is the mandatory level that always appears in these kinds of games where the superpowered being loses his powers. It is just as lame here as it is in every other game where it's used. The action grinds to a halt and it seems to go on forever even though it is just a small portion of the game.
Origins looks and sounds fantastic. Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber reprise their roles as Wolverine and Victor Creed in the game. They both perform well (unlike some big name actors, they didn't treat the game's voice work as just a paycheck), although Jackman's Australian accent pops up from down under a few times throughout the game.