X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

By Kyle Wynen on May 16, 2009

Tying in with the big screen release, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game debuted day-in-date on consoles. While the movie itself was nothing too special, a decent movie, the video game version of the title packs in a much expanded story compared to the movie. The game is also mature rated, so while the movie was generally fine to bring kids too, the game is far from child-friendly. In the first mission alone, having viewed the movie first, it's actually surprising just how different Logan's character is in the movie compared to the game.

As movie based games are tailored--to sell to movie goers and ride the movie's marketing campaign and buzz--one would figure the similarities between the two would be fairly strong. However, as the mature rating entails, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game is an exceptionally different experience than the movie primarily due to the huge amount of gore.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game follows the early tribulations of Logan as he affectively becomes the metal-clad-bones warrior known as Wolverine. Logan had previously worked as a special mutant operative with a commanding officer by the name of Striker, along with a few other mutant cohorts you meet again throughout the game. Logan disbanded the team a few years before the start of the game, but when Victor Creed, Logan's mutant brother and former teammate, supposedly dispatches Logan's lover, Logan vows to kill him. What ensues is Striker recruiting Logan to kill Creed, and to do it Striker and his government funded organization enhance Logan's body by coating all his bones in the super strong metal, adamantium, giving Logan his trademark metal claws.

The game kicks off with the original mission that leads up to Logan quitting the special mutant operatives team in Africa, and largely skips much of the early parts of the movie version's focus on the history of Logan and his brother Victor prior to joining the team. After dropping from an exploding helicopter, Logan plunges claws-first into a group of combatants, kicking right into the slasher-fest that is the gameplay. Origins is an action game, and with claws like Wolverine's it's hard to imagine the game being anything-but mature rated when Logan regularly impales and dismembers every other person in the game.

Without a doubt the game's best asset is its gameplay. Like a brawler title, mashing the light attack button will automatically send Logan into a set six-attack combo, with one tap of the heavy attack button making for a nice finisher. Primarily, spamming light attacks is the baseline way to rip through baddies in the game. However, as the game progresses and player skill improves, incorporating blocking, timed counters, throwing, jumping, lunging, dodging and special abilities becomes essential. Playing the game in Hard Mode demands this right from the get go as well, but is only unlocked after finishing the game on Normal Mode.

Battles are well animated, with intricate animations for all of the games characters, including the more eccentric ones. The game also features a decent amount of enemies, with some disappeaing only to return again later in the game as the story jumps from locale to locale. The camera is also split between player controlled and computer controlled throughout the game, which makes for a good view of the action for the most part, but at times verges on frustrating as Logan is cornered and while fighting off enemies players have to momentarily swirl the camera around for a good-enough angle to save their hides. This is also at times annoying in confined areas, however, the game's environments are usually very wide to accommodate for Logan's heavy handed and wild fighting style.

Where the game excels with its fun battles, it also does well with its pacing. While the story is largely forgettable, the game does a good job of limiting level sizes and necessary gameplay lulls to divide up the action nicely. Interspersed throughout the game are cinematics to drive the story, and while the story doesn't do much to help the game, its presentation is no less complimentary to its gameplay as voice acting and cinematography are well done. At times Logan's dialogue in combination with others throughout the story is also borderline-cheesy, but given the ridiculousness of the action and gore, it comes with the territory and doesn't inspire any cringing.

Outside of pacing and gameplay during fights, Origins shows what seems to be an otherwise unpolished game in every other area, yet at the same time, the attention to detail in some animations, effects (like how Logan is regularly running around with half his torso missing and bloody) and other game elements draw a curious raise of the eyebrow. It seems as though Origins is much like a sports car with a rusty body; It's quite good, while at the same time, bad. It's better than the usual afterthought-quality movie video game, excelling in gameplay and addictiveness, but visually it is mostly unimpressive, level layout is bland, and many of the other gameplay elements are typical of unoriginal games.

The game has a few noticeable spots of glitches as well. In one fight against a boss on an enormous sign outside a casino, the boss simply froze in its place, hand held up with a lit flaming object sitting in its palm, unmovable by any attack. Whereas in other games one can cast off nit picking some aspects that might lower the experience, Origins just has far to many to ignore and accept. For example, quicktime events during boss battles simply consist of button mashing, and furious button mashing at-that; jumping from ropes; balancing on beams; pushing blocks on switches; revisiting environments again and again with little reason. Even when the game lets Logan take it easy during tower levels where players can simply throw every single baddy over the ledge with one quick and easy grab just gets ridiculous as it just loses its fun and challenge. The levelling system also adds very little to the game.

Final Thoughts

Origin's isn't a run of the mill movie tie-in game, but its drawbacks keep it from really breaking the mould. The gameplay is fun and challenging, especially on hard mode, and playing again in one of the bonus costumes is a small but nice addition. Beyond that, immediate replay value is low; however, it is a title worth going back to your shelf and replaying down the line. Overall, X-Men Origins: Wolverine's highs out-way its lows and makes for an overall enjoyable experience, and if you enjoyed the movie's finale, the game's version doesn't disappoint.

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