Despite the toll spent reading CSS, Windows networking and Eckhart Tolle books, I’ve managed to squeeze in some video gaming recently. When the Battlefield Heroes servers came down for maintenance recently however, my routine was interrupted and I had to find something else to enjoy. Along came X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and I was relieved.
It’s good to see Raven Software’s kept their standards of quality consistent over the years, and Wolverine does not fail to deliver in the quality department. Thanks to the action-paced gameplay, you really get a feel for what being Wolverine could be like, and holy shit is it awesome (most of the time).
The game largely revolves around Logan’s (Wolverine) quest to find Sabretooth or save his no-name girlfriend or some shit… I wasn’t really paying attention because quite frankly I couldn’t give less of a fuck about the plot-line in a movie tie-in game. Not that it was poorly executed; the cut-scenes are actually quite exhilarating and the stars of the movie have done an adequate job voicing the stars of the game, but there’s not depth here so much as motivation. Honestly, most of the really good cut-scenes left me asking “Why the hell wasn’t I the one doing that?”, which I don’t think is the reaction they were going for.
The graphics in-game are sharp and readable so you won’t often get confused, and they’ve done a great job of concealing the redundant use of art assets by arranging them in organic ways throughout the environments. However you rarely inhabit any locale other than Vietnam’s seemingly South-American jungles or the Weapon X facility/nameless underground laboratory and it’s easy to tire of the sights, especially on the second play-through.
This also a very violent game, and blood gushes with almost every attack, especially when you decapitate and dismember your foes. Wolvie’s attack animations are smooth and rewarding and your foes always react to be chopped to bits in a perhaps sickly gratifying manner. As they wriggle on the ground dying in agony and despair, it’s not hard to believe their anguish and to feel a bit bad about inserting your claws into their throats. And when you tear guys in half like a piece of notebook paper that raped your wife.. sweet god it’s just gruesome…
Audio is your standard fare of adequate gunfire and monstrous roars from the games larger enemies, and every pop and stick of your adamantium fist-knives responds with a pretty satisfying effect. The “snikt’ when you retract and extract them is good, but perhaps not exactly what I imagine in my head. Subjective, so take it for what you will.
The combat is fast and feral and over time you can earn new abilities by way of leveling. You can also acquire and use up to 3 items that will boost your statistics in various ways, such as giving you more health or adding more damage to your special attacks but these are not substantial boosts, even when you’ve leveled an item up to its third tier. There are also various dog-tags that can be ripped from the fallen soldiers for additional experience and a few secrets items that will unlock costumes from Wolverine’s comic book origins., and there’s nothing like tearing bitches apart in the evil-looking X-Factor outfit. It’s like Wolverine is finally the villain you always wish he would be (okay maybe that’s just me).
However, Wolvie’s repertoire never feels quite as verbose as it should be. You do a lot of fighting in this game, and that means you will see a lot of the same moves over and over. and over and over again. Really if you slowed down Wolvie’s speed a bit it would be irritating, but I digress.
There aren’t too many substantially different enemy types either. Some shoot, others are excellent melee fighters, a few turn invisible which does almost absolutely nothing since your feral sense ability instantly reveals them, and then there are the giant monsters whom you just have to ride like the bomb in Blazing Saddles until you’ve scratched them enough that they bleed to death. Repetitive on the Normal difficulty mode, irritating on Hard when they have much more health. Mind you, there are other ways to take them down, but few as effective as the ol’ pounce and scratch.
Speaking of the pounce attack, one of Wolvie’s most commonly used skills, it makes the game too easy. You can leap 50 yards in a single bound during which time slows to a crawl for effect, which means anytime you use this infinitely repeatable ability it’s essentially an instantaneous attack that incapacitates the vast majority of bad guys momentarily as they try and get back to their feet. Turn the difficulty up to Hard and it’s no less effective; it just takes more time to bleed them out and you have to hop around a bit more.
The AI is weak, and that’s being kind. Enemies never do much more than circle you and shoot or get close and melee. They take cover, but it appears as if they only do that when they’ve been spawned next to it in the first place. Couple this with the genetically engineered super-soldiers’ complete inability to hit any kind of target with a gun and what you have here is a game that is much less challenging than it should be or could be considering Logan never stops regenerating health.
Logan’s special abilities aren’t exactly the most exciting moves either. I couldn’t get enough of the berserk ability as it always seemed to be in his character to shred people like a blender liquefying sausage, but the Claw Drill and Claw Spin abilities have been played out since X-Men: Children of the Atom. The Windmill Claw attack is a bit better, but I would’ve liked to see something more creative than what we’ve had since Wolverine’s first appearance in a video game.
The last few levels of X-men Origins are a collection of drawn out battles with notable characters like the Blob, Gambit, and even an enormous Sentinel who’s so large you typically only see his ankles. These aren’t bad sections of the game per se, but they feel tacked on, as if the developers thought that if they were not there, we’d easily notice that the game is pretty repetitive. Even the dabbling of brain-dead puzzles meant to artificially lengthen the gameplay offer almost nothing to the fun aspects of this title and often feel distracting.
“Distracting”, because despite some significant faults in the replayability department, this really is a fun game. The hack-and-slash-and-then-dice-and-dissect-style combat is exhilarating. When you gain a few moves and really start to get a feel for the flow of combat, you can rip people to shreds in some pretty impressive ways. Considering that the distractions from that aspect of the gameplay are minimal, and that the game ends before you can become too tired of it, I have to say that I would score this game highly were I the kind of person who cared to do so.
Still, I might suggest that you rent it instead of dropping more than half a hundo on it. You can easily finish this game in a weekend, and I don’t know if there’s 60 dollars worth of gameplay here, although I might argue that there’s 60 dollars worth of satisfaction. I wouldn’t get my hopes up about DLC either, because any additional content would be have to be equal if not greater than what the game already is to be worth parting ways with any more money for. And at that point, they could justifiably call it a sequel and charge full price again.
So while X-Men Origins: Wolverine itself is an occasionally exceptional game, perhaps a better question is “Would I again pay 60-70 bucks for something else of equivalent merit?” Probably not.
Verdict: Rent it, Love it
Replayability: Hell no