X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Uncaged Edition (Video Game)
Reviewed by Adam McCabe
Available for Xbox 360 (reviewed here), Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, PC
Developed and Published by Activision
So the film's been out and seen its share of fan rage for the heartless mistreatment of beloved characters (*cough* Deadpool *cough*), and the general public have recognized it for the cash-in that it is. It was a business proposition: A set-up for future movies based on other beloved characters that they hopefully won't butcher. Knock-on-wood. Now that the dust has settled, I think it's high-time I review the piece of media that is getting better press than the film itself, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the video game. Is it the movie-based triumph we've been begging for, or is it as painful as an adamantium claw to the face? The truth is, it’s a little of both.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a tough game to review. This really is the Wolverine game we've all been waiting for. The action sequences are over-the-top, the gameplay is solid and the gore (by the buckets) is off-the-charts. You and your buddies will be playing this slash-fest and more-than-occasionally throw your hands into the air and scream "WHY THE HELL didn't that happen in the movie!?" Logan picks goons up, impales them on spikes, jumps from chopper-to-chopper grabbing pilots and throwing them into the spinning blades. Every bit of bloody torture you've ever wanted to see Wolverine do to another human being is at your fingertips … and it's oh-so-sweet and precisely why this is being reviewed for Dread Central!
The story is much like the film, but has a little more of a "Tarantino" narrative. Logan tells the story, jumping back-and-forth from his brutal days in the jungle before the Weapon-X project to his escape from the infamous facility and onward.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from much of the same plunders that other movie-games do. You know what I'm talking about … "Oh no, our chopper crashed! I guess I'm going to have to traverse this massive temple filled with giant lava creatures in order to reach my pals on the other side!" C'mon Wolverine.....couldn't you just go around it? On the other hand, the over-the-top presentation and execution adds a sort-of charm to the story and feels more akin to the comics than the film.
If there's one thing that shines in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it's the gameplay. Activision, with their Tony-hawk-like zen, got the arcade-slasher-combo thing down to a science. Combat (for the most part) relies on three options: light attacks, heavy attacks, and grabs. All of these are executed with a single button press, but never feel like a "masher". If you know how to work the controller like a fiddle and execute combos correctly, it shows in the fluidity of your combat. Now, the most-awesome of all of Logan's attacks is the lunge, which allows our growling hero to quickly close the distance between him and an enemy by flying through the air and digging his claws into their chest. Not only can Wolverine dispatch enemies via his variety of attacks, he can also use the environment to his advantage, such as impaling foes on spikes. WIN! As you attack, a rage meter begins to build up and when full, allows him to unleash more insane, arse-kicking attacks such as the claw spin and a berserker mode. Think "BERSERKER BARRAGE!!" from Marvel vs. Capcom 2 ... only in real-life.
Visually, Wolverine is a mixed bag. The graphics vary from drop-dead gorgeous to bland and repetitive. One moment you'll be traversing beautifully detailed jungle landscapes. In the next level, you'll be trudging down cloned metal hallways. While the contrast between levels feels welcome, some of the more critical elements to the game just feel rushed -- like "Enter The Matrix" rushed.
How come I can mow down swarms of baddies, blood gushing from every orifice (except in the Wii version which has little to no bloodshed or cool effects), but the moment I violently pull the head off of a giant mutant, it's as clean as my teeth (when I decide to brush them)? Things like that tend to lower a score and take the player out of the experience. I'll be honest though, the gameplay more than makes up for any lack of graphical tomfoolery (I love that word) from which this game may suffer.
My favorite element of the game involves Wolverine's mutant ability to heal himself on-the-fly. Since our boy can't die, he's constantly regenerating himself and you actually SEE his wounds heal as you continue this one-man war. The collision detection is spot-on. Wounds appear where he gets sliced or shot … a terrific addition that, while entirely unnecessary, enhances the experience significantly.
Unfortunately, all the amazing elements of this game are directly countered by the game's desire to keep that "arcade hack-n-slash" feeling. While the constant onslaught of similar enemies feels great for the first few hours, I eventually found the entirety of the game to be just that: A constant onslaught of similar enemies. There's very little variation in Origins Wolverine once you've slaughtered your way through a few levels and you'll find yourself taking on clone-upon-clone (literally) of "giant Wendigo mutants" or "lava creatures". It's as if Activision expected the game to utilize the terrific gameplay to carry the whole weight of the experience and it just DOESN'T. Sure there are action-RPG-esque modifications that can be made to Wolverine in order to enhance his attack-power and skill-set, but that's about it.
What this game does correctly, it does above-and-beyond the call of duty and makes it worth (at least) a single play-through by any gamer worth his weight in blood and guts. I had a blast chopping through a ton of baddies and for the first time, I actually FELT like I was playing the beloved character. I just wish there was more variation, especially considering this is such a long game (for a hack-n-slasher). If they take care of those problems, the next Wolverine game will be incredible. They already have a solid engine, and a perfect control scheme. Until then, I'll keep my fingers crossed.
4 out of 5
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