Monday, May 4, 2009

Uncaged Animal - X-Men Origins: Wolverine Demo Impressions


X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While everything I've heard about the movie has been overwhelmingly TERRIBLE, I'm pleased to say that the game itself is anything but. Movie licenses are really easy to screw up, and that they do with aplomb.By my estimate, about 95% of them turn out to be undercooked rush-jobs.

With this game though, I knew from the opening movie that I was in for a treat.

No more than a few seconds into the cinematic, Wolverine is bounding about, disembowling , impaling, eviscerating, and adjectives fail me, basically fucking up everyone in his way. No, really. At one point he gets a hole blown in him--literally--and he just gets back up and gives the guy a claw uppercut. Through the head.

Yep. This game's rated M.

As soon as actual gameplay started, it made no bones about getting me straight into the action, controls were very simple and God of War-esque, with the usual heavy/light/grab attack buttons front and center. As the general "test pattern" way of figuring out combos (XXY,XXX,XYY....etc) was going on in my head, I was pleased that everything coming out on screen was not only tight from a control standpoint, but from a visceral one as well. When Raven Studios said they refused to compromise Wolverine's character in this title, they weren't kidding. Every action I did either had streaks of blood, or limbs flying everywhere, occasionally in glorious slow-motion (with zoom cam!). If grunts weren't being torn apart, they were being pounded into dust, if they wern't being pounded into dust, they were being covered in claw marks and reduced to a bloody mess. The more enemies they threw at me, the more I felt like cutting loose until I was the only one left standing.

Sounds like I was in a Wolverine state of mind, no?


The rest of the demo was a similarly themed killing spree, mixing in nifty environmental kills (Press B near this spike jutting out of the ground and see what happens!), and new moves (You've leveled up! Hold Y to launch enemies into the air!) to keep me on my toes, all similarly fun to execute and experiment with at will. My favorite one however, was a technique called "Lunge".


It's exactly what it sounds (and looks) like; Logan himself shooting through the air like a torpedo with claws, launched directly into some strapping young lad's chest. Bullets and commotion be damned, I took out about 5 people in succession with this one move. How was this not regulated with a meter or power bar of some sort? How? I spared myself the questions and abused it like a cheap corner move in [insert your favorite fighting game here].

I think the highlight of my newfound ability had to have been when the helicopter came in, and the first thought that popped into my head was "I wonder if I can use Lunge on this?"

Sure enough, it worked.


I was rendered speechless as I watched Logan jump nearly 40 feet onto the helicopter, make his way to the pilot-side window, bash in the glass, yank the driver out, and hold his body up to the still-moving propellers, decapitating him and spraying blood everywhere.

Yes again.. This game is rated M.

With the kills and cinematics being the selling point however, it's a bit disappointing to admit that visually, the game leaves a bit to be desired. The camera is just a -bit- too far away for my liking (making the characters look small) and the framerate could be better considering everything the engine is NOT pushing, but the overall level of detail the game provides offsets it somewhat. It's not the greatest looking game out there, but it gets its point across nicely.

The damage modeling is also worth special mention, as it fits in perfectly with his character. Rather than going the usual BS route of limiting his healing factor to a limited powerup or a story detail that gets momentary mention, it's the crux of the game's health system. There are two layers to the damage system, one represents his outer skin, where you can continuously take damage up until a point where his vitals are exposed, then a heart meter representing this starts to go down unless you can find some cover and begin regenerating. The best part is, you get to watch this happen in real time. Everything from bullet wounds to entire missing chunks of muscle and flesh starts repairing their way back to normalcy as Wolverine's most famous ability begins filling in the gaps left by your recklessness. Cool.

Ultimately, my experience with the X-Men Origins: Wolverine demo was a fine one. (Even if they copped out by not letting me fight that boss at the end.) The visuals, overall presentation, and gameplay do a great job of not only putting you in Wolverine's shoes, but also give you the claws to cut out of them. It's also one of the rare licensed properties that make you FEEL like the character you're using. It's very easy to associate Cyclops with simple eye lasers, or The Punisher with a bunch of guns, but to actually capture the essence of your source material? It takes passion. If there's anything that worries me, it's that judging from my brief playtime, the reviewer side of me worries about the experience being repetitive. However, I can only hope Raven injected enough variety in the finished game to keep things satisfying. I'm not too sure watching Wolverine claw someone from head to crotch ever gets old though. That may be the balance.

Great stuff though. I'd have to rank this one up there with Riddick as an experience so tight, it surpasses the movie it's based on.

Ain't a bad thing at all, bub.

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