: X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition
: Raven Software
: Martin 'lost' Perry
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition Review
The movie might have been lacklustre, the movie might have done a poor job with great source material and the movie might as well have never happened but gosh and golly do Raven Software know how to make great X-Men games.
That opening comment may well make it entirely clear what my opinions of the new Wolverine movie were. As you can imagine this made me a little hesitant to pick up the game based on said movie. What put me off the most was that I couldn't see where a good game could be deviated from the source material. Raven Software have demonstrated that they, better than almost any other developer, understand superheroes and the X-Men. They have proven they can translate the super human into a playable, enjoyable game character and it was based on the pedigree of 'X-Men Legends' and 'Marvel Ultimate Alliance' that I took the plunge.
I am extremely glad I did. 'Wolverine' is a fantastic licensed game that demonstrates the best of what the developer is known for. The game, while based on the movie, drastically changes the story in order to support more interesting locales, loads of dismemberment and a variety of gameplay challenges. These changes actually present a narrative which is far better representation of the character you know and love. Marc Guggenheim, a veteran writer for TV and Marvel Comics, has penned a story which ramps up the carnage and budget to the point where it surpasses its silver screen brother to deliver this summer's definitive Wolverine experience.
The game opens with a cinematic that places Wolverine in the not so distant future. Facing capture he reflects back on his past to his days with Team X and his final mission with the group while in Africa. This first location is revisited over the length of the game and provides the games strongest visuals. A bright jungle vista stretches out before you and the games platforming mechanics get to stretch their legs as you climb rocky cliffs. As the game progresses you will surmount towers which seamlessly reach into the sky. The sense of scale of these stages is particularly impressive and, although the location is perhaps a little overused, gives you a far better chance to experience Wolverine's early days as a government operative.
Africa isn't the only location you'll visit however. Wolverine's reminiscing will take you to the Weapon X facility, a similar facility cut into the obelisk rock formations of the South West of America, endless snow covered tundras and a military outpost among others. These spread of environments provides visual variety in a game which could have stuck with the far less exciting locations of the movie. The best of these is New Orleans. For those of you who haven't seen the film Wolverine travels to the city in order to track down Gambit. In the movie he stumbles across him in a dank bar; in the game he has to climb up the sides of skyscraper casinos 'Tomb Raider' style and battle him atop a giant neon sign. A giant neon sign Gambit can blow up.
You can begin to see how the game takes the bare bones of the movie and transforms them into a big budget, high excitement action game. The boss encounter with Gambit is the games best and hearing 'mon frere' will be a real delight for fans. It is odd that across battles with Blob, Sabretooth (or Creed as he is called here) and everybody's favorite gambler that the game manages to tell you far more about their powers, personalities and drives. There's plenty of variety here too with the Blob needing mounted like a horse and driven into the stacks of supermarket food you find him devouring. A Sentinel requires you to launch into the upper atmosphere and skydive onto his all too soft shell. These don't feel like attempts to sell more action figures but instead feel like true representations of the comic book characters Raven Software so clearly love.
Unfortunately this variety doesn't quite stretch into the games more standard enemy encounters. While the Sentinel is a 200-foot nightmare and Deadpool collapses the environment around you most of the standard enemies you face will either be punching bags or, quite simply, be able to disable one of your special moves in order to be a bit more tricky. The game features a leveling system and a set of 4 different area-style attacks open up throughout your time with the game. Combat control is broken into grabs, swift attacks and heavier finishing attacks. These three things provide the bare bones of a very limited combo system.
The game sets out the challenge of killing 2000 enemies in order to unlock a specific achievement. This is actually a fair estimation of the number of foes you will face throughout a first playthrough. With the basic combat system I have described this would be a complete chore. Fortunately Raven Software have chucked in a few neat tricks to keep things entertaining. Firstly, environment kills can be incorporated into any offensive action. As an example I used a grab to stab a foe before launching him into a spike. Very cool. Even more cool are the quick kills that allow you to execute soldiers and mutants in a particularly vicious fashion. Wolverine will rip off heads, slice bodies in half and, should he want to, throw that corpse into the protruding arms of a forklift.
While the platforming, puzzle solving and boss battles are rather obvious in their appeal the combat system relies far more on your own creativity. It's thrilling to see Wolverine do what he does best rather than the PG-13 safety of the movie however those less inclined to mix things up may quickly find themselves tired of executing quick kills. On the other hand our hero can dive at foes with a lunge attack that is used to land on giant enemies, cross massive gaps and get up close and personal with any one of the games opponents. It's a big feature and you'll find yourself leaping around with abandon at every turn - it's great fun.This is a final piece of a tricky puzzle to get the character and appeal of Wolverine just right. All of the games components come together to create the best videogame version of the mutant I have ever played.
The collectibles scattered around the level mostly allow you to alter your character setup to the point that the difficulty of the game quickly evaporates. This is no bad thing as the physical progression of Wolverine fits right in with the story. The ones you want to look out for are the action figures. After collecting two of any set you will be able to unlock the classic yellow and blue outfit, the and tan and orange outfit and even the red-eyed all-grey X-Force outfit. Allowing the player to unlock these nice and early is the masterstroke in creating a near perfect Wolverine experience. Once you have him clad in the old colors you realize that Raven has treated this less as a movie tie-in and more of an extension of their work with the Marvel license.
Visual presentation is great throughout with only a few glitches marring a game which appears to have benefited from the sort of development cycle few licensed properties ever enjoy. The music is weak unfortunately and does nothing to drum up excitement during the lengthy battles. The few CGI cutscenes are a joy to watch with some truly excellent work done in the standard cutscenes to suggest Fox should have just handed off the entire movie project to Raven Software. I genuinely didn't expect to say it but I highly recommend 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition' as a purchase. The campaign is lengthy, far outstripping the likes of Quantum of Solace in terms of value, and delivers a brilliant action game package. Good for gamers, great for fans.
Score: 4 out of 5
- A better script and a more interesting story than that presented in the movie.
- The platforming and puzzle solving sections are significant and surprising in their quality.
- Plenty of variety, great boss battles and a combat system which supports free-form thinking as opposed to dedicated combo recitation.
- The New Orleans level and subsequent Gambit boss battle are outstanding.
- A few of the level segments stretch on in a way as to obviously support more and more enemy encounters. This is where the repetition sets in.
- You'll have to retread ground and although the developers throw in new tricks it still feels like padding.
- The few glitches you may or may not experience break the game. You'll be back to the last checkpoint if an area doesn't stream quite right off of the DVD.