For gamers with more than a few years of experience under their belts, the movie tie-in game is the butt of many jokes. With a programming schedule that's been accelerated and truncated from the norm, the gameplay experience always suffers in the name of getting the game to market in time for the film's theatrical release. Some games don't even have the heart to put in good controls, graphics or sound, helping to generalize the notion that most movie tie-ins range from mediocre to terrible, with only a few titles bucking the trend. Since almost every licensed title goes multiplatform, the experience worsens once you play the game on a system that isn't exactly the top of the line.
Two years ago, Sega released the Iron Man game to coincide with the movie, and while the movie was great, the same could not be said for the video game, which had a myriad of problems, such as average graphics and uninspiring gameplay. With this year's sequel, the developers have once again been tasked with making a game that would erase the bad memories of the first title and be thought of as a quality title among other movie games, such as GoldenEye, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. Unfortunately, Iron Man 2 only reinforces the ideals from the first game while making a few mistakes of its own.
Unlike other movie tie-in games, the plot in the video game isn't directly associated with the film's plot. In fact, the story can be treated as a sequel of sorts that happens to be written by one of the authors of the current comic, Matt Fraction. Despite that pedigree, the story is more cut-and-dried than you would expect. A break-in at the Stark data archives has resulted in a chunk of data being stolen regarding JARVIS, Tony Stark's butler and self-aware AI program. Fearing that the data could be dangerous in the wrong hands, Iron Man and War Machine, along with the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D., try to find the company responsible for the data theft. They soon discover that the theft is not only linked to a paramilitary Russian separatist group but also a former employee of Stark Industries who's determined to build the ultimate weapon from a fusion of man and machine. A superhero's job is never done, so you must stop them before the stolen data is used to power up the dangerous new weapons.
With the exception of a few missions, Iron Man 2 lets you choose between using Iron Man or War Machine, and while the descriptions and weapon layouts may differ, they both play in the same manner. Each hero has a loadout of four different weapons at his disposal that can be used in just about any situation or swapped out for two other weapons. Iron Man is the only one with the unibeam and repulsor blasts and War Machine has the Gatling gun, but both have access to shotguns, laser cannons and other explosive ordnance. Aside from projectiles, both heroes have the ability to deflect missiles and deal melee damage. At the end of each level, the player's performance (in terms of objects destroyed and the amount of damage taken) is translated into points, which can then be used to research different gun upgrades, modifications and ammunition types. That performance also determines if a new suit from the comic series is unlocked, though the suit selection will only apply to Iron Man and not War Machine.
Iron Man 2 suffers from a myriad of technical and non-technical problems, which become readily apparent after the first level of the game. For starters, the concept of being invincible is taken a bit too far this time around. With all of that firepower at your disposal and the ability to deflect missiles with a simple button push, the game never becomes difficult, and on the normal difficulty level, your character won't die until toward the end of the game. The upgrade system is an excellent idea considering Iron Man's background, but you never feel as if you should use it because the default weaponry is good enough to kill everyone but the final boss. Even then, the upgrades don't make much of a difference to your weaponry.
Because of the somewhat-broken upgrade system, the combat never feels engaging despite the game's shift to more outdoor fights. Combat only begins to feel personal when engaging in melee attacks, but that gets downplayed because of their slow delivery. For the most part, you'll feel like only using the projectile weapons. The Wii iteration isn't a complete carbon copy of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. With the exception of a few mandatory flying levels, most of your combat is ground-based. You will still have flying abilities, but it really is limited to hovering. This helps avoid the camera issues that the other consoles had, but it also feels like both heroes are neutered, and for a game focused on a superhero, a reduction in abilities isn't something that one really wants.
The biggest crime committed by this game is its length. There are only eight chapters in the campaign, and the average time for the game turns out to be between three and four hours. You have the option to play the campaign levels again with the different suits or characters, but the changes range are insignificant (the story doesn't change whether you play as Iron Man or War Machine, but a few lines of dialogue are modified) or purely cosmetic (choosing between the various unlocked Iron Man suits). With no other modes available, the game loses its charm once the end credits start to roll.
There seems to be more care taken with Iron Man 2's sounds this time around. The score is varied, going for a mix between licensed instrumental metal and pieces mimicking the film's score, and it works rather well, considering the source material and amount of destruction. To that end, the effects turn out great. Metal clanging on metal sounds clean, while the expected explosions come out loudly. However, some effects don't play at times, and there isn't a sound effect to let you know that you've died on the field. As for voices, the actors did a good job here. Both Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson come through with great performances, while the other actors certainly hold their own, especially the sound-alike for Robert Downey, Jr. With the game's other issues, it's good to know that sound isn't one of them.
The graphics have improved since the last title, but not by much. The character animations look fine, though the frame rate is pretty slow and solid. The characters and enemies sport a nice shine, and while both Iron Man and War Machine look fine, the enemies range from mediocre to a graphical mess of shiny metal. The environments look basic, with some textures coming out stretched and blurry, but the particle effects are fine. The cut scenes are also interesting from a graphical standpoint, as they're a mix between the in-game graphics, in-game cinematics from the more advanced consoles, and still shots of the actors during their audio recording sessions. With more loading screens than the other versions, the graphics in the Wii iteration could have been better optimized.
The controls are the other differentiating factor between the Wii version and the other home consoles. Someone who's used to controls in most third-person games on the Wii will be fine here. The Wii Remote controls the camera and aiming reticle, and the analog stick controls movement. Both A and B buttons fire weaponry, C is your boost, and Z locks on to the enemy. It all controls fine, as long as you want to keep your distance and blow stuff up. Things become awkward once you decide to initiate a melee attack since that is done with the flick of the Nunchuk. It doesn't feel very natural, and with the attacks as slow as they are, melee isn't something you would really do throughout the game.
Iron Man 2 for the Wii is another example of how a movie tie-in game can go horribly wrong. It isn't a very technically sound title, as issues with the controls and graphics bring attention to the game's lack of polish. Very few of the missions end up being fun, and few upgrades seem to alter the game at all. The overall length hurts the title severely, as it is one of the shortest retail titles in recent memory, making it an easy candidate for rental-only status. Even then, that recommendation should only be given to die-hard Iron Man fans, as everyone else will come away very unsatisfied with the finished product.
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