Before you scroll to the bottom of this article and find your expected movie game score, let it be known that I am a huge Iron Man fan. I absolutely adore Iron Man in his comic and movie forms. As far as "Iron Man 2" is concerned, I risked my health for that movie. I went to a midnight screening of "Iron Man 2" while I was running a 103-degree fever and my nose was leaking like a faucet. I love Iron Man that much. With all that said, Iron Man 2 on the PSP falls short of the low standard set by movie games. The prequel was better, and your money will probably be better spent on buying the movie when it comes out on Blu-ray or DVD.
As a starting point, it's difficult to even justify the title of the game. Iron Man 2 on the PSP doesn't even acknowledge that the movie events have occurred. Over the course of the game, you'll take on a multitude of enemies from the comics, but not once is there a mention of anything from the "Iron Man 2" film. It's assumed that the game takes place sometime after the movie, as both Iron Man and War Machine are present. Most of the appeal of movie games — and the reason people keep buying them — is that they can play through the movie and interact with their favorite set pieces from the film. Because of that aspect, I've enjoyed some movie games in the past, such as Matrix: Path of Neo. This game would be more accurately titled Iron Man and War Machine vs. Ultimo and Crimson Dynamo.
Well, the lack of a movie tie-in isn't completely true. The game uses the likenesses of most of the movie characters (with the bizarre omission of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow), and a couple of the film actors actually lend their voices to the game. This is neat and all, but Don Cheadle really sounds like he's phoning in most of his lines, and although Samuel L. Jackson does an amazing job in the role of Nick Fury, his character is such a minor one that his screen time is kept to a minimum. Thankfully, all of the sound-alike actors do a great job. The sound-alike for Robert Downey, Jr., actually delivered a better performance than Cheadle.
That's not to say that the presentation is very good. The story is decently written but extremely difficult to follow, and I'm still not entirely sure how I got from weather control to stealing Jarvis from Tony Stark and putting it in a giant robot, but that's one of the plots. Most of the story is delivered in the cheapest imaginable way by simply having character stills accompanied by some dialogue. There are a few cut scenes that use the in-game graphics engine, but they tend to look a bit awkward, as everything has been scaled down from the Wii iteration, resulting in lots of little missing details. The dialogue doesn't even mask the load time for the actual gameplay; you sit there for up to a minute waiting for the game to load. There's not even a proper ending. Cheadle's final line is cut off mid-sentence, and then you're spit out into the main menu.
Iron Man 2 has two distinctly different modes of operating. There are the traditional third-person shooter sections of gameplay and a few on-rails sections. The third-person shooter sections take up the majority of gameplay, which is disappointing because it's not much fun. The first game was a more open action title, but Iron Man 2 has been reduced to a corridor crawler. This is not what you expect Tony Stark to be doing. He's running slowly, blasting away dozens of goons who are armed with assault rifles and determined to end his life. It's not the least bit challenging, as very few enemies are capable of inflicting any serious damage, and the control scheme for these sections is so clunky that it's painful to play. Games like this make a very strong case for systems needing a second analog stick. At the very least, it would have been nice to have the option to change the control scheme.
As Tony runs through the environments (with a very limited amount of hovering ability), you control his movement with the analog stick and his actions with the face buttons. Thankfully, there's a lock-on system built in the massive targeting reticle, so you don't have to be particularly precise, but it's such a poorly done system that it feels wonky and awkward. It gets even more awkward when you change weapons. Pressing two buttons at the same time to change a weapon is absolutely unacceptable in a modern game, especially when it's such an awkward button combination that you have to stop moving to accomplish it. Every time I changed weapons in the game, I had to think about whether it was worth soaking up bullets for a couple of seconds.
There are only three kinds of foot soldiers that attack you over the course of the game, two kinds of power drones, two types of helicopters, a few bosses and a tank. The enemies pose almost no challenge, never do anything but stand there or move toward you, and the level design doesn't bring anything remotely interesting to the table. The gameplay mechanics don't make you feel the least bit like Iron Man. If one were to re-skin the game with the playable character being a marine with a rifle instead of a repulsar laser on each hand, I'd have no problem believing that was how the game was originally designed.
It's unfortunate that the on-rails sections — the only fun gameplay component — only comprise about 10 percent of the game. For a short while, the title pretends that it's Space Harrier and delivers some fun that makes you feel like you're actually Iron Man. You fly around at the speed of sound, high off the ground and blowing up anything that dares to stand in your way. It's during these extremely brief sections of gameplay that you feel unstoppable. While the controls remain as clunky as ever, you can put aside those poor controls and enjoy the fun break from the uninspired tedium of the rest of the game.
One of the most disappointing aspects of Iron Man 2 ends up being the visuals. Aside from the low-quality cardboard cutout style of presentation, the in-game graphics suffer as well. This was developed by the same guys who did Conduit on the Wii, and this game is a scaled-down version of the Wii title, so Iron Man 2 on the PSP uses Conduit's engine. Now, Conduit was not a good-looking game on its native console, so it won't produce stellar results when the engine, which already provides underwhelming visuals, is scaled down for a less powerful system. Textures are muddy, and characters that are supposed to have a metallic shine look like they're covered in oil. Explosions don't have any oomph, sound effects lag behind, and when more than five enemies are on-screen at once, the game chugs and the frame rate is in the single digits. Environments have some light destruction, but it's all canned stuff.
At four hours of poor presentation, subpar visuals, and uninspired gameplay, I wouldn't recommend Iron Man 2 for the PSP to even the most avid Iron Man fan. There are better ways to spend your money. This is a quick and dirty port of a Wii game that suffers from being ported down to a system with awkward controls and substantially less power. If you need to get your Iron Man fix, this is not the way to do it. I'd suggest Marvel: Ultimate Alliance or Marvel vs. Capcom, and the movies are certainly a better way to spend your money than this PSP offering.
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