The usual procedure for multiplatform games is for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 SKUs to receive the most attention while the Wii gets a scaled-down version. The level of scaling usually ranges from the expected graphical downgrades to the loss of some game mechanics. In the end, Wii owners end up on the short end of the stick while PS3 and Xbox 360 owners get the proper game. Very rarely does the Wii get its own measure of revenge, but thanks to the efforts of Liquid Entertainment, that time has come. While Thor: God of Thunder on the Wii was a decent rental, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions underdeliver in every possible way.
The game carves out its own plot instead of borrowing elements of the movie. The land of Asgard is under attack by the frost giants of Ymir, and as Thor, son of Odin, it's your responsibility to stop them. As expected, you defeat them but at a terrible cost, as you fail to save Sif, one of your better soldiers. Filled with grief and anger, you demand to start war with Ymir but are banned from doing so by your father. With the help of your brother Loki, you get the revenge you seek, but you pay the price by awakening the Mangog, a living weapon created by Odin that has gone mad with rage. You take it upon yourself to stop the weapon before it's too late.
If you're familiar with the Thor character, you won't be surprised to learn that the game is a brawler, pure and simple. You also won't be surprised to learn that it takes a few pages from some other recent adventure games. You'll spend a majority of your time bashing enemies into a pulp while earning experience points. You'll also defeat bosses and large enemies in Quick Time Events (QTE) that are pretty interesting to watch despite the lack of blood. You start off with some weak and strong attacks, such as a lightning stun and the ability to throw your hammer, but you can also use your gained experience to buy new moves, increase your stamina meter, and increase your special move meter, which is powered by Odin Force.
Thor: God of Thunder lacks much when it comes to combat. You have a basic attack in addition to amplified attacks that require some Odin Force. You can unleash some default combos, and you can obtain more combos with experience points. The problem with all of these combos is that no matter what you unleash, none seem more powerful or devastating than the other. When you see that one long, complicated combo is roughly taking away the same amount of health as mashing on the X button, you won't feel inspired to learn anything the game wants to teach you.
There is one addition that the development team made to the combat system, and that's the use of grapple. At certain times during a fight against larger creatures or at any time during a fight against smaller creatures, you can grab him to unleash a cool-looking move and some devastating damage. Unlike other games, though, the type of button being hit for a grapple can determine if you're earning Odin Force, experience points or health once the enemy has been defeated. It's an interesting mechanic that works fairly well for smaller enemies.
Once you use it against larger enemies and bosses, though, problems begin to emerge. The timing window to implement these attacks is rather small, so indecision leads to the enemy breaking out of the combo and dealing damage to you. Because of that, you'll often button-mash to ensure you'll get the move done right. Even then, there will be times when your constant mashing still misses the window of opportunity. Also, button and direction prompts are hard to see on-screen since they are either displayed in a small scale at the corner of the screen or displayed with a color that bleeds into the background, making difficult fights even more challenging to handle. Finally, when it comes to bosses, you have to be at a specific spot in order to initiate the grapple. Like the grapple attacks with large enemies, the trigger area for the grapple is small, and with some bosses recovering from the stun attack rather quickly, the fights often last longer than they should.
There are other technical issues that plague the title. The hit detection system is off, though it favors the enemy more than the player. Every enemy-initiated attack hits you, but some of your combo hits barely make the enemy flinch even though you're up close. At times, there isn't even a visual indication that you have been hit. A good example of this is the first boss fight you encounter. Often, you'll be at the side or behind the boss flailing away when you see the monster attack. Even though you aren't in range of the animations, you'll shift positions and lose some energy. Considering that a position shift usually means a dodged attack, it may take players a few tries to realize that those movements mean they were hit. Another sticking point comes from the ability to traverse long chasms with a hammer jump. Like grappling, you need to stand at a very specific spot for the jumping ability to occur, resulting in plenty of spot-hunting in order to continue fighting. In short, there are enough caveats and broken elements in gameplay to steer people far away from the title.
It is also interesting to see the Wii version trump the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions when it comes to content. Only the story mode is available in the HD console versions — and even then, the story is missing the flying sequences that helped break up the monotony in the Wii version. Concept art is missing, and there's nothing similar to a combat arena in this iteration. Even the episode of "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" featuring Thor is nowhere to be found. With the only extra being an unlocked difficulty level, it's easy to feel like players who purchase this version are simply paying more money for less content.
Unlike other versions of the game, the controls aren't as tight as you would expect. As mentioned earlier, the hit detection system is fickle, so expect lots of button-mashing throughout the game. This also applies to areas with specific spots that you need to target in order for the move to be used, so mashing on non-attack buttons should also be expected. Jumping feels sluggish, causing you to fall off platforms several times because the game failed to read your button press. Even menu navigation feels overly complicated, especially in the leveling menu, where you have to hold a direction to enter a category; it gets very precise when it comes to selecting which element you want to upgrade. About the only thing that works well is character movement, and when that's the most praise that can be given to a game's controls, you know something is very wrong.
For a game using the power of Unreal Engine 3, it's difficult to see where that power is utilized. The environments are nicely textured but come with some dull colors, and some higher-resolution textures fail to load at all. By default, the camera is too low to the ground, often resulting in an obscured view because a creature decided to stand in front of it. Human characters don't seem to carry the trademark features of an Unreal Engine 3 game, so while things like cape textures look fine, skin looks bland and armor has very few details. The enemies you encounter in each level look decent enough, but there is a lack of variety, as you only seem to encounter two or three similar-looking types at a time. Mouth animations look decent, as do normal attack and walking animations, but don't expect to see any smooth transitions. You should expect to see some polygon stretching and tearing, though, especially with Thor's cape and tight camera angles. All of this wrapped up in a package featuring low frame rates and a lack of antialiasing; it's certainly a poor display of the graphics engine.
The sound is quite messy in the PS3 and X360 versions. The voices for Thor and Loki were good in the Wii iteration mostly because the narration was solid and the dialogue wasn't heard much except in battle. With a full script of dialogue and very little narration in the HD console SKUs, the voice work has taken a nose dive in quality. Both Thor and Loki seem fine, but the performances by the enemies and allies feel lackadaisical. The effects have some bad balancing to them. Footsteps and explosions seem loud enough to drown out any dialogue and music, with the opening level showcasing the bad quality of the sound production. By the time you reach the second world, you begin to appreciate the quiet moments since they don't assault your ears as badly as the rest of the game. About the only good thing to come from the sound is the music, which isn't as repetitive as the Wii version; it's still good enough evoking the sense of participating in an epic adventure.
Thor: God of Thunder is a reminder to players of how licensed titles can be quite lackluster. Bad sound balancing, unresponsive controls, and less than mediocre graphics make for a game that feels like it was released prematurely. The delivery of the plot is ham-fisted and the lack of alternate gameplay modes is disappointing. The combat, however, is the most baffling aspect since it is simply poorly executed. If you're a fan of the movie or comic book character, go with any of the offerings on either Nintendo system, as those games are satisfying to some degree. Stay as far away from the PS3 and X360 versions as you can.
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