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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PC, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Studios / Amaze Entertainment

About Brad Hilderbrand

I've been covering the various facets of gaming for the past five years and have been permanently indentured to WorthPlaying since I borrowed $20K from Rainier to pay off the Russian mob. When I'm not furiously writing reviews, I enjoy RPGs, rhythm games and casual titles that no one else on staff is willing to play. I'm also a staunch supporter of the PS3.

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PS3/X360 Review - 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'

by Brad Hilderbrand on May 25, 2009 @ 12:04 p.m. PDT

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, based on 20th Century Fox's upcoming movie, enlists players to experience the tormented origins of Wolverine, from his escape of the Weapon X facility to the jungles of Africa and beyond.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: May 1, 2009

You may go ahead and take all of your preconceived notions about movie games and throw them out the window because we finally have a title that will make you believe that a game that shares its name and characters with a film doesn't inherently have to suck. After spending a solid 10 hours slashing, clawing, slicing and dicing foes, I can confidently say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is easily one of the best movie games I've ever played, and it stands up exceptionally well when compared to other titles without a Hollywood pedigree.

First off, Raven Software deserves major kudos for making a game based on Wolverine that doesn't neuter one of Marvel's most visceral superheroes. Since Logan has what are essentially giant, indestructible, razor-sharp knives protruding from his skin, it stands to reason that when he hits somebody with them, the results are going to be nasty. Previous games featuring the character treated Wolverine's claws like they were made of foam, requiring a ton of hits to down a foe and not bothering to show the bloody effects of adamantium to the face. This game, however, changes all that, and when Logan takes a swipe at an enemy, that foe is likely to lose an arm, leg, head or even end up cut in half. Wolverine has always been a truly badass character, and this game finally captures it.

As you would expect, the ability to plow through roomfuls of enemies and leave nothing behind but a blood-soaked trail is an incredibly fun experience. The game's controls are simple, with two buttons controlling light and heavy attacks and any combination of the two allowing you to string together some awesome combo moves. On top of that, there are also special rage attacks that, when you fill the meter, allow Wolverine to become an even more dangerous killing machine, if that's even possible. Logan also has a great lunge attack, which allows him to leap through the air and take down faraway foes who may think they're safe because they've got space and a gun. Unfortunately for them, the last thing they'll ever see is a human missile with six razor-sharp warheads coming straight at their chest.

The best of all the moves at your disposal, though, is easily the quick kill, which requires you to grab an enemy and then use a heavy attack with the correct timing. Success leads to a very short animation where Logan dispatches the foe in a particularly nasty way, including putting a claw right through the baddie's brain or turning an enemy's shotgun against him and pulling the trigger right in his face. This game doesn't shy away from violence in the slightest, and it earns every ounce of its M rating.

Aside from his ferocious claws, Wolverine is also renowned for his rapid healing ability. Anyone who has read the comics or seen the movies knows that Logan's adamantium skeleton is practically indestructible, and his mutant healing powers allow him to shrug off that which would kill even the heartiest mortal. The game handles the question of how to deal with an unkillable hero quite eloquently by including two health bars. The first bar is considered to be Logan's exterior: his clothes, skin, muscle and bone. This bar is quite long and refills fairly rapidly once the fighting dies down. The other bar represents the character's vital organs, and this one is considerably shorter and refills more slowly. While Wolverine can take a ton of punishment before he dies, he's not totally indestructible, thereby maintaining a degree of challenge. It's a great solution, and one that doesn't resort to dumb gimmicks, except at one point early in the game when you lose your regenerative powers for a time, but thankfully, that doesn't last too long.

While X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse, Logan's regenerative skills do lead to one neat visual trick that you'll likely spend a lot of time ogling. As Wolverine takes damage, the effects of the attacks show visibly on his body. Get riddled with bullets, and you'll see bullet holes scattered around your flesh; take a machete to the chest, and there's a sizable gash down the middle of your body. Absorb enough punishment, and you'll notice Logan's ribs, spine or even skull poking through the bits of dangling flesh. While this would have been impressive enough on its own, the really cool thing is what happens next. As Logan's health regenerates, so does his body, and you can zoom in the camera and watch as the muscle grows back over the bone and skin forms to cover up the muscle. It's all done in real time as you're moving about in the world, so at any time, you can just stop and observe as Logan's body patches itself up and he goes back to work.

Rounding out the game's features are a light character leveling system and some scattered collectibles that keep this from simply being a game of "run forward, kill bad guys, run forward some more." As you level up you can distribute skill points to various attributes from health, claw damage and rage abilities, and killing enough of a certain enemy type raises your attributes against those particular foes. Also placed throughout the game are mutagens that you can equip to permanently raise certain stats, as well as statues that allow you to unlock classic Wolverine costumes. The treasure hunting is nicely balanced with the combat, so you don't have to worry about going way out of your way to find these extra items; they're normally either hidden in plain sight or tucked ever-so-slightly out of the way so you can grab them with a quick detour.

While there is a lot to love about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, no title is without its faults, and this one has a few that manage to put a damper on the entire package. First up is the fact that the game is far more repetitive than it needs to be, and it feels like while the developers were trying to make the game varied throughout, they just didn't go quite far enough. For example, there are two mini-bosses, the Leviathan and the Wendigo, which you'll fight well over a dozen times throughout the course of the game. The first or second time you fight these foes, they can be intimidating and fearsome, but after a while, you grow tired of the same old dodge, lunge and attack pattern of events that dictates each of these fights. While you get some truly great boss battles against the likes of Sabertooth, Deadpool and a 250-foot prototype Sentinel, the constant parade of sameness apart from these moments is somewhat boring.

I also experienced quite a few moments of lag and slowdown, and even instances when the game would completely stop and the word "Streaming…" would appear on-screen. This issue can mostly be alleviated by installing the game on the X360's hard drive, but doing so is a pain for anyone and impossible for those without enough free space. Installing a game should make it run smoother, but all titles should be able to run just fine on a disc without having to completely stop the action and stream the data.

The final fault of the title is confusing storytelling which, if you haven't seen the movie, won't make a lot of sense. The game loosely follows the film, borrowing lines of dialogue and major characters, but it also jumps around into Logan's past and parallel events that didn't happen in the movie. Locales are changed, story elements are tweaked and characters' motivations are changed, so overall it can be kind of tough to keep track of what exactly is happening. But hey, you probably don't care about why Wolverine is killing everyone; you're just happy that he's doing it and you're in control.

None of my complaints should sway you away from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though, as it's one of the rare moments when both a movie and a comic book character get a game that's done right. This one hews far closer to Spider-Man 2 than The Incredible Hulk, and it's a game that all action fans owe it to themselves to check out. Have you ever been rewarded for ripping 250 guys in half with your bare hands? You will be while playing this game, and if that's not reason enough to buy it, then I really don't know what is.

Score: 8.8/10


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