Game Review - X-Men Origins: Wolverine is better than the crappy movie of the same name

Not that this is a great game. But it is a solid, fun game. It is in fact the mindless, popcorn munching, goes-down-easy kind of entertainment the movie was hoping it would be. You play as Wolverine; only the game version is an order of magnitude more bloody than the neutered film version. From the opening cut scene you're shoving claws through heads and dismembering people.

This is a third-person action game, with Wolverine having a few different claw slash combos and then special moves that unlock as you progress through the game (most of them variations on spinning around very fast and cutting up everything near you). But the game's best mechanic is The Lunge. A quick button press locks you onto an enemy who can be all the way across the screen. Another press sends Wolverine flying across the screen at the poor bastard, claws first. It's especially rewarding when used against someone in mid-flight, since you bring them crashing to the ground with six holes in their chest. You can also use environmental kills (spikes, trees, electrical panels) and some simple quick-time combo insta-death moves (like forcing a guy's shotgun up to his chin and pulling the trigger). There's plenty of variety and it all just feels so very Wolverine, that I never got tired of the fighting.

The other parts are where the game falls down a bit. There is some platforming and some mild puzzle solving. A large part of the game is a flashback that takes place in Africa and involves playing Tomb Raider. There are the obligatory ancient ruins with complicated death traps and massive pillars that rise and fall when pushed in the right order. The platforming is not precise enough in this game to warrant these puzzles, and I got quite frustrated once or twice. They feel like filler to me. That said, there is a cool puzzle where you have to maneuver a giant robot hand with a laser on it into position so you can blast something, and that was fun. So the puzzles are a mixed bag, but they definitely take second place to the combat, so they're not too awful.

Then there's the story. It's good enough, except where it quotes directly from the movie and becomes unbearable. The ending is still pretty crappy, too. Where the game works is in the middle when, in the classic tradition of movie-based video games, they expand small scenes into hours of game play. Sometimes this just feels like a silly attempt to stretch out a silly plot point (I'm looking at you Gambit in New Orleans – the game's worst level). Other times, when the game draws on the comic books instead of the movie for its plot, it gets really interesting (Bolivar Trask and the creation of the Sentinels). The set pieces taken from the movie are the worst in the game, especially the game's final, lame, boring, tedious battle (it's hard to say which version was worse). The end teases a sequel game that, as far as I know has no connection to any movie in the works. It looks like it would be a helluva fun game though, so I hope we get that instead of another crappy X-Men movie.

Here's a sentence you don't see very often: “The video game is better than the movie.”

Most of the time movie-based games are rush jobs, made to cash in on whatever success the movie might have at the box office. They have a low shelf-life and even lower expectations among gamers. Most of the time, they're a safe bet to avoid. But what about when the movie's really bad (like X-Men Origins: Wolverine)? Will the game be that much worse, or will it manage to overcome its nasty origins and work as a good game all on its own?

In this case, it's absolutely clear that it's the movie pulling the game down, and not the other way around. I can say with some confidence that the vast majority of the problems I had with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (the game) are directly related to story and plot elements they were saddled with from the film. Whenever the game developers had freedom or pushed boundaries, the game excelled.

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