Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tech: X-Men Origins - Wolverine

One of the most consistently poor subcategories of video games is the movie tie-in game. The tie-in game's release must coincide with the release of the movie, leading to rushed and unfinished games. Similarly, development of the game itself might be handled by a less-capable developer, with the publishers hoping that the popularity of the license will make up for the lack of talent in the creation department. Finally, the plot or structure of the movie itself may put undue constraints on designers.

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" serves as both a counter-example and a confirmation of this general trend:

"Wolverine" is a "God of War" clone, containing all the violence and action you expect when a main character wields adamantium-laced claws. You guide Wolverine through a number of environments where he slashes enemies to bits, sometimes for fairly flimsy reasons. As you go, you gain experience and level up, enabling more and deadlier claw attacks. It's not as good as "God of War" (mainly because Wolverine's claws limit the variety of the attacks you can pull off), but overall it's fun.

In a break from the norm, the game was developed by Raven Software, which handled the 2006 hit "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance." They're an experienced, veteran development studio responsible for many good games, so it's odd they were chosen for this work. Additionally, it's pretty clear the game had a decent-sized budget - nice fully-rendered cutscenes, detailed environments, and a level of interface polish that most licensed don't even come close to.

The problems with "Wolverine" stem from (surprise, surprise) the movie itself, in particular the nonsensical ending sequence. The best part of the game (a fight with Gambit in and around a high-rise casino) is almost immediately followed by the worst part (a "climactic" battle with an uninteresting boss). Just further proof that game developers know more about story and pacing than most people give them credit for.

Rating: 80/100


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