The past few weeks have been kind to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Activision has done a bang-up job getting this game onto the old radar of the internets, and we discovered today that the game deserves it. That’s great praise for a comic-book-to-game adaptation; AMAZING praise for a movie-to-game adaptation!
We were lucky enough to be invited into a special playtest hosted this week by Activision at their offices in Santa Monica. They gave us an excellent rundown of the game’s mechanics, and then turned us loose on the game, giving us about one and a half hours of playtime – which positively flew by.
While the film is certainly poised to be a strong contender for summer movie champion, the game has been a footnote for a bit of time. See, the simple hurdle that this piece faces is the age-old question (some would say conundrum at this point ): Could a licensed movie tie-in game be worth anything at all? So often done quick and dirty, the answer is almost always no. Well, we’re happy to report that publisher Activision and developer Raven Software (crafters of the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series ) have lovingly crafted an exception.
As soon as the demo booted up, it was clear that this game has been in the oven for a time, and that it’s got style to spare. Wolverine is blown out of a helicopter somewhere in Africa, he smashes to the ground, and soon is ripping through waves of resistance. The presenters were quick to show us the myriad moves at the player’s disposal, and they were varied and mostly quite visually keen. Simple combos initially available really showed off the game’s ability to effectively capture the feeling of the delicious balletic violence we crave in this post-Matrix world. Most interesting at first glance was the lunge maneuver, wherein Wolvie leaps dozens of feet to quickly dispatch opponents via a simple targeting system. Straight-ahead, up or down cliffs, or as a means of travel from one perch to the next, the lunge is a great-looking mechanic.
Next, we got to see some of the game’s other features like the Rage Meter, which enables a variety of beefy super-moves. Finally, we were treated to an epic boss battle between Wolvie and a giant Sentinel. Oh yeah. The fight was pretty epic, and it had a satisfying conclusion (after some hilarious trial-and-error on the part of one of the designers!).
Getting our hands on the game proved to be very nearly as exciting as watching it unfold on the demo screen. The controls took a few minutes to get used to, but soon, we were having those fully audible “Oh yeah!” moments after dispatching some grunts in true Wolverine fashion. Raven has thrown in enough bells and whistles at the start to get you very excited about feeling like you’re ACTUALLY pulling off Wolverine’s moves in a fashion befitting of a top-tier game release. Raven’s promises to bring us a worthy Wolverine look like they’ll hold up through the game’s length, too, as there’s a leveling system in place that allows you to power up his moves during the game, and unlock new ones, to boot.
So, to what game might one compare this one, based off initial impressions? Weeeeeell, God of War might be a good place to start! In fact, in our hands, the game seemed to strike many a similar note. Let’s put on our own Developer’s Cap here for a minute, though, and consider the options. If you were making a Wolverine game fit for today’s action game marketplace, where better to start than the blood-soaked stones of Kratos’s Mount Olympus? In fact, I’m pretty sure I thought I heard its name invoked by one of the Activision reps in the room as I clawed my way through a new wave of enemies:
Rep: “I remember when God of War 1 came out –“
Me (taking off my headphones): “Did you just say God of War?”
Me: “Did you just say God of War?..”
Rep (looking away, a slight smirk growing on his face ): “I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
We’ll see how much the game carries on that vibe once we play through the review copy in its entirety, but regardless, we’re sure that Activision has a real winner on its hands here. Raven has brought us a quality title, two and a half years in the making, and it’s going to make Wolverine fans and action game fans pretty happy.
(Note that the version of the game we played was the “Uncaged” edition of the game, developed for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC platforms. The game will be released on virtually every other console, but as different builds by different developers.)