X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition
With summer comes the hot weather; a time for holidays with family and friends, playing sports down at the local park and relaxing with an ice cold drink by your side. Ironically enough, itís also the time when most of us travel down to the hot, sweaty confines of the local cinema, as Hollywood assaults our viewing tendencies with myriad big-budget blockbusters spread out across the entire season. Of course this is enjoyable, but these summer blockbusters bring with them rushed and generally poor video game tie-ins that tend to do well in the charts above all else - making a quick buck off of the movies success. Itís become common knowledge in the industry that movie-games are rarely ever any good; weíll find a rare gem every now and then, but ultimately weíre left disappointed that the moviesí better the games in every aspect.
So, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine kicking off the summer blockbuster season, itís time for the inevitable video game tie-in to stick its adamantium claws where the sun donĎt shine. But wait, maybe Iím getting ahead of myself here, for all we know it could actually be good - I mean, first impressions are actually pretty surprising; while the film is rated for early teens, the game takes a much more visceral approach and grabs itself an 18+ rating. With the majority of the films target audience unable to even play the game, itís apparent from the get-go that maybe X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition isnít just another rushed tie-in and can actually stand up on its own without the movie watching its back like a supportive, money-hungry entourage.
ďThis Wolverine is one we havenít seen since the comicsĒHugh Jackman lends his voice and likeness to the game, and the story loosely follows the plot of the movie, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition is its own beast. The gore wonít come as a surprise to those that know developers Raven Softwareís credentials, having developed the ultra-violent Soldier of Fortune games; but itís still no less shocking and surprisingly brutal considering the Wolverine character weíve become familiar with on the big screen over the past ten years. This Wolverine is one we havenít seen since the comics, one that has no regard for his own health and those around him as his deadly adamantium claws dismember and decapitate his enemies, spilling buckets of blood onto the streets in the most gruesome fashion. This amount of gore may seem like a cheap gimmick to rake up some extra thrills, but they effectively showcase Loganís ferocious power and animalistic nature. Heís not a friendly guy, and with those claws youíd expect him to rip people limb from limb. Seeing it all unfold in motion is a refreshing experience when you consider the Wolverine-lite weíve seen in the movies where blood rarely comes into play.
Of course, having a brutal, visual showcase doesnít make for a good game, so luckily the gameplay can back it all up. As you would expect, Wolverine is essentially a brawler; it borrows elements from Ninja Gaiden, God of War and Devil May Cry so itís all very familiar coming in. You have a decent amount of combos at your disposal within the four main attack types: light, heavy, lunge and grab; and combining all four together is the key to success, especially when implemented with the quick kills, special moves, counters and environmental kills. There are quite a few attacks to learn here, but the controls are intuitive enough and itĎs easy to get a hang of things, particularly when the game isnĎt all that difficult to begin with. The lunge attack can be used to take care of most enemies, and is especially effective across large distances - working as a long jump - and the quick kills, as you would imagine, are quick, easy and pretty ferocious; you’ll be stabbing people in the face and ripping their heads clean off, using their own mutilated arms against them, and even forcing their own shotguns on themselves. Combining this with the environmental kills where you impale people to forklifts and tree trunks, and you have a degree of variety to proceedings. Obviously, as you get deeper into the game these attacks won’t work on stronger enemies, but there are plenty of other moves and combos in your repertoire to keep the killing frenzy going and stop repetition from setting in - even if the game doesn’t always encourage it.
And the pacing and combination of other gameplay styles aside from the straight-up brawling helps as well. It may not sound terribly exciting but during the action down-time youíll be pushing and moving objects to reach higher levels, balancing on boards and climbing ropes; jumping from platform to platform and scaling walls as you take part in some good old fashioned platforming. It provides a nice break from all the killing, and the mechanics arenít frustrating enough to drive you to insanity - apart from a select few jumping sections where the camera is rooted to the spot. However, one aspect of X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition that is guaranteed to bug you is the reoccurrence of two different mini-bosses. During the stages in Africa you’ll meet a large molten-rock monster known as the Leviathan; this is all well and good the first time you fight against him - using the dodge move to evade his attacks before lunging onto his back to deal out some damage - but when he appears another dozen times thoughout the game it can get pretty redundant. Add to this another, similar beast, in the Weapon X stages known as the W.E.N.D.I.G.O - who you defeat in the exact same way - and you’re in for some terribly boring encounters.
ďAs you take damage, Loganís clothes and skin will begin to rip off in real time, so youíll actually see chunks of skin missing from his body as bullets rip through the flesh and explosions blow it clean off.ĒAside from this, though, thereís also some room for exploration. Wolverine is a fairly linear experience but there are a number of branching paths for you to find some collectables. There are a good number of dog tags hidden throughout the game as well as some Wolverine action figures - used to unlock four different costumes - and youíll also find health boosts and mutagens to upgrade Loganís skills and abilities with a degree of customisation. Mutagens work like infinite power-ups, as you progress through the game and collect them you can assign three mutagens to the three different slots in your inventory; itís up to you to choose which oneís you want to utilize, whether it be three defensive options, three attacking options, or a mixture of the two. Itís a fun way to get the most out of Wolverine and add a little more oomph to the moves and abilities youíre most accustomed to using. You can also upgrade all of Loganís skills as you earn experience from each kill and dog tag found; so, you can upgrade his claw strength, health and the power and longevity of his special moves as you progress to higher and higher levels - Logan becoming more deadly in conjunction.
And deadly is definitely the key word here, not just with his attacks, but also with his ‘nearly’ indestructible health. You see, Wolverine is similar to Superman in that he canít really die; Superman games have never handled this very well, and the same can be said for any X-Men games. However, X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition has got it spot on; you have two heath bars, one is essentially for his skin and clothing and once thatís worn down thereís another health bar for his internal organs; this reaches zero and itís game over, bub. As you take damage, Loganís clothes and skin will begin to rip off in real time, so youíll actually see chunks of skin missing from his body as bullets rip through the flesh and explosions blow it clean off. Itís extremely cool to see as you literally get down to the bare bones. Of course, once youíve taken out everyone itís time for his healing ability to come into affect as youíll now see all of his skin slowly grow back and cover up those gaping holes. Youíll want to take damage just so you can zoom in and see all the havoc caused on his body and the subsequent healing process.
Sadly, it could have looked a bit better. Wolverine doesnít have particularly bad visuals, but theyíre not exactly great either. While itís cool to see the flesh ripped off his body, a lot of the time it just looks like random red splodges rather than actual muscle and organs. Hugh Jackman looks great though, and the other characters are admirable too; itís just too sloppy with the presentation. You can clearly see that this was rushed to coincide with the movie release, so plenty of corners have been cut throughout. The in-game cut scenes are terribly compressed, leading to an awfully pixelated look, and youíll also encounter plenty of graphical and gameplay bugs across Wolverine’s five acts, with Logan getting stuck in mid-air; plenty of texture pop-in, and some dodgy looking kills where his claws won’t quite line up right with the target. However, the worst of all came during one of the aforementioned mini-boss fights. After draining all of its health and going in for the last QTE finishing kill, the framerate slowed down to single digits and the boss unexpectedly disappeared, only to continue attacking me; it should have been dead already, but now Iím fighting something I canít even see. Eventually I managed to go in for the finishing kill again, ripping off the head of something thatís not even there. Looking back itís pretty hilarious, but itís something that should have been caught during bug testing, especially since you encounter the enemy so many times throughout the course of the game.
ďThere are just too many weak spots here with bugs and glitches, and fighting the same boss over and over again is just poor game design.ĒX-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition is one of the best movie tie-ins in recent memory. The gameplay is a lot of fun, showcasing the bloodthirsty, animalistic nature of Wolverine with some cool, over-the-top gore; and the pacing and mixture of other gameplay styles, however small, keeps it moving towards its final conclusion. Sure, the repetition is there, but it doesnít spoil the party like the production values do. There are just too many weak spots here with bugs and glitches, and fighting the same boss over and over again is just poor game design. The convoluted story also doesn’t help matters, jumping forwards and backwards through time with no real reasoning as it introduces plenty of throw-away characters and scenarios you have no reason to care about. It’s too confusing even if the plot of the movie is still fresh in your mind.
Sadly, this is another case of a game falling victim to the tie-in; cutting corners to meet a short deadline. If it were possible for more time to be spent fine-tuning everything this would be a much better game; as it is, itís a competent action-adventure thatís probably better than its movie counterpart, and that’s all we can really hope for.
Seven out of ten