The Iron Man movie has quickly become the breakout hit of this year’s blockbuster season, but don’t expect anything similar from its interactive adaptation. For all the polished graphics and quality art adorning all parts of the game, Iron Man the game is just another movie-based stinker. Any hope of deliverance from licensed mediocrity is shattered the second you begin the mercifully short campaign, and the initial sense of disappointment soon escalates into full-blown frustration with each new mission. In all likelihood, this subpar foray into the Marvel universe will be forgotten in short order.
Like others of its ilk, Iron Man is tasked with stretching a relatively short story as far as possible. The result is similar to a bad Ace Combat clone. Remember the part where Iron Man faces off against a giant flying fortress? Or how about his heroic struggle against a Russian mercenary clad in nuclear-powered armor? Me neither. And rest assured the developers did a great job of ensuring such clichéd material is as boring as it sounds. Each mission has three steps: go somewhere, kill everything, fight the boss. The only change in pace comes near the end in the form of a frustrating defensive mission. Don’t expect much variation in enemies, either. From start to finish, you’re blowing up wave after wave of the same generic tanks, jets, helicopters, turrets, and soldiers you’ve seen since pixels were invented. The boss fights fail to break the monotony, instead presenting you with just another vehicle or power generator to blow up. All that’s changed is how many hits are required before they explode (hint: A LOT).
When it comes to the controls, one word comes to mind: jerky. Jerky controls, jerky animation, jerky performance. Absolutely nothing just happens with quickness or fluidity. Having two separate buttons for hover and flight (LT and LB, respectively), while awkward, is manageable, but advanced maneuvers of any sort are nonexistent. Combat will always boil down to strafing back and forth while hovering and pulling Right Trigger to fire, hoping you might lock onto the correct target. With any luck, you’ll actually focus on the deadly helicopter that’s making your life hell instead of another harmless fuel tank. Flight mode can be somewhat exhilarating, but Iron Man has a wonderful habit of bouncing off the landscape due to severe over-steering. Firing while flying is possible when not using your boosters, but this is a suicidal tactic at best. Instead, flight is only used when either traveling to objectives or evading missiles.
Speaking of missiles, they’re everywhere. A minor nuisance in the first few missions, they quickly become the single, most frustrating enemy you face. By the campaign’s halfway point, nearly every hostile unit can fire them at you from obscene distances. Combined with respawning enemies and ineffective countermeasures, their presence results in a ridiculous jump in difficulty. Catching missiles is both difficult and pointless; by the time you get rid of one, a dozen others will be ready to take you down. Unlike his counterpart on the big screen, Sega’s Iron Man spends more time running from heat-seeking munitions than saving the world.
While nothing can match the gameplay’s sheer frustration and lazy design, every other aspect of Iron Man is equally forgettable. Robert Downey Jr. and Terrence Howard provided voice work, but their performances are about on par with the terrible writing and dialogue. The numerous cutscenes are of low quality and often laughable. Aside from a decent-looking protagonist, the graphics are average at best. In addition to Campaign mode, players can access various levels in One Man Army and fight against hordes of enemies. Anybody with the patience to survive more of the same boring fights and frustrating missile spam will be rewarded with new armor, taken from the comics. Alas, they offer nothing more than mild nostalgia for long-time fans of Tony Stark.
In the end, Iron Man is nothing more than another attempt to cash in on a summer blockbuster. Any hope of this game bucking the trend is quickly squashed once you take a single step past the fancy menu and mission briefings. As with most movie-to-game adaptations, be sure to steer clear.