If you really think about it, even before comics got turned into cartoons and movies, the way a character fought was a huge part of their personality. Spider-Man was agile, athletic and slippery. Captain America was strong and versatile. And Wolverine was the guy who fought on sheer savagery. While the movies and cartoons that have featured Wolverine have been forcibly tamed, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is actually the first non-comic medium to really show him as he has always been portrayed on paper: brutal, feral and probably covered in blood. But while this game is one of the few things to tap into the Wolverine character, it falls to the folly of many comic games before it – failing to do anything more than tap into the character, while letting gameplay suffer.
As the tie-in to the movie of the same name, X-Men Origins: Wolverine has borrowed a large portion of its story from the screenplay, which focuses, obviously, on Wolverine. It features the vast majority of the events found in the movie like Wolverine’s time with Weapon X, his battles in Wakan…I mean…Africa, and his many interactions with Sabretooth. In order to stretch the game out, though, they have tacked on some new plot fragments, including a brief period of depowerment and a few encounters with the Wendigo. Because I don’t want to spoil…well…everything for the people interested in reading, watching or playing something involving Wolverine, I won’t go into much more detail. Let’s just say the story won’t blow you away, but is entirely tolerable.
“Tolerable” is a pretty good description of the gameplay, as well. The game plays like so many simple action titles before it, with simple combo-based combat using “weak” and “strong” attacks. There are a fair number of enemies, which keeps the game from reaching a Dynasty Warriors level of monotony, but the action on the whole still remains repetitive. There are a few cool moves, like a berserker rage that boosts Wolverine’s attack power, as well as his infamous “lunge”, where he jumps on top of an enemy and stabs the crap out of them, but the vast majority of the time remains standard hacking and slashing. That isn’t to say the game is bad, though. The gameplay is pretty much glitch-free, and the camera, most of the time, works perfectly fine. There are occasional “what the hell happened?!” deaths, but the game is about right in terms of difficulty. In addition, there are some environmental kills that break up the standard combos, where Wolverine will impale people on a protruding bit of rebar or a sharp tree branch. There are also some cool God of War moments, where Wolverine will do something like rip the head off a boss, but while all this sounds fun, the experience on the whole falls very well short of being impressive.
What the game does well, though, is capitalize on the look and feel of the movie. Almost the entire cast from the film is present and accounted for, with the vast majority of the actors reprising their roles in the game and shining during the many cutscenes. The character models are very well done and bare a resemblance to the real thing that is…dare I say…uncanny? Get it? There are also some other random nice touches thrown around, as well. Wolverine’s clothing actually gets damaged during the game (taking a bullet to the stomach will put a hole into his shirt, which will stay there). His healing factor is something to be admired. Obviously, the Canucklehead can take quite the beating, but rather than a smidgen of blood being the sign that you’ve taken damage, you will see Wolverine’s skin get torn off layer-by-layer from every bullet hole and explosion you eat. After you stop taking damage, you can see his skin grow back (once again, layer-by-layer) until he is fully healed. While the graphics have a lot of nice little intricacies, the relatively humble 8/10 up there represents a serious number of graphical glitches peppered throughout the game. On more than a few occasions, floors will disappear, walls will turn solid colors and random props will have weird detection issues. It’s a strange problem that…well…shouldn’t be there.
While X-Men Origins: Wolverine has some nice features, it ultimately can’t shake its mediocre gameplay. While it joins the likes of Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the various Lego titles in bringing back some semblance of hope to license games in general, this isn’t something to get excited about. With a relatively short play length and that is redundant to the end, don’t check this out unless you’re looking to burn a rainy weekend. If you’re looking for some fun as Wolverine, though, just wait until this holiday season for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, which has Wolverine confirmed as a playable character.