Just as I’ve grown up being a gamer, I’ve spent much of my life with Marvel comics. As far back as primary school I can remember poring over comic books with my mates, imagining how cool it would have been to be able to fly, teleport, heal from any wound almost instantly or morph into someone else.
It was the X-Men cartoon series shown on a television programme called CheezTV that really got me involved in the X-Men world. Up until that time, I’d been more of a Spider-Man fan, Venom and Carnage, Lizard and Goblin. Suddenly though, the realisation struck that there was definitely more out there in the Marvel universe.
Undoubtedly in the X-Men universe, Logan (Aka. Wolverine) was one of the ultimate adversaries. The man in the yellow and blue spandex, with regenerative healing, incredible strength, agility and an ‘Adamantium’-coated skeleton making him virtually indestructible. Constantly at war with both himself and everyone who got in his way.
Few characters have had the time in the Marvel Universe to explore so many options and factions. From Horsemen of Apocalypse to X-Men, he’s been everywhere and done almost everything, his regenerative healing also acting as a sort of ‘elixir of everlasting life’ allowing him incredible longevity.
Before long, I had posters of Wolverine up on my walls with Spider-Man. Much to the chagrin of my best mate, who claimed he’d introduced me to the character and that in fact, Wolverine was his right to claim as ‘favourite’ and I couldn’t have him on my wall.
Despite this and other setbacks, Wolverine is a Marvel character that has been a favourite of mine for many years.
The video game of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is mostly based around the storyline of the film to the same name. For this reason, I’ll try and be a little less specific than usual in describing story progression – and make use of the spoiler tags for those that don’t want either game or movie described.
“I’m the best there is at what I do, at least the people still living after I’m done doing it say that.”
X-Men Origins: Wolverine runs essentially two separate but intertwined story lines. The first being the current, modern-day, revenge-seeking Wolverine – and the second being the lead-up to this predicament.
Somewhat strangely, there are subtle differences in time lining and key story elements between the game and the movie. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, possibly an earlier script the game worked off, but its still close enough to tie in with the story line.
The game begins with you, Logan and the rest of Colonel Stryker’s mutant team striking a village in Africa, unlike the movie, the reasons for doing so aren’t yet clear. The helicopter is shot down and after surviving the incident you are told to rendezvous with your Brother, Victor Creed in destroying a nearby temple used as a base of operations for local Mercs.
This is where the story takes a Pulp-Fiction turn as you’re thrown forward and back in time, as new game sections lead you into previous experiences in the game’s time lining.
So you find yourself three-years in the future, now seemingly retired from Strykers mutant team, living a peaceful life with Kayla Silverfox. That is until your Brother turns up, kills Silverfox, crunches your bone claws in a battle outside a tavern and leaves you for dead.
From then, you come under the wing of Stryker who tells you about the Weapon X programme, offering you Adamantium skeletal implants, making you virtually indestructible so you can seek vengeance against Creed.
Neither are better or worse, just different. The game opting for a route that obviously leaves more options open for game play.
First and foremost, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a hack & slash game. It never goes out of its way to pretend to be something else. And in this capacity, it succeeds immensely.
Much of the game is spent hammering away at a Square button, or X button to get something done, an enemy dispatched or a boss defeated. Most of us who have played similar games (God of War comes to mind) will know the score.
While the majority of the combat triggers action around this setup, there is also a mix of timely button presses and combinations, so hand-eye coordination is paramount when finally executing specific moves on some enemies.
If you’ve played Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you’ll be familiar with the concept of Wolverine’s moves and much of what you can manage, upgrade and utilise will be somewhat familiar. Being completely new to the Wolverine character though and you’ll have a very awesome learning curve ahead of you.
Wolverine has a set of three basic ‘skill sets’ at his disposal, falling into Claws, Health and Rage. As you progress through the game, each of these can be upgraded with skill points earned through levelling up. Investing points into each upgrade set has different effects on your character, such as increased damage, unlocking new combo-moves for use, or increased health.
Skill tree seen here, most of them upgraded by level 34
The Health system makes you feel – at first – like you’re never going to get killed in the game. However, while you are quite strong, and regenerate, a large hit, such as a rocket to the face, or being set on fire will expose vital organs after a while – leaving you open to actually being killed. While your Adamantium skeleton deals quite well with bullets, your liver and heart can’t vouch for the same thing.
You might then find yourself retreating to cover while your body heals enough to continue the fight.
The other skill, Rage, is used in conjunction with duration and execution of each of your four ‘super skills’. Claw Spin, Berserk, Claw Drill and Claw Cyclone. You earn ‘rage’ from attacking and defeating enemies in the game, awarding you a rage bar.
Each of your attack skills can be activated at a cost of this rage bar. Upgrading the super skills increases damage and decreases the rage cost of super skills, making them more devastating and less costly to utilise.
Some skills can be combined on activation as well. For example, you can begin a Berserk streak, and then activate Claw Spin to deal extra collective damage to foes.
Mutagens are used in compliment to your skills and are substances capable of completely changing or accentuating some of your abilities. All Mutagens are found throughout the levels, have three separate ‘tiers’ and of the eleven Mutagens available, only three can be used or combined (max) at a time.
These Mutagens have a variety of uses and can be switched at any time, so some might be applicable in certain stages of the game, others elsewhere. ‘Healing Factor’ for example, decreases cool down time before your natural regeneration restarts – so this can be very useful in boss fights or when the action is constant.
Other Mutagens, such as ‘Samurai’ offer increases to performance, with extra bonus in your ability to develop Combat Reflexes. Others are almost a general requirement, such as ‘Experienced’ which increases the experience gained from killing enemies, advancing your levels faster – or ‘Unstoppable’ which greatly reduces your damage taken from attacks.
Balancing Mutagens throughout the game can make areas otherwise tedious, quite manageable – and vice versa. Using some of them early on (like Experienced) can have a great effect on where you end up later in the game. Developing and levelling up at twice the speed unlocks further powers which make combat easier at higher levels.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine offers ‘Combat Reflexes’, broken down into five separate categories, grouping all the enemies you find in the game; Machete, Machine Gunner, Jungle Mutants, Robots and Specialised Military Units.
All enemies fall under one of these categories. And as you begin to kill off hordes of these enemy types, you earn additional ranking to each of these combat reflexes. Starting with the basic levels, all the way up to Combat Mastery of each specific area.
The benefit of maxing these out is extra damage to those specific enemy types.
As mentioned above, the ‘Samurai’ Mutagen can be combined in order to increase performance, offering extra bonus in your ability to develop Combat Reflexes.
Obviously, your blades are the forefront of your attack and defence systems. Square to slash, hold L2 to block. The reality is much more complex and enjoyable though. You have a huge list of combos at your disposal with more getting unlocked as you upgrade Wolverine’s skills and abilities.
By holding R1 to target, then pressing L1, you can perform a ‘Lunge’ attack, basically launching yourself full-force at an enemy, where again, you have a number of options. Hack away at their spleen with a series of ultra-fast slashes, or hit Triangle to launch up into the air and come down hard with a set of blades to the chest. The latter being a much more critical damage option.
Of course you could get kicked off before trying to execute one of these moves and in some cases, find yourself immediately under attack again. A precisely timed press of the L2 button though, performs a blade counter, offering you a brief moment of slow-mo, to get in again with an often brutal counter-attack.
If all of this is becoming overwhelming, or boring, you can mix it up with grab attacks with a tap of the O button. From here, you can throw enemies around, off cliff edges, or just continue to slam then back against a nearby wall – or pound them over your head and back down to the floor.
You can also use the environment to your advantage. Throwing enemies at spiky objects or statues sees them impaled viciously. Grab an enemy near a forklift and slam them into one of the fork prongs.
And if you want to dispatch someone even quicker, there’s the quick attack option. After a successful Grab, you can hit Triangle which prompts a charge type move, usually executing your enemy on the spot in a bloody, gruesome fashion.
Quick attacks are by far, the most beneficial in ridding areas of enemies very quickly – and when used in conjunction with the Lunge move, to get around the battlefield quickly, you can often find yourself free of areas within minutes.
All the moves can be combined and mixed, even Lunging can be chained to another move, or another Lunge. It offers a very unique and also very rewarding combat system as a whole. Throw your four super skills into the mix and Wolverine is quickly tearing everything on the screen into teeny-tiny pieces.
Another of Wolverine’s abilities is his Feral Sense. By pressing Up on the D-pad, you’re given a clearer, brighter view of the area. Its basically a sixth sense of the location, offering you with a visual representation of what Wolvey might be smelling, or ‘feeling’.
Hidden traps and triggers are highlighted, green for switches and unlocks, red for traps and danger. It is also infinitely useful against Ghost enemy types who have suit camouflage. Normal view, they disappear, but switch over to Feral Senses and suddenly they become visible again.
Additionally, in Feral Sense, a blue cloud of mist signifies your pathway if you get stuck. If offers as a sort of ‘hint’ waypoint in the direction you need to go. A number of times I’d find myself backtracking, wondering if I was going the right way. Switching over to Feral Sense and you’re immediately given a visual representation of correct or incorrect progress.
In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you partake in some massive battles with foes, usually consisting of multiple parts, over a variety of areas with very different methods of ‘defeating’ an enemy.
The boss battles are absolutely huge sometimes, continuing for entire stages where you may have to chase someone up a casino stage, out onto under construction skyscrapers, under attack by specialised military units and assault helicopters all hell-bent on killing you and attempting to stop you reaching your target.
Even the ‘minor’ boss battles, not consisting of Marvel protagonists are carried out in grandiose fashion, each having their own specific strengths and weaknesses you have to learn and adapt to. My first battle against one of the game’s Leviathans took me 15 minutes (and three deaths) to work out – subsequent encounters after realising its weakness were much more manageable.
It is no surprise then that the boss battles make up the show-pieces of the levels and award a silver Trophy for each of the completions. They really are very well done, thought out and exciting.
An additional game play element is the Training/Checkpoint bonus feature. In each of these, you are pitted against yourself in one of 3 different reincarnations (Legendary, Classic and X-Force Wolverine) in an ultimate battle of combat skill and reflexes.
Defeating the enemy Wolverine unlocks the respective costume for use in the game itself.
There’s no doubt that Raven have made X-Men Origins: Wolverine an enjoyable game to play. More than that, its a solid, thoroughly decent Marvel game. Capturing that true feel and power game play element is something that often seems to elude developers working on Marvel titles, but with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you get that sense of action and power. Its fun to play and great to watch.
Furthermore, its probably the bloodiest, most graphic Marvel game we’ve had to date. Coming with an R/18 rating is no surprise after witnessing some of Wolverine’s finishing moves and combat actions.
Its a pleasant change from the PG13, clean-cut, washed-down variety of games we’ve had in the past. This feels more like the comics in its foundations, rather than something for the casual masses to pick up and play. More directed towards the cult following rather than the vast population.
Right after you’re wow’ed by the lush, tropical jungle environments, taking you back to Uncharted-esque memories, you’re hit with a bullet which tears a hole through Wolverine’s shirt and exits out his back.
The bullet hole bleeds and subsequent damage to the area shreds a chunk of flesh from his back and removes a whole piece of the blood-soiled shirt. You lunge forward and eviscerate your enemy, then watch – in amazing, jaw-dropping fashion – as the hole left in his body begins to knit back together, the skin of Wolverine’s back and stomach starts to mend and heal over the lost area. After a short while, its nothing more than bare skin, no sign of damage whatsoever – just the missing piece of fabric where that section of his shirt used to be.
Shirt reduced to tatters, but all wounds healed..
I can’t stress how well the damage system is executed. Its nothing linear, nothing pre-ordained either. You react different to ever kind of attack, so a rocket to the torso will completely blast off entire pieces of skin, so you’re left looking like one of those ‘muscle map’ pictures of a Human-body you saw in anatomy science class.
Coming up against Robots with razor-blades for hands will slide and dice your body, leaving lines of blood down your front – and shreds through your shirt like someone’s taken to it with a paper shredder.
Similarly, bullets and other small projectiles will make you look like Swiss cheese.
All of this damage seems to be completely tied in with the enemy types you’re fighting, so it feels very realistic and is absolutely awe-inspiring to watch. I can’t imagine how the developers have accomplished it, but it is incredibly brilliant to see. The fac that it always seems to work, never seems to bug-out or glitch in any way – and throughout the game, seems to reveal totally different parts of Wolverine’s internals (sometimes you’ll see rib cage, other times a hint of spine.. a little Adamantium showing through under his face etc..) makes me think special attention was paid to this area.
Its very much appreciated and definitely a show piece of the Origins game.
While special attention has definitely been given to the character model of Wolverine, there’s plenty of detail to be found in the other characters in the game too. Each of the main Marvel protagonists are created in great detail, so you don’t have a spared moment in identifying them immediately.
Thankfully, the main characters are supported by their on-screen vocal talent too, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Will i Am (and video game regular Nolan North making an audio contribution too) too, so their graphical standing is complimented with proper audio backing.
Everyone is in there, nobody is forgotten and even the ‘grunts’, random enemies and such encountered throughout the game are done so in wicked detail – from African tribal warriors to futuristic Robotics in military facilities.
Effects detail is also impressive. Limbs go flying, blood pours out of enemies, your blades leave triple scars on rocks and walls. There are some great lighting moments as Sun streams through the jungle canopy and alert lights flash inside secure compounds.
A lot of the areas are destructible in some way, and they fly apart with decent detail. Some of the objects around could have benefited from a little more detail – it would have been nice to approach a narrow beam or light post and be able to slice it in two – but overall the effect of Wolverine’s claws on the environment and the enemies is pretty well done.
Environments are beautiful, the jungle look in Africa is especially well received. There is lush undergrowth and plenty of ancient tribal rock carvings and old temple features to run through. You might find yourself approaching a rock ledge looking out over a huge rainforest canyon, a bunch of waterfalls spinning into a river at the centre of it. Sometimes a Monkey will react to your presence and scurry off into the undergrowth nearby.
You come to fight in a variety of military themed bases as well as a Casino and some other miscellaneous areas, all completed in vivid detail with substantial levels of destructibility and attention to detail. There are no empty rooms, and no wasted space. If its not there to be scaled or used as an object to kill a foe, its there to be sliced up and collected as Rage bonus.
Cinematics are rendered in excellent detail
It feels remarkably polished for a video game based on a movie and doesn’t feel in the least bit rushed like the graphic horror that was the Iron Man game – or numerous Hulk and Spider-Man game titles. This one has been given the proper treatment in the graphics department.
I can say with confidence, after one complete play-through, that we’ve finally been given a movie-to-game conversion worthy of both our money and time. X-Men Origins: Wolverine raises the bar on what a developer can actually do with one of these games. It doesn’t need to be some uninspired, non-thought out rubbish, rushed out the door to make a movie deadline.
Raven have said in interviews that they strived to make a good game here – and the fact that they’re fans of the Marvel scene is paramount – and proof that a developer can achieve results when they’re behind a project such as this.
It just doesn’t feel like a movie game. Its not riddled with problems, and not graphically cheap or disappointing.
Well at least we know he’s not spineless..
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is solid in its foundations and as a result, has been able to build on that with successful game play. Most of these things, you play through once (if that – I couldn’t even finish the Iron Man game) and sell/trade – or return if you were smart enough to rent it.
I’ll be keeping this one however. Already starting on my second play-through and will probably do a third play-through on the Hardest difficulty now that its unlocked.
Trophy support is basically guaranteed now, but Wolverine has a good selection – none of them ridiculous or impossible – but I think people picking this one up as a renter solely for Trophies will have a fairly tough run on their hands. I’m guessing 2.5 – 3 play-throughs for Platinum.
Ultimately, a title that was definitely a (pleasant) surprise to me. After preparing myself for mediocrity, my expectations were surpassed. While its by no means perfect – as a hack and slash title there are things here and there I would have added, particularly in post-game bonus modes and challenges – it is one of the best movie games we’ve seen.
Marvel fans will be very happy with this outing too. With Marvel becoming mainstream in film and following, we’re starting to reap the benefits of the additional popularity.
As a side note, I probably wouldn’t recommend playing this one until you’ve seen the film (if you intend on doing so anyway) as the story is very close to the movie and it will ruin key scenes and development for you.