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Jan 21 2018

Late X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

It had originally been ages since I had watched the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, but as I had just watched the new Logan movie teary eyed, I fancied playing this game next from my back log of PS3 games. Dust off your PS3, this is a must play!

I probably do owe it to the series and Hugh Jackman to watch all the X-Men movies from scratch to become re-familiar with the cannon events. Having read the manual for this game, which gave some explanation of the story, there was still too many plot holes in my recollection, so I did actually go back and watch the Origins Movie, which 9 years later, still stands up and is a great origin story for Wolverine, but I can see now why the critics were less than enthusiastic about the overall film. Nevertheless, the game edition is loosely based on the film, with some scenes acting out slightly different but the most noticeably difference is the galleons of blood that spills in the 18+ rated game compared to the 12A rated movie. The mutilations, as gory as they are, look fantastic, and really do showcase Wolverine more animal than man, which is one of the dilemmas Logan faces in the plot of the movie and game. Now this is labelled as the uncaged edition, and you can see why amongst the blood and swear words used throughout the game. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.

As much as there is an X-Men story to follow in this game, what I was really looking forward to was the experience of being able to play as The Wolverine. To be able to slash enemies up using claws, lunge from above and pull off some of the Wolverine’s most iconic moves, I couldn’t wait.

Booting up the game for the first time, daaammmnn. That opening sequence! Wolverine getting shotgun blasted left, right and centre, with the camera viewing the surprised enemy through the holes in Wolverine’s abdomen, before he then unleashes hell, metallic claws slashing off arms, lancing through skulls and tearing enemies in half. Half the time, the screen is just covered in blood. This is some R-rated shit that Marvel otherwise wouldn’t have pulled off in a movie for atleast another 5 years. The freedom of video games has given the developers and Marvel a fantastic opportunity to tell a much darker story, holding nothing back, which is probably more relatable to the original comic books though this was supposed to be based on the movie, but make no mistake, this wasn’t put together hastily in time for the movie as was done with many games at the time, this has been put together essentially really well, you could say the movie is based on the game.

Starting the first level alone, with our helicopter hit with a missile over the forests of Africa, Wolverine has to dodge the flying debris as he comes down for a hard landing on top of an unsuspecting militant. Standing up out of the Superman crater he’s just created, with his chest exploded to bits, organs exposed, Wolverine is already embroiled in the middle of combat, facing enemies with rifles point-blank. You go through a basic tutorial on attacking enemies and dodging. After messing around with the buttons for a while, learning the ropes with skills etc, you then traverse through a beautiful looking forest littered with lost ruins. Tomb Raider, eat your heart out.

They did manage to get some of the original actors to reprise their roles I believe, with Hugh Jackman and Will.I.Am adding some additional dialogue as well as using lines from the film. The script unfortunately though doesn’t make the most of sense at the times, with dialogue all over the place and then there’s the addition of Mystique to this game, which for whatever reason, Spoiler Alert, is pregnant with Wraith’s kid… don’t ask as no future reference is ever made. I’m not sure what was going on with Wraith, it felt like they wanted to keep Will.I.Am happy, but his character just seems to have rewritten a load of X-Men lore in the space of 5 mins of game screen time.

 

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Combat is either mashing square button and then finishing with a heavy attack that can attack multiple enemies in range at a time, or you can mix it up a bit by sending enemies into the air where you can attack them, or grapple and send them flying into environmental death traps. Moves are deadly and usually involved plunging claws into them somehow. The enemies range from gun-carrying troops, to machete masters, to mystic rock idols springing to life, mutants, transmuted giants and robots. Each enemy usually requires their own strategy to defeat, and boss battles usually involve either holding out for a long time with your health, making sure you survive the onslaught of attacks, otherwise jumping onto their backs when their pre-occupied. If you use Wolverine’s feral senses to locate hidden and useable objects in the vicinity, you will see many objects that are green coloured, identifying that you can use these objects in the humiliating killing of enemies. So there maybe spikes from a tree that you can throw and impale someone on, it could be forks of a forklift truck, or maybe an electrical panel on a wall to fry them on. How about shoving them ass first into a cement mixer, snapping their back as they now spin round for an eternity. Having said that, it’s also just as easy for Wolverine to be impaled on such objects if the enemy manages to throw him onto them, requiring him to now have to pull himself off the stake. Fucking brutal man.

You can upgrade Wolverine’s skills in a multitude of ways. You can either level him up, which rewards you with skill points that you can use towards boosting health, attack, or skill stats. You can attach mutagens which you’ll find hidden on levels, these provide additional passive boosts to Wolverine. Another is to face up against particular enemies, which raises your reflexes against these enemies, allowing you to unleash stronger attacks. In my playthrough, I probably unlocked about 80% of the available updates, requiring either playing on Hard mode or revisiting areas to unlock the last few which would have also unlocked some trophies. I did find early on I was always low on health, so I started off maxing any health stats out first. Also accessible from the upgrade screen are the attacks and combo moves for learning up and recapping on moves available. I also recommend reading the hint page from the pause screen.

One of the cooler attacks is Wolverine’s trademark lunge, crossing from one side of the terrain to another in a flash, pouncing from enemy to enemy, unleashing heavy attacks. Whilst looking great, especially when slowed down at certain points, it is vital for getting to certain areas, and there was only the one time, after defeating an army of enemies, that a particular enemy didn’t spawn on the other side of a gap, meaning I had to reload back to the checkpoint to be able to lunge across onto the enemy that eventually did spawn. Now amongst the attacks, one thing that always results is that blood sprays out of enemies when attacking, even if its blue blood, pain is delivered. If you complete a finishing move fairly well, you’ll manage to slash limbs off enemies, leaving them squirming on the floor until they eventually die. I managed to get upto 2 legs and an arm off a few guys, leaving them rocking about with one arm before their life’s gave out. Beheading and splitting enemies in half from the torso is also a move that Wolverine accels at. The game is just absolute brutal and there’s no holding back. Something that I also loved in particular to swinging your claws around, was that whilst enemies over the course of the fight would be covered entirely in bloody slashes, if wolverine hit the environment accidentally, he would leave behind red hot claw marks, the mark of a beast. Fantastic attention to detail.

Level design is fantastic. There are I believe 5 different locations to be explored, the African jungle, the adamantium laboratory, the snowy outdoors, the underground lab facility and the casino, including an island that you explore for 10 minutes. Each location looks great, unique from one another, with again that attention to detail on even the smallest of things, which for the PS3, handles mostly fine. The textures look great, reminiscent and similiar at times to the movie. As said, the jungle level could honestly give Tomb Raider a run for its money, having to solve puzzles, explore ruins and yet being the Wolverine in these scenarios is fantastic and much preferred to being Lara Croft. My favourite level is the underground laboratory facility. Taking the elevator down, to then see the vastness of the underground high tech facility was breath-taking, and a great place to unveil Sentinels. I’ve been looking forward to taking on a Sentinel as Wolverine as seen in the cartoons from the 90s, and the only other time I’d been up against one was as Deadpool in his PS3 game. The draw distance is great, and the game handles fine at 720p. There was only a few times where the game tried to bite off more than it could handle, with choppy frames rates, normally only occurring when you would try to do a precise manoeuvre to bypass some terrain. Other than that, the game was completely immersive and a joy for the eyes.

Character models look great, specially of course, Wolverine being based on Hugh Jackman looking very realistic. Enemies looked great and animations of interactions and combat was spot on. Each enemy has their own counter attacks that Wolverine can act upon them, again, just looked fantastic. One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in a game is the amount of damage Wolverine takes, exposing muscle, bone and organs, especially on low health. The amount of times his back was flayed of any flesh was absolutely gross, seeing blood-red muscles exposed. Honestly, seeing his metallic rib cage exposed whilst he’s still fighting is something I don’t think I ‘ve seen even in movies, he frighteningly looked like a man possessed. If any character is ever deserving of a regenerative health bar, such as Call Of Duty protagonists etc, Wolverines makes the most sense since regenerative health bars were first introduced some 30 years ago.

 

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Throughout the levels, there are collectables to be had. Some of these collectables will unlock trophies, and are easy enough to collect along the way, though obtaining them all will probably require a guide as they are either well hidden or you end up accidentally advancing into the next area, which then closes off the previous zone before being able to fully explore it. You can acquire either skin unlocks for Wolverine, collecting figurines which unlock a fighting challenge in which you face against a Wolverine bot, going toe-to-toe with yourself in which your bot self which essentially wipe the floor with you. The only thing I had going for myself in this fight was that I was up against an AI bot that isn’t able to change up strategy, meaning after 10 minutes of running away constantly trying to heal, I managed to find a move that outputted high damage whilst keeping myself safe, which I just then repeated over and over. Not my proudest moment but it atleast worked. You could learn a lot about how to control Wolverine going up against these in practise. The skins are the old-school outfits that Wolverine wears in the comics such as his yellow and black outfit, which were OK to wear through the game though cutscenes would refer back to Logan wearing his vest. Also to collect on levels are mutagen medals which unlock skills, and there are also dog tags to collect from dead corpses scattered about. I managed to get 92 out of 95 which was gutting, as I had no idea where the other three were, just missing out on a trophy.

Did I already mention that you could remove both arms off an enemy in a single slash? Just still can’t get over how fucking brutal this game amazingly was. (I’m not an advocate for unnecessary violence in games, but sometimes there is a time and a place still.)

The game utilizes the Unreal Engine, which I think turned out to be a fantastic choice. The physics were great, AI spot on, animations were as they should be and the game just behaving fantastic with very little bugs. This engine provided the previous generation of consoles with so much, and I’m grateful to it for providing many fine gaming memories. Whenever I ever see the Unreal badge come up during a game’s intro, I know I’m in safe hands.

I found the normal mode difficulty is fine for a first playthrough. There were plenty of times I was absolutely low on health and yet somehow unexplainably managed to survive. Luckily, I didn’t die once in combat, usually it was just falling off platforms that killed me, otherwise it does take the course of the game before becoming absolutely familiar with combos and attacks on particular enemies before you would even want to attempt hard mode on another playthrough, which as usual and sadly in relation to this particular game, I won’t be doing as I need to use my time to get on with other games already.

Really liked the names of the missions, usually a pun and play of words of what was required of Logan to do. Some that stand out in my mind was “Helping Hand”, after having cut some scientist’s hand off and using it to bypass a fingerprint biometric scanner as well as “Heads Up”, which involved using a dismantled Sentinel’s hand to blast a laser beam at its head counterpart.

The only part I didn’t like in the game involved having to sky dive after the Sentinel’s falling body. It took me a while to understand how the R stick worked in relation to this minigame, thus taking me numerous attempts to complete this as debris from the robot took me ages to catch up to it, and even then, when I did get onto it, it required having to mash the fuck out of the circle button, and I mean mash the fuck out of. It again took me numerous attempts having sweated my tits off before finally managing to succeed. Also, I felt both the game and the movie was confused what Gambit’s abilities were. In the cartoons, I recall him just throwing explosive playing cards, yet in the game at one point, a massive letter from a signboard comes down on top of him, which would have crushed anyone else, yet he manages to make it explode off of him.

The scale of the fights in the game constantly escalate, with more and more enemies increasing in complexity being thrown in, requiring you to stay on your toes to succeed. I liked the number of encounters, thinking it was at a good number for the game, breaking up the exploration and cut scenes. It was only the ending which felt rushed, with the island feeling that it was thrown together, now facing against The Blob, Creed and Wane within 10 minutes of each other considering the pacing of the rest of the game. It means that the overall playtime of the game comes to about 10 hours whilst going after those collectables, which isn’t bad, but the ending did leave a bit of a sour note after having played what was perfection for most of the game. The ‘Deadpool’ Wade fight at the end wasn’t the most thrilling, essentially smashing the fuck out of Wade in minutes as I made the most of my Beast Rage mode, maximizing damage and healing. After the credits, we then see a scene which I don’t think is revealed in the X-Men films for the next 5 or so years later, which I’m sure would have been interesting back then when the game was first released.

Overall, playing as the Wolverine has been a fantastic, fun experience. I’m so grateful to the medium of video games for giving me this opportunity, being able to essentially unleash claws from my arms, even if it is just on a screen, I still walk away feeling as though I had done all that, especially during parts which required me to mash those buttons, I essentially put the same effort as Wolverine did during those parts. Just as I enjoy having the opportunities of playing as Spider-Man, being able to web sling through the streets of New York and then go to bed dreaming of such things, I essentially felt the same thing whilst playing Origins. If there had been more to the game in regards to challenges and story rather than playing another playthrough of something I’ve already completed, I’d continue playing as the Wolverine even now. Which is why I’m now looking forward to a Marvel X-Men game I’ve also got in my backlog that appears to allow you to play as Wolverine aswell as a few other characters, so I’ll see how that stacks up against this one. Origins I feel is so overlooked, I’ve never heard anyone ever mention it, yet it smashes most of the genres it comes under, and that gore that Raven tapped into, is so deserving for a Wolverine game. Whilst Logan might have pushed boundaries for a Marvel movie in terms of gore, this game had already achieved this years ago. It deserves all the praise it can get. And just as a side not, mysteriously all my notes for this game has been written in red ink, which has never happened before for any other game I’ve reviewed, and not sure if subconsciously it’s in relation to the blood shed. All I know is that everyone at some point really needs to give this game a go. It’s graphics still stand up to the test of time, and this could easily be re-released for the PS4.

 

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