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Video Game Review: ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ a Mix of Fun, Frustration

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HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The first hour of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is a total blast, a great blend of above-average graphics, interesting story elements, and clever fighting moves that hint at an enjoyable gaming experience to come. The hint is never quite fulfilled, as “Wolverine” becomes as repetitive and frustrating as the blockbuster film that inspired it.

Judged on the scale of movie tie-in games, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” has to be considered a success, but that’s simply due to the fact that we’ve become so accustomed to summer films coming with poorly developed tie-ins and “Wolverine” is not a complete disaster.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Photo credit: Activision

One of the most interesting things about the game tie-in for the Gavin Hood - Hugh Jackman film is the complete non-compliance with the film’s PG-13 rating. The game based on the relatively tame movie is anything but. It’s one of the most extremely violent titles of the year, one that wouldn’t even get an R based on the MPAA system.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is all about violent, bloody, decapitating destruction. Honestly, if I was thirteen again and still buying “X-Men” comics every week and wishing Logan would unleash his berserker rage a little more violently, this game would totally deliver the goods.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Photo credit: Activision

The problems with this intermittently amusing game start for those of us past puberty and not easily amused by slow-motion disemboweling in 720p.

The structure of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is (too) simple. You play the title character on a plot that loosely follows the bare-bones structure of the film with a few other details thrown in. So, yes, you will get to fight Victor/Sabretooth, The Blob, Agent Zero, and the final villain in the film in a similar over-the-top style as the summer hit.

The player has a basic arsenal of moves that can be combined into deadly adamantium blade destruction but the highlight of the game is the development, upgrading, and personalization of each player’s combat. As you progress through the game, you will earn experience and upgrade points that allow you to hone different elements of your game. For example, you can spend all your skill points on more destructive claws or choose to live longer and spend them on more regenerative abilities.

And the combat customization doesn’t end there. As you progress through the game, different “mutagens” can be found that make for a customizable experience and the gameplay wisely opens new fighting abilities for you to incorporate into your wave of mutilation. By the end of the game, you’ll be slicing and dicing enemies by the baker’s dozen.

The regeneration of Wolverine has always been a major part of the character and, naturally, needed to be a part of the game and its design allows for some interesting strategy. Basically, if you’re a bloody mess, all you need to do is run and dodge for a few seconds and you’ll be back in fighting mode. The effects - you can see the physical deterioration of Wolvie and his recovery - are one of the most notable elements of the game overall. It’s fun to see yourself on the edge of death and evade or block long enough to come back to form.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Photo credit: Activision

The problem with Wolverine is clearly not in the combat or the graphics. The flaws shine through in the enemy design, the repetitive levels, and the non-ending. Most of the enemies are frustratingly repetitive, which isn’t a big problem when they’re almost instantly killable, but when you’re fighting a mid-boss for the fifteenth time and slicing away at his mutant back like you’re a programmed robot yourself, it gets more than a little dull.

And the storytelling in “Wolverine” starts strong but gets boring enough that you’ll wish you could skip through the cut scenes (kind of like the movie itself). The opening act is interesting, but how they tie Sabretooth, Gambit, and Deadpool back into the story is ridiculous. And the final acts are woefully underdeveloped, as if the game was rushed out for release. Everything after a huge Sentinel battle feels like an afterthought, something needed to tie the game more closely to the film, but something that will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Your enjoyment of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” comes down to how damaging repetition is to your gaming experience. Being a critic, I had to play through the title relatively quickly, but I think if I had picked it up and put it down a few more times, I wouldn’t have been so numb to the experience by the disappointing final acts.

If you’re the kind of player who burns through a game as soon as you get it, I think it will be impossible NOT to be frustrated by the lack of follow-through once you’ve learned all the basic moves and been awed by the graphics in the first hour of the title. But if you’re a huge Wolverine fan and have longed to unleash his berserker rage for years, you are likely to be satisfied with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”.

For this player (and former comic junkie), just getting underneath Wolverine’s skin was a blast for at least an hour, but the thrill wore off well before the credits rolled.

Check out this cool trailer before you buy or rent “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”:

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ was released by Activision and developed by Raven Software. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was for the PS3, but the title is also available for the Xbox 360, PC, PS2, PSP, DS, and Wii. It was released on May 1st, 2009.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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