If you're any sort of fan of Wolverine, you're going to be taken back by this game. Not because it's bad, or because it's misrepresentative of Wolverine... actually, it is because of that last statement, only not in the way you might think.
Playing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I thought back to all
the Wolverine media I've been privy to in my life. I was a rabid collector of comics from about the age of 12, and serious enough about the hobby at age 14, that I somehow managed to collect something in the vicinity of 20+ titles per month (I shared a collection with my cousin and our whole allowance was directed to the comic cause).
While this collection definitely included some cool characters and various heroes and teams, if there was a Wolverine comic, cross-over or even mild appearance - we owned it. And there really was no better representation of the "best there is at what he does" than his very own comics. And after reading Barry Windsor Smith's Weapon X it seemed like Wolverine couldn't possibly be tainted by misrepresentation.
Then of course the cartoons came out, and while infinitely cool, Wolverine spent most of his time barking up a much bigger fight than following through with his claws or raw tenacity. Problem is, this in motion trend maintained, and even right up to his latest solo flick roll out, Logan has had nothing but his arse handed to him at every turn; completely and utterly destroying the altruistic comic-book image of him as a mutant with adamantium claws, who knew how to use them.
Speaking to the game's project lead
, Dan Vondrack, filled me with a sense of hope I never thought I'd have for anything Wolverine related beyond the comics, much less a videogame, but he assured me they were going to "make the Wolverine game that no one's ever made before". And they have done just that.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a bloody game, it's a gory game. It takes the Wolverine character and applies everything you've ever thought he'd be able to do, with verve and vigour. At no point throughout do you feel Wolverine is weak or incapable, and his handling of his enemies is absolutely dealt with in the only way someone with unbreakable adamantium claws would.
In the tradition of other great action games such as God of War or Devil May Cry, Wolverine takes a reasonably familiar formula and applies it to Wolverine lore. If you've seen the movie, a lot of what's on offer here is going to be familiar, and if you haven't (and plan on seeing it), it's going to spoil a bit for you.
If, like me though, you want to control a guy who is practically indestructible and just slice people up, you're not going to care too much about the story here. And from the opening cinematic, X-Men Origins: Wolverine never lets up.
Our tenacious mutant slices limbs off, heads off and torsos in two. There's a copious amount of blood throughout, and even when he's being shot up, you get a real sense of his powers and abilities as you watch him move about the screen, adamantium coated rib-cage showing and all (prior to it healing). But it's not just the presentation and gore that makes this an enjoyable romp.
Like most licensed games, X-Men Origins: Wolverine does suffer in a lot of ways, and it's far from perfect. You're confined to a very linear path, and have your hand held through most of the game. There's repetition and a severe lack of dynamic gameplay or puzzle-solving found, but it's all entirely forgivable because of a concrete action experience held together with a solid game-engine (utilising Unreal tech), plenty of fan-service, a real sense of Wolverine's powers and abilities and a heady host of bad guys to slice and dice.
Gameplay sees you moving in and out of Wolverine's past as a special ops soldier, his period at the Weapon X facility at Alkali Lake and various other sections of his past and present. The pacing is handled well with plenty of over-the-top action sequences and bad-guy delivery periods. There are bosses and sub-bosses to deal with (though the sub-bosses tend to add to some of the aforementioned repetition), and as mentioned above, plenty of awesome hardcore fan stuff to discover (such as finding and unlocking old Wolvie costumes).
For the most part, you're dishing out combinations of melee attacks, and the variety here is definitely one of the game's strengths.
There are various ways to dispatch bad-guys, from heavy and quick deaths to elongated combos and a much-loved lunge attack that ensure no one in their right mind would ever want to come near Wolverine if he really existed. I felt some of the movement effects here were a bit fighting game-inspired and out-of-place (ie too many bright colours and swirling effects), but it's a mere aesthetic thing that hardly detracts from the overall experience.
We also found a lot of problems with Wolverine's clothing throughout, such as a reappearing singlet that moments ago was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately there are more than a few issues such as this that stop the game from feeling as complete as it should, and given Vondrack told me the team were given close to a whole year to test and tidy it up, it really comes across as a stand-out issue.
In terms of length you're looking at around eight hours of gameplay, and you're likely going to stop in the middle of this because of the repetitive nature of play. It's not that it's bad - in fact in this day and age, it's refreshing to come across a regressive game like this, it's just for all the awesome, unrelenting ferocity of Wolverine's ability to kill with style, you can't help but feel slightly cheated out of any of his other strengths.
At any point in the game you can switch to a heightened senses vision that not only gives you a direction to head (should you become lost), but also points out all of the environmental death-helpers (you can impale baddies, electrocute them and heaps more). There's also a levelling up system that allows you access to a skill-tree and perk system (called "Mutagens"). All of this adds flavour and direction, but it hardly fleshes out the game.
For fans like me who've been waiting for an unashamedly violent Wolverine title, you're going to find a lot of joy in this product. It's just so much fun tearing people apart. But unfortunately it's the long-forgotten (or foregone) violence that is the game's one true saving grace. Beyond that, you're really playing a fairly standard action game sans too many quicktime events and extended puzzle sections.
This is Wolverine in all his ferocious glory, but it's also where the buck stops and as a result is left more than likely as an enjoyable weekend in front of the telly type of experience, instead of a months on-end open-world romp like so many other games liable to be living in your system tray these days.