Name: Iron Man
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, PS2, Wii, DS, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Months ago, when we first got images of the in-game Iron Man model, I got interested. When I heard that the character model was being provided by ILM, and was basically the same as the one used in the movie, I got excited. Last week, when I saw the excellent Iron Man movie, I got downright stoked. How could they possibly mess up this project that’s so full of promise and potential? With a character model that nice, it’s at least gotta look good, right? Sure, it’s a movie tie-in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the game’s going to stink, does it?
Guess what; it stinks!
Iron Man, developed by Secret Level and published by Sega, is a pure cash-in on the mega-successful movie of the same name. Playing as the titular super hero, you’ll fight through 13 levels based on both the film and the 45-year old comic book series. Or at least they’ll want you to. In all honesty, unless you’re an unrepentant achievement junkie, you’ll probably want to stop after 2 or 3 missions
Controlling Iron Man is more of a chore than a game. On land, the armored Avenger feels completely weightless, often running on air instead of actually making contact with the ground. To make matters worse, any change in elevation you run over causes the screen to jerk violently up and down, creating a fairly nauseating game experience. In the air, things look a bit better, but the control scheme that Secret Level has come up with is confusing and physically tough on the hands. The left trigger allows Iron Man to hover, and pressing it all the way down makes him elevate while hovering. Flying is mapped to the left bumper, which often results in severe hand cramping. The right trigger fires your primary weapon, hand-mounted repulsor blasts, while the right bumper launches the powerful Uni-Beam. There are tertiary weapons as well, like heat seeking missiles and grenades, which are launched with the Y button, defensive measures like chaff and shields activated with the X button, and a melee attack mapped to the B button. The A button serves double duty, acting as a turbo boost when pressed, and an evasion move when tapped while flying. The controls are just as confusing as they seem, especially when you factor in the left and right analog sticks, which control movement and aim, respectively.
I use the word “aim” in the loosest sense possible, because Iron Man is able to target every enemy in the game just by pointing in their general direction. Once the enemy is targeted, firing any of your weapons results in a guaranteed hit, taking pretty much all the skill out of combat. In some levels, this makes combat a joke, allowing you to casually cruise at high altitude waiting for targeting reticules to show up so you can blindly fire, destroying all opposition. Other levels would be easy even without the dummy targeting system because of the jaw-droppingly stupid enemy AI. It’s not hard to take out an enemy who spends 45 seconds running into the same wall. There are some levels, however, that make you appreciate the targeting, as an overwhelming amount of enemies attack simultaneously, creating a chaotic, frustrating mess of a fight that many players will find too difficult to bother with.
And that’s the real problem here. There’s just not much in this game that’s worth bothering with. Almost every mission is structured the same way. Find the orange blips on the map, target the blips, fire, move on to the next set of blips. There are boss fights, but they don’t feel much different than the regular fights. They’re mostly just longer, and thus, more tedious.
As great as the Mark 3 Iron Man (the red and gold one) character model looks, it can’t save the overall visual presentation. The first armor you wear is utterly ridiculous looking, which is a shame, because it looks so menacing and steampunk-cool in the movie. Enemy combatants look even worse, with shoddy texturing and blocky, low-poly character models. Environments are nicely textured and look great while high above, but suffer from a total lack of detail. For example, the city levels feature nice looking skylines and decent buildings, but omit all pedestrians and traffic, making the towns feel empty and lifeless. In addition, just about every animation in the game is clunky, choppy and just plain silly looking. There are some okay lighting effects, but they are inconsistent, often displaying characters in completely different light than the environment in which they exist. At least the frame rate is solid.
Sega was able to secure the talents of most of the movies’ biggest stars. Gwyneth Paltrow is nowhere to be found, but Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges and Terrance Howard all reprise their roles in the game. As usual, the acting and script are nowhere near the quality of those found in the movie, but overall, you can tell that the stars did more than just show up (as was the case in the Spider-Man games.) The voices are a bit quiet, and the whole audio presentation feels uneven, but, with the exception of some completely silent vehicles that definitely shouldn’t be silent, the sound effects are decent enough.
In-between missions you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade your armor with new thrusters, weapons, defensive measures and armor cores. There are a ton of upgrade options, which is appropriate for n Iron Man game, and if the actual gameplay were any fun, this might be a very cool feature. Sadly, that’s just not the case.
I am a huge Iron Man fan. I mean HUGE. I’ve read just about every Iron Man comic published over the last ten years. I saw the movie on opening day and geeked out completely. Hell, I almost cried when Rumiko died (comic nerds, you know what I’m taking about.) Even with all that fanboyism, I came into this game with optimism tempered by mediocre expectations. It failed to meet even them. The game is just plain bad. It feels underdeveloped, hacked together and downright shoddy. As much as I’d love to, I simply can’t justify even renting this combination of tedious combat, baffling controls, laughable animation, empty environments and AI as dumb as a bag of stupid. If you absolutely need an Iron Man fix, go play Marvel:Ultimate Alliance or Marvel vs. Capcom 2.