When Activision started releasing information about the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game, they promised to deliver an M-Rated Wolverine experience unlike any game before it. Whereas most games featuring Canada’s most famous superhero treated him with kids’ gloves, this newest version was intended to show him in all his violent glory. With a satisfying combat system, a unique healing mechanic, and some of the most blood-soaked violence you’re likely to see on a console, they made good on that promise, and produced a fun, visceral Wolverine adventure, even if the finished product is a bit unpolished.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an action game in the vein of God of War. Instead of chained blades, however, Wolverine uses his famous adamantium claws to deal with his enemies. There’s a light and heavy attack, which can be strung together to perform combos, a grab button, good for hurling enemies to their death, and a block button, which, when timed properly, can also be used to counter some attacks and deflect projectiles. To compensate for Wolverine’s lack of ranged attacks, they’ve given him a lunge ability that allows you to quickly jump on top of enemies up to around 50 feet away. This not only speeds up gameplay but also serves as one of your most commonly used attacks.
While the combat isn’t quite as tight as it is in God of War, it’s still a blast. Leaping into a crowd of enemies, claws flashing, is just as visceral as you’d think, and does a great job of making you feel like you’re playing with Wolverine, and not just a generic action hero in a Wolverine skin. While combat isn’t terribly deep, Logan’s arsenal of lethal maneuvers is diverse enough to keep you entertained for quite a while. Over the course of the game, you’ll unlock more and more abilities, like one-hit kills, counter-attacks, running takedowns and a selection of Rage moves which spend rage points in exchange for more damage. Environmental elements also make their way into the combat sequences; Wolverine can impale enemies on spikes and forklifts, drive them headfirst into cement mixers, or slam them into electric plates.
Still, the combat does eventually get a bit repetitive over the 10 or so hours it takes to complete the game. There are plenty of platforming sections, many making use of Logan’s animal senses to help find his way, a few puzzles, and even some on-rails shooting sequences that do a decent job of breaking up the action, but, for the most part, they aren’t as well-developed as the meat of the game, which is dismembering enemies.
And dismember you shall. Wolverine earns its “Mature” rating with a huge amount of blood and constant decapitations and dismemberments. It’s easily the most violent superhero game of all time, and likely one of the most violent of the current generation. The flesh rending fun doesn’t stop at the enemies, either. Wolverine is known for taking a beating like no one else, and he shows it in this game. When he takes damage, his skin and muscle layers tear away, often leaving gaping holes in the protagonist’s chest and arms. Standing still for a while not only returns your life bar to normal, but also allows your body to heal in real-time. The effect created by the loss and regeneration of flesh is impressive, and further immerses you in the mad mutant’s world.
To help you along the way, there are several types of collectibles hidden throughout the game. Wolverine action figures help unlock additional costumes, and mutagens let you personalize Wolverine with perks like additional claw damage, more hit points, and increased experience from each kill. There are also plenty of dog tags, max health increases and a system that makes you more effective against enemy-types the more times you face them. Finally, each time you level up, you gain skill points, which can be invested in things like increased damage, increased health, or increased duration of rage attacks.
While the story of the game generally follows the movie’s plot, there are some pretty major departures. New locations, new characters, and modified versions of events from the film all make their way into the game, creating a slightly different experience than what you’ll see in the theatres. Unfortunately, the game’s plot is confusing, muddled, and downright boring. You’ll likely tune out the mediocre voice acting and uninspired script, or skip it all together in order to get back to the action more quickly.
Perhaps the most irritating thing about this game is the fact that once you’ve beaten the game, and unlocked “Hard Mode,” you can’t start a new game with your beefed-up character. This means you’ll have to re-earn all of your skill and mutagen upgrades, and you can’t replay a specific mission on a different difficulty setting. This not only makes your accomplishments feel empty, it also discourages a second playthrough of the game.
Visually, Wolverine is something of a mixed bag. The main character model, as well as the unlockable comic costume versions of him, looks fantastic, while pretty much everything else is just okay. There are some nicely designed environments, but they suffer from inconsistent texturing and some clipping issues. Villains look slightly better, but are a bit indistinct, and, with a few exceptions, tend to look pretty similar to one another. A couple of moments in the game require you to face off against gigantic enemies, like the Sentinel Mark 1. These moments look great, and convey a great sense of scale. Frame rates can slow to a crawl when these monsters are onscreen, but otherwise, it’s pretty stable. There is some decent voice-acting at work here, but due to a poor audio mix, it’s often impossible to hear. There are some sound design issues as well, but these are mostly during cut-scenes, which aren’t worth watching anayway. Most of the time, we’re treated to a great sounding Wolverine with a flashing claw sound that’s ripped from the pages of X-Men comics.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine reminds me a lot of Spider-Man 3; they’re both perfectly serviceable action games that do a great job of putting you in a superhero’s shoes, but make you wish there was more to do in those shoes. Still, it’s a somewhat addictive action title that should please fans of the character and action gamers alike. The lack of replayability means you'll probably get your fill of the game in about a week, but it's definitely worth a playthrough.