X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted May 01, 2009

The tie-in game focused on the legendary Logan, known best as Wolverine, allows you to play the plot of the hero's origin, and in canonical locations in the X-verse. We now show our claws and slice into the new multiplatform game 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' in this X-Play Review.

The Pros
  • Joyously over the top and vicious violence.
  • Tons of unlockables, upgrades and secrets to find
  • Surprisingly lengthy
  • Wolverine vs. Wolverine fights
The Cons
  • Some camera issues
  • Glitchy at times
  • Wonky platforming

Well, it finally happened. And you can direct your thanks to the team at Raven for creating a movie tie-in game that isn’t awful. In fact, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is really good. So good that it’s almost unfair to categorize it as a movie game, given the stigma attached to the genre. Of course, the game isn’t without its flaws, but they are mostly cosmetic, and they are greatly outweighed by how fun, how lengthy and how bats*** nutty this game truly is.

Origin Glad You Saw the Movie First?

wolverineGiven that the story for both the game and the movie contain roughly the same plot points, twists, and surprises, I’ll keep this section relatively short and spoiler free. The most important thing to know is that the game’s narrative jumps between two key time-periods: during Logan’s last mission as part of Col. Stryker’s Team X in Africa and after his life-changing adamantium operation as Wolverine tracks down Stryker and his former Team X mates to avenge the death of the woman he loved.

Jumping between these two periods not only serves to mix up the settings and enemies (both of which sport some impressive designs and graphical details), but it also gives you a chance to play as both the bone-clawed Logan and the adamantium-infused Wolverine. Both characters play the same, but you’ll definitely see and feel the difference between the two claw types. Aside from the actress who plays Raven, the voice work is top notch. While the script has its share of cheesy dialogue, the performances more than make up for it.

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A Journey of a Thousand Kills…

One of the most surprising aspects of the game is its length. You can expect to spend around 10-12 hours on the regular difficulty setting, and that includes a fair amount of exploration. And while there isn’t a whole lot of room to explore, you’ll want to try as much as you can in order to find the numerous hidden items and upgrades scattered throughout every level. Aside from simple health meter boosts, you can also find skill-boosting mutagens that influence things like how much damage you take/deal and how quickly your health regenerates. Eventually, you can mix and match up to three mutagens at a time, which gives players the chance to tweak Wolverine to their particular tastes and styles.

You’ll also find a few alternate costumes based on various iterations of Wolverine’s iconic duds.  While it’s certainly cool to be able to reek untold levels of bloody violence while sporting the classic blue and yellow getup, the game goes that extra inch to make the costumes something special rather than just a cheap attempt at bonus content. You see, after you’ve found a new costume in the game, you have to face off against an AI controlled Wolverine and defeat him in order to unlock the costume. These fights (which you can go back and play as much as you want) are as brutal as they are joyous, and they almost make multiplayer seem like it could have worked, which is a true testament to the game’s solid fighting mechanics.

The Best There is at What I Do…

X-Men Origins: WolverineYou better believe there is absolutely nothing nice about what Wolverine does in this game. This is the Wolverine gamers have dreamt of controlling in a video game since…well, forever, and man was it worth the wait. Soldiers, mutants, robots, machines, helicopters, and pretty much everything else that happens to cross paths with your lethal and devastating claws end up as nothing more than disfigured and mutilated messes. The combat is brutal and an absolutely bloody blast from start to finish, and the inclusion of dozens of post-dismemberment animations makes it all feel even more vicious. Wolverine’s lunge attack adds space to fights, and it makes covering large areas a snap, giving you a real sense of Wolverine’s true power and agility.

There are a number of combos to unlock and master over the course of the game, all of which are designed to make the most of Wolverine’s abilities. Stringing quick attacks, heavy attacks and grabs is fluid and very God of War-ish in its delivery and presentation. While you can easily progress through the game with the same couple of combos, experimenting with all the possibilities makes for an even more rewarding experience. In addition to the standard moves, there are also four Fury Attacks that can be unleashed once you have built up enough rage. One lets you spin like a top, slicing and dicing everything in your path. Another lets you drill through foes, scattering their pathetic, gooey remains in all directions. Another turns you into an end-over-end death machine capable of hoping from one point to the next, killing everything in between. The last attack is Berserker mode, which increases your speed and killing power, letting you wipe out dozens of enemies with just a few devastating slashes.

Building a Better Wolverine

All of these moves, as well as three general categories (claw strength, health meter, rage meter), can be upgraded using experience points that you earn by leveling up. It’s a very simple RPG-ish system, but one that goes a long way towards adding depth and replayability to the game, since you will most likely have to play through it at least twice in order to fully upgrade every ability. Also, the more enemies you kill, the more effective you are against them, adding even more incentive to play through more than once. There are also a large number of skills-based achievements (kill 2,000 enemies, lunge at 250 enemies, dismembered 100 enemies, etc.) that you will be all too happy to pursue and unlock.
As if Wolverine didn’t have enough ways to deal death, the game also features environmental kills specific to each level type and a number of quick-time killing sequences. Wooden spikes, electricity boxes, giant vents, forklifts perilous ledges all offer you plenty of ways to vary your furry. To help pick out these deadly spots (or if you just want to pinpoint usable objects in the area), you can use Wolverine’s feral senses, which bathes the area around you in flowing white waves, with usable objects glowing either green or red. This can also be helpful when trying to locate enemies or traps. Even though it isn’t an essential tool, it’s just another little addition that adds to the game’s overall focus of delivering the most complete Wolverine experience possible.

The various boss battles offer plenty of challenge, and include a number of familiar faces, which you must then savagely attack. One boss in particular screams Shadow of the Colossus (even though the sequence misses out on being one of the great boss battles of all time thanks to some poor gameplay decisions), while another is so utterly unexpected that it would be straight up laughable if it wasn’t so damn entertaining and ridiculous.  

Time to Make Some Cuts
X-Men Origins: WolverineAs satisfying and spectacularly visceral as the combat is, a few issues come up on a regular basis. During some of the more cramped fights (corridors, temple squares, etc.), you will often find yourself up against a wall at some point. When this happens, the camera tends to get trapped behind you, leaving you vulnerable to attacks and with no way of knowing which way to move in order to get out of the unfortunate position. The rest of the time the camera does a great job of keeping up with the action, and the automatic slow-mo 360 shots that accompany particularly gnarly executions make it easy to look past the few moments when the camera works against you.

I also encountered a number of bugs in the build that I played, many of which will most likely be addressed by the time the game ships. There was quite a bit of clipping throughout the game resulting in enemies getting stuck in walls and floors. Other times, enemy bodies or recently destroyed objects would hover several feet off the ground or twitch in place. None of these issues ever took away from the overall experience, but they are still a bummer to see.

The other minor problem is that the platforming, which is thankfully kept to a minimum, feels clunky most of the time and is simply unnecessary the rest of the time. There are also sections where Wolverine must maneuver across beams without losing his balance that are unnecessary and sorely out of place. After all, watching your skin reform over your bones while visions of the limbless torsos you just created dance in your head and then having to daintily walk across a beam just looks ridiculous, and doesn’t fit in with the tone of the rest of the game at all.

Violent and Good Looking? Yes Please!

The game sports some very impressive character and environmental designs, thanks to its use of the Unreal Engine. There are a few bland textures here and there, but for the most part, it’s a good looking game. The environments are diverse (i.e. jungle temples, snowy mountains, military compound, research lab, Star Wars-esque robotics facilities), and the draw distances on some of the levels, especially at the top of the towering stone spires during the jungle levels, are simply stunning.

Lacerations, beheadings and dismemberments are as gory and satisfying as you would hope/expect. But perhaps even more impressive is Wolverine’s own damage system, which allows for chunks of his flesh (and shirt, but not pants) to be torn away to reveal the bones/adamantium underneath. The more damage you take, the more skeleton you’ll see. Get shot in the face and you’ll see a collection of teeth surrounded by bloody gums. You also get to watch tissue and skin reform as your wounds heal themselves. It’s beautifully done and will bring a smile to your face every time it happens, which is constantly.

Gladly Going Berserk

X-Men Origins: Wolverine marks a new era in movie-based gaming. Far from a hastily thrown together mess of gimmicks and uninspired design used as little more than a marketing ploy, Wolverine stands as an example of what a good movie game (and a good game in general) should be. Camera issues and graphical hiccups aside, there is very little not to love here. Thanks to some seriously savage gameplay, deep and responsive combat, and a wide range of upgrades and unlockables, the game manages to offer an experience that is as enjoyable and rewarding as it is brutal and intense.

Article Written By Jake Gaskill