X-Men Origins: Wolverine begins with a cinema, like most other games of its type. Knowing that the game is based on a movie that is based on a comic book character with such a rich backstory, I sat back, rested the controller in my lap and watched, expecting several minutes of CGI. There was a fight scene that lasted a couple of minutes before cutting into another scene, based on a helicopter. Suddenly, the game began and Wolverine was plummeting towards the ground, dodging anti-air missiles along the way. At the bottom of the fall, all hell breaks loose. Three minutes after I pressed start, Wolverine was literally launched headfirst into chaos. And that chaos would last for another eleven hours, with little breathing room. If you don't know what the word "relentless" means, have I got a game for you!
There are some simple puzzles to solve and short cut scenes to watch, but what Wolverine does best is try to tear every inch of flesh off the hero's body. As the bullets, machetes, and other assorted deliverers of death rip into him, Logan (Wolverine) can press forward unflinchingly, using dozens of different attacks to decapitate, eviscerate, and generally mess up his unfortunate enemies. This title has the fast-paced action of a side-scroller, the gore of the bloodiest fighting game, and the benefit of a deep character with a deep story (as far as these things go), so if you have any desire to play a 3D beat-'em-up, this is probably the one to get.
If you don't know what the word "relentless" means, have I got a game for you!
Logan takes on all comers in this story, written by Marvel's Mark Guggenheim, in a narrative that moves back and forth between the present and a mission from Wolverine's past. Along the way, we see the evolution of the Weapon X and Sentinel programs - the former designed to exploit mutants like Logan for military gain and the latter designed to eliminate them from the face of the earth. Besides the hordes of soldiers and other human-sized claw fodder, there are multiple boss battles over five chapters. Fights take place on helicopters, rooftops, moving speedboats, and on the outside of an immense machine hurtling toward the heavens. Considering how repetitive this genre can get, the game does a good job of giving you just enough new to do that you want to keep playing - until it starts to drag a little toward the end.
Logan himself is fun to play because of the variety of his attacks and the ferocity with which he delivers them, but I must admit that my distaste for his accelerated healing factor in the comics has carried over into the game. For me, characters like Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk, and the Crow aren't as interesting as someone like Spider-Man, because of their nigh invincibility. Sure, you can put their loved ones in danger and watch the heroes go through all sorts of mental trauma, but you can also do this with the other characters, too, so you're still missing a dimension. In the game, it only takes a matter of seconds before Logan starts to heal, so the challenge on the default difficulty level is never really what it should be. (You need to beat the game to unlock the Hard difficulty.)
And if it weren't easy enough, there are items you can find that will unlock faster healing, more damage resistance, and many other upgrades. But, to be fair, you are allowed to choose which upgrades to use, if any. Other unlockables include three Wolverine costumes that you can use in-game once you earn them. Separate from the aforementioned upgrades (called "mutagens"), you can boost various stats when you level up, and there is also a running tally of how many times you performed certain actions, with a set goal in each case - e.g., "Enemies killed in Berserker mode: 25/100." All that will keep you playing, and it is sad to see all your stats go back down to zero if you start a new game once you unlock Hard mode.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is perfect sadomasochistic fun. It's memorable for some boss battles, for the way the main character's skin gets shot off and grows back, and for the sheer number of ways you can separate an enemy's head from the rest of his mangled body. If you ever want to get a taste of Armageddon, just slip in the DVD and get to work.