In the early ’90s, I entered the comic book phase of my life. While I read some stuff from DC and Image, I mainly read a couple of Marvel titles. One of those titles was Wolverine. As I sat in my room reading, I thought to myself that this guy is a badass. I mean, he had retractable claws, a healing factor, unbreakable bones, heightened senses, and a screw you attitude. This guy was pretty much unstoppable. For many years I continued to read his adventures, not only in his title, but in the many X-Men comics as well, and it left a lot of questions open about his past that I needed answers to. Thankfully, Marvel released an origin story for this very popular character that answered a lot of those questions. Fast forward to today, that story has been made into a movie and a video game. Needless to say, both weren’t what I was expecting.
In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you take control of Logan in two different time frames; the present and three years ago. This is where the story confuses me. For one, this is only an origin story because it takes place before Logan was a loner and had his adamantium skeleton. The “three years ago” time frame has you looking for the rest of your Weapon X team when the helicopter they were flying in was shot down by an RPG. The “present day” story has you looking for William Stryker to exact some revenge. I have a few problems with the story and the cut scenes.
First, the story doesn’t really tell the origin story of James Howlett (Wolverine). The only part it touches on is how he got his unbreakable skeleton, his hatred for Sabretooth and, to a lesser extreme, his quest for revenge. At one part in the game, it was mentioned briefly, that Victor Creed (Sabretooth) and Logan are brothers. If you didn’t read the comics or watch the movie, you would actually see what happened when those two brothers where kids in the 1800′s. Now I know this game is all about the action and not about the story as much, but I think it would have been beneficial to start the game playing as a young James and fight your way to the present, briefly touching on some of the stuff he went through as he grew older…sort of like the movie did.
The only other problem I had with the story is that it didn’t hook me. It just keeps going back and forth from the present to three years ago. I felt like a yo-yo. One of the more noticeable problems I had was with the cut scenes. They are noticeable quieter than the actual game. I had to turn my TV up just to hear what was being said.
At its heart, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a straight up hack and slash game, that mimics the style of God of War, and finally, we get an M-rated Wolverine game that lets you dismember enemies at will. The game also doesn’t shy away from its M rating, there is an abundance of violence to be found. Wolverine has a ton of moves in his arsenal to dispose of those looking to capture you (you can’t die, so if you fail a mission, you are captured). Most you have to unlock as you progress through the game. You even have the ability to upgrade Wolvie as you kill baddies and gain experience. Throughout the levels, there are a few collectables to find.
The Wolverine statues, if you find enough, unlock other costumes Wolverine wore in the comics. When you have unlocked all the costumes, the statues then give you experience points. There are also mutagens that you can find that do anything from helping to heal you faster to giving your fury attacks a more powerful punch. If you have played Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you might be familiar with this upgrade system, as it is very similar. You can spend experience points and equip the mutagens by hitting the back button at any point in the game.
The controls of the game seem a little intimidating at first, but once you get used to them, you will be hacking enemies to bits easily. To move Logan, use the left analog stick, while you control the camera with the right stick. Let me detour from the controls for a bit to talk about the camera. The camera in this game is a double-edged sword. It works fine when you are battling normal enemies, but when you take on the bosses, it automatically locks on to that boss. So if you are trying to find a place to lay low and heal, you really can’t look around to find that place, for every time you move the right stick in any direction, the camera will say no, slap you in the face and then focus back on the boss. This becomes really frustrating as you near the end of the game. But, let’s get back to the controls. If you want to jump, hit the A or X button, to grab any enemy hit the B or circle button. From here you can throw him by hitting the button again, or you can jab at him by hitting the X or square button or you can execute a quick kill by hitting the Y or triangle button once to initiate the kill and then hitting it a second time as his claws shine to finish the kill.
Your light attack is handled by the X or square button and the heavy with the Y or triangle. You can lock onto an enemy by holding the R-bumper and if you want to switch who you are locked onto, use the right analog stick. If you want to lunge at the baddie, lock onto him then hit the L-bumper. To use his feral senses (which can show you the way to go or find hidden stuff), hit up on the D-pad. You can make Wolverine block with the L-trigger and counter by hitting the left trigger just before the attack hits, then press the quick-attack button during the slowdown. To use your fury attacks, hold the R-trigger. This brings up a menu on the right side of the screen with the four face buttons appearing. Each face button allows you to pull off a devastating attack. This is also similar to how special moves were pulled off in Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
The controls might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but once you use all the buttons to unleash hell, you won’t give a second thought about how you can do certain things. To fully appreciate everything Wolverine can do, you have to use all his moves and combos…just don’t use the lunge move or quick kill. While these are cool ways to dispatch your enemies to the afterlife, there are much cooler things you can do to kill your attackers. For example, there are objects in the levels you can impale the enemies on. But be careful, you can also be hit onto these items. So experiment, or look at the move screen in the pause menu to see everything he can do.
What really separates this game from every other hack and slash is Wolverine’s healing factor. This is probably the coolest part of this game. You do have a life bar, so when you are hit you do take damage. When the life bar is depleted, you then use an adrenaline meter. This is like a reserve health bar that goes in use so you can flee the fight to go heal. If you don’t leave the fight, and you continue to take damage, your adrenaline meter you empty and that is when you are captured and the mission ends. But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is watching Wolverine take damage. As you take damage, you will start to see his skin come off to expose muscle and, eventually, his skeleton. Usually, when I finish a tough fight, my character has taken a lot of damage and his skeleton is all but exposed. So I just let Wolverine stand there and watch as his healing factor does its thing. I have never seen a game do the real time damage like this game does. It’s simply amazing.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not a game for everyone; you have to have a strong stomach, you have to like hack and slash games and you have to know the story of Wolverine to fully appreciate it. If you don’t know anything about Wolverine but like your hack and slash games, you will no doubt like this game, wonky camera and all. With a ton of moves to master, insane boss fights and cool real time healing, you will have a blast learning about one of Marvel’s most beloved characters.