Considering the relatively family-friendly certificate gracing the X-men Origins: Wolverine movie, it’s something of a surprise to see any hope of similar thinking for the tie-in game decimated in a bloody and gory opening sequence.
Fast-forward 10 minutes or so and we’d already diced someone’s head in the rotor blades of a helicopter. Not for nothing does X-men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged have an 18 certificate on the front of the box. It’s hard to think of another game thus far this year that deserves it more.
But then that’s not the only surprise. Given the reasonably turgid collections of games that have surrounded summer blockbuster movies in recent years, it’s genuinely refreshing to see that when it came to Wolverine, someone actually bothered. Really bothered, too. For the masterstroke was to apply a bit of old-style Golden Axe thinking, and to turn Wolverine’s world into a 3D orgy of slash and hack entertainment.
And, in the short term at least, it’s ridiculously good fun. You take on the role of the title character, who navigates through levels full of bad guys and creatures using feral senses that are activated using the thumb pad. Using these you get a hint of which way to go, and it pretty much dumbs down anything approaching a puzzle that you’ll come across.
That, though, doesn’t matter in this case. Because what you get instead is a manic, quite old-fashioned slasher game, which makes up for being a little rough around the edges simply by being so frenetic. Boasting a selection of constantly evolving special moves and combos, the game’s designers have clearly decided to keep things moving along like the clappers, and it’s a tactic that for long parts of the game works well.
Heck, they also give us the marvelous lunge move, which, long after our powers had been souped up, we kept coming back to. This allows you to target and attack a distant enemy with great gusto, and the game presents it in a suitably cinematic way.
What also helps is the intuitive button-mashing control system and the game’s gentle nudging of you along its learning curves. You’re armed with a fairly standard selection of slow and fast attacks, along with blocking moves, and with the obligatory combos it’s easily enough for the job.
But there are still raw edges, and by far the most problematic are when things slow down for a boss battle. The bosses themselves, as with the rest of the game, are graphically sound, but to suddenly have the brakes put on when finding one hurts the tempo of the game. Plus, bluntly, it’s nowhere near as much fun as trying to outfox a room full of characters intent on your demise.
Then there’s the fact that for all the bluster it throws in your direction, the game doesn’t fundamentally evolve much as you plough your way through it. It’s never really as much fun as those early levels again, although it does have plenty of moments.
The game throws in collectables, upgrades and suchlike, but they’re gravy over the main dish. And that dish is, ultimately, a bit tastier than expected, even if it never quite lives up to first impressions.