In conjunction with the new X-Men movie, Activision has published X2:Wolverine’s Revenge to take advantage of some of the hype generated by the movie. The Xbox version was developed by Gene Pool.
The game’s primary focus is probably one of the more beloved X-men, Wolverine. The short Canadian badass is in full-effect in the game and you get to have a lot of fun with the little guy. The game starts with Wolverine escaping from the Weapon-X project where he was “given” his adamantium skeleton. The game then catapults into the present where you learn that along with the new skeleton, Wolverine was also given the Shiva virus and that his mutant healing ability has finally broken down enough to where the virus now poses a threat. It is up to you to take Wolverine back to the Weapon-X facility and find a cure before the virus runs it’s course.
The plot and design elements of the game are a combination of new elements, elements from the comics, and elements from the new movie (especially concerning costume design). This may cause a little confusion for those who are steeped in the Marvel mythos but once you get a little further into the story it comes together pretty well. I have to admit, it was extremely cool to start the game out with the Weapon X facility. The game lifted many of its design elements from the old Wolverine Weapon X comic series. The rest of the plot is good and you run into quite a few other major players from the Marvel universe. There are a few plot holes and a few impressive coincidences but nothing too unbelievable. Like the movie there are also a few small winks thrown to those who followed the comic book which is a nice touch (although this will probably piss Charlie off…)
The voice acting in the game is excellent for the most part. Mark “Don’t call me Luke” Hamill does the voice work for Wolverine and he does a damn good job (which is not un-expected, the guy has done some amazing voice work over the last decade or so). Patrick Stewart provides the voice for Professor X (providing the major link between the game and the movie) and he does a good job as well. The rest of the voice acting is above average (although the voice of Colossus was a bit off in my opinion).
The graphics for the game are excellent and have a nice comic book look to them. The designers did a good job of applying a consistent look and feel to the game and the attention to detail is high. The animations are well done and the animators did a great job of making sure that each character moved how they should.
The controls for the most part are fairly serviceable. The left thumbstick moves Wolverine around, A button to jump, Y kicks, X punches/slashes, and the B button is the action button, which is used to perform strikes (more on that later) or to interact with objects (ladders, consoles, machines, etc). The right thumbstick controls the camera (pressing down on it resets the camera behind Wolverine). The left and right triggers are used to activate Wolverine’s sense/stealth mode and crouch/crawl respectively. You can use the X and Y buttons along with the crouch button to create some fun combos but the real fun comes with strikes.
The white button is used to sheath/unsheathe your claws. Why would you sheath your claws? Because Wolverine’s mutant healing ability (also known as the mutant cop-out ability) only works while the claws are in. Double tapping the white button allows you to enter “feral” mode, otherwise known as the berserker rage mode. Every time you hit someone or are hit, your feral bar increases. When it maxes out, Wolverine will automatically go into feral mode or you can hit the white button twice and do it on your own. Feral mode allows you to move faster, do more damage, and take less damage from enemies. The downside to this is that since the claws are out, the healing ability is off and it can be inconvenient for Wolverine to go feral.
The sense/stealth mode allows you to become Wolverine: Solid Snake and sneak around. The game shifts color palette’s and you can see your enemies and other items highlighted on the screen. You can also “smell” enemies by their scents, which show up as light green smoke on the screen. This allows you to see enemies around corners and those who are hiding behind items in the room. This mode also allows you to see laser trip wires and the electronic sensor patterns. The sense/stealth mode also allows you to sneak up and perform stealth strikes but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Strikes are the heart of the attack system and are one of the funnest things in the game. They allow you to attack multiple targets and are usually the coup de gras moves when attacking bosses. To perform a strike, you either stun your opponent to open them up for a strike or you position yourself between multiple opponents and wait for the strike indicator to appear and then push the B button to initiate the strike. At this point, the game takes over and you get to watch Wolverine open a big can of Whup Ass ™ on his attackers. As you progress through the game, you can earn more powerful strikes by performing Stealth Strikes. As the name entails to perform a Stealth Strike, you basically sneak up on people using the Sense/Stealth mode and perform a strike. For each stealth strike you pull off, you get dog tags, which are used to unlock newer, more powerful strikes. The dog tags are also used to earn challenges, which unlock more things in the game.
The first few times you pull them off, they are amazingly gratifying. Just watching Wolverine sneak up and twist someone’s neck is nerdgasmic. The only problem is that there are a limited number of different stealth strikes in the game so it does get a little old after a while. The other problem is that the game forces you to use the stealth stuff a little too heavily in some sections as a result causing you to replay a section over and over and over and over and over (have I made my point yet?) if you alert a guard. I have entire sections of dialog memorized because I was forced to keep repeating it because I made one slip up and that’s pretty frustrating.
The strike concept is a good one but it can be a little frustrating since you have to position yourself correctly and then push the B button at exactly the right moment to execute it. It takes a lot of getting used to and is frustrating until you get the hang of it. The game is almost a little too over-reliant on them. You will also take damage while performing a strike so you have to watch your health meter before you initiate a longer strike, as you may not survive it.
The game play itself is good but it does get old after a while. There are a few places where you can take control of automated guns and robots but for the most part it’s you sneaking up and killing people using your hands, claws, and feet. While it’s cool at first, you have to wonder why Wolverine just doesn’t pick up a gun (you knock them out of the hands of guards most of the game) and just open fire.
The camera also tends to get in the way a bit and you will spend parts of the game fighting the camera to give you the right angle to see where you are supposed to go. The game is also tough and you’ll end up playing portions of the game over and over again until you get it right (if I hear the word “Wendigo” one more time I’ll go feral myself). I sometimes felt like I was fighting the game rather than playing it to accomplish tasks.
Along with the camera problems, it also has some clipping and graphics problem. In one portion of the game, I “fell” through an elevator shaft and had to restart the level because I was someplace I wasn’t supposed to be. In addition, there are issues with the sense mode. If you catch fire while in sense mode, it almost looks like the fire is inside Wolverine instead of outside him.
My other big gripe is the save system. You can only save at the end of a level and nowhere in between. I realize this is the console way but come on…I have an 8 GB hard drive on the Xbox and there’s no legitimate reason why I can’t do in game saves (I’m guessing this is a design limitation due to the fact that the game was released on all platforms). Hopefully, once the next generation of consoles comes out, this kind of limitation will be removed because it’s frustrating as hell to spend 20 minutes winding your way through a level only to fall in a hole or through a wall and have to start over again.
Once you complete the game, there’s not really a lot left other than the three challenge stages. You’ll want to go back and finish everything since the developers tossed in some nice bonus movies that you have to unlock by collecting everything in the game. You can also play though with some of Wolverine’s many costumes but that’s about it.
Overall, the game is average. The plot is strong but some of the execution is flawed. I’m not sure if it’s because the game was released for every platform and design decisions were made that impacted the game or not but it’s not that bad (or great of a game). If you’re a diehard X-men/Wolverine fan, then you’ll probably have blast with it but if you’re more of a casual fan, then it’s probably worth a rental at most.
The graphics and plot are great but the game play is frustrating and repetitive.
Rating: 7.8 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.