NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 07/26/2013
Raven Software, the developers of the Uncaged Edition of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, had built up quite a large amount of cred with comic fans in their previous efforts. In the PS2/GC/Xbox era, they were responsible for the highly praised X-Men Legends series and its spiritual successor Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Though they had crafted Marvel games in the past, the company had never once developed a character based action game, and after X-Men Origins it leads me to wonder why they hadn’t tried before or after the fact.
The Uncaged Edition of X-Men Origins has the honor of being the only M rated Wolverine game, and this allowed Raven to make an incredibly visceral experience. Wolverine’s claws feel dangerous for maybe the first time since the character started to appear in video games with every hit giving right amount of feedback and satisfaction. You have your standard light and heavy attacks which you can combine for gruesome combos, but you can also perform more advanced moves like quick kills where you turn your enemies weapons against them in nasty ways and techniques such as a spinning claw attack by using the trigger and a corresponding face button. Should you get lost or stuck by one of the games few puzzles, you can trigger Wolverine’s senses to point you in the right direction, and this also helps to take out certain foes who have cloaking abilities that hide them from your naked eye.
Wolverine did appear as part of an assemble in X-Men: The Official Game also on Xbox 360, but one of the more frustrating parts about playing as that character was getting your power drained by enemies with guns. To even the playing field, Raven added a lunge mechanic where you lock on to an enemy and leap to their position. Not only does it help Logan gain some ground, you can also catch leaping enemies in the air with a counter lunge or exploit the weakness of many of the larger type enemies like Wendigo.
Successful kills and combos rack up experience points that you can use to level up and unlock moves and upgrade your character stats. Scattered throughout the levels are genes that you can equip as well to further customize Wolverine to your liking. Not getting enough experience? Equip the experience booster. Dying too often? Boost your life or regeneration.
Since the release of the original Halo on the original Xbox, character health regeneration has become a staple in video games and there is really no better character to show that off than Wolverine. The character has been able to regenerate health in past games, but Raven added a new layer to the mechanic where you can physically see Wolverine’s wounds closing on his body. It’s a nice authentic touch to the character and a really excellent visual, especially when you’re recovering from a heavy amount of damage. Should you get tired of looking at the Hugh Jackman character model, there’s also a plethora of classic Wolverine costumes to unlock such as the classic brown and tan, yellow and gold, and Uncanny X-Force suits.
While there sure is a lot to like in X-Men Origins Uncaged it is far from a perfect experience. For one the game is a little on the repetitive side in both combat and level design. The combat design is great, but often you’ll feel that you’ve mowed through a lot of the same grunts over and over again. Every so often a new enemy type will be thrown in to shake things up, but even those fights tend to drag on. The first time you take out a large enemy, like the stone Golem in the African jungle flashback levels you feel like you accomplish something, that is until you do that same fight over and over.
The game spends a little too long in the starting levels and this also tends to drag the experience down. You’ll go to some cool locales, like a Sentinel construction facility with teleportation pads and chase Gambit through a Casino in Louisiana, but you’ll experience a bit of fatique in the opening areas which are generic labs and warehouse archetypes. Throughout the game you’ll periodically flash back to the mission in Africa that caused Wolverine’s split from Team X, triggered by random conversations and characters you meet up with in the game like Mystique. Much like the lab facility, the stages in Africa stretch on a bit too much and stop the momentum of the story.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition is not a flawless game, but a solid combat system, combined with a decent upgrade system and unlockables help to raise it above other movie tie-in games. Who knows, if Raven was ever given the chance to take a second stab at the license without having to meet a film deadline, they could create a new series to compete with the likes of a God of War or DMC. For a first effort, Origins is a very good action games that will more than satisfy fans of the character.