Iron Man Xbox 360, PS3
Okay, the movie is amazing. Robert Downey Jr. as the alcoholic billionaire turned armour-clad superhero Tony Stark, who blasts his way through legions of terrorists as Iron Man. It is action packed, entertaining and – on paper – would make an excellent video game. The same thing has been said about many a superhero movie tie-in and unfortunately, most of them have been horrendous. Sure, there have been some decent ones; Spider-Man 2 and the underrated Hulk: Ultimate Destruction spring to mind, but then you’ve got utter turds like Superman Returns and Batman Begins. How on earth you screw up playing as two of the greatest superheroes of all time, I will never understand.
It is simple, really. When you pick up that superhero game off the shelves of your local GAME, you want to feel like you are them. Yet, time after time, you end up playing another generic action game with your favourite comic book hero shoved into it. Sure, accurately mimicking Daredevil’s enhanced sense of hearing would be tough, but Iron Man? He has a big metal suit that gives him the power of flight, super strength and the ability to fire massive laser blasts at his enemies. Easy, no?
Judging by this effort, probably not.
Flight. Perhaps the most staple of superpowers. Iron Man propels himself through the air at speed, dodging his enemies’ attacks with a certain grace. This is what you should expect from an Iron Man video game – especially one where you spend most of your time in flight. What you get is a character who whizzes about the levels with all the grace of a particularly rude one-winged bumblebee, who has been blinded and set on fire. Holding down the L Trigger begins your ascent, while holding it at an incredibly fiddly “halfway mark” allows you to hover at the height you are at. To descend, well, there is no button, you just let go and fall to the floor. Forward propulsion is even worse – the slightest touch of the stick moves Iron Man from a complete standstill to blasting across the terrain. Some of the latter stages throw an awful lot at you all at once, and without a solid control base allowing you to dodge freely, Iron Man becomes an exercise in frustration.
Combat, incredibly, is actually even worse. The right trigger controls Iron Man’s repulsor rays, which when held in that aforementioned awkward halfway mark allow you to aim freely around you. Again, it’s a poor choice of control, but you won’t ever have to use it. Hilariously, if you hold down the right trigger completely, you automatically lock on to the nearest enemy and blast it to pieces. Should you continue to hold the trigger down Iron Man will simply lock onto the next enemy and laser that one into dust. Rinse, repeat. There are a few other weapons at your disposal, such as missiles and a powerful laser cannon blast, as well as specific abilities like being able to catch enemy rockets out of the air and throw them back at them, but are all rendered completely useless due to the effectiveness of the basic weapon. Occasionally, you’ll reach a boss fight against a tank of sorts and suddenly Iron Man’s ultra-effective repulsors don’t cut it any more, despite previously tearing through hundreds of armoured vehicles throughout the level, and you’ve got to use some of his other skills to get past. This leads to spending a few minutes at a time circling a target, slowly chipping away at its health and dodging its attacks like an early 90’s boss battle. And not a good one, either.
Most of these poor movie licenses are consistent in the fact that they all play like hell, but feature nice, sparkly HD graphics. Iron Man can’t even boast that. Sure, Iron Man himself looks pretty flash – a nice shine to his well-rendered armour gives you at the very least a reasonable looking focus point. The rest of the game is an utter dog to look at. Backgrounds, be they cityscapes or rolling deserts, look bland and lifeless. Enemies are poorly animated and serve as fodder for the all-destroying repulsor beam, and while the odd explosion brightens up the proceedings, you’re already past caring, furious at your decision to buy this utter turkey.
Awful controls, boring gameplay, poor graphics. If I ever heard a death knell for a video game, that was it. If you’re not frustrated enough to launch your pad across the room, then you’re bored to death by what is being passed off as “action”. However, let’s try and salvage some positives from this. Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark, providing the voiceover for the FMV sequences. As you progress through the game, you can upgrade all of the weapons on your suit as you see fit by spending points earned during missions, adding a little depth to the otherwise purely action-based gameplay. Obviously, this is disregarding the fact that Tony Stark is a billionaire and could probably just add new cannons and blasters whenever he wanted to, but then we’ve already disregarded simple things like “fun” and “gameplay”, so that would probably be asking a bit much.
Aside from the main story mode, there is an arena mode called “One Man Army”, where you get to wrestle with the controls in order to destroy 80 enemies within ten minutes. Doing so unlocks different armours Iron Man has worn throughout his comic book history. Whether you think this is a worthy reward is relative to how much of an Iron Man geek you are, so I got a bit of a kick out of seeing the Hulkbuster armour make an appearance.
It’s a shame so many potentially wonderful licenses are inevitably ruined by an awful, awful game that has been rushed out to tie-in with a cinema release. Imagine if there was no Iron Man movie, and therefore no ultra-strict deadline, and a development company created a game at their own pace around the hero, free to add as much from the comic legacy as they wished? Same goes for any superhero, really. Saying that, perhaps without the marketing clout of the movie, most superhero games just wouldn’t sell, so we’re stuck with the sad reality that is rushed pieces of garbage like this.
Perhaps the worst part of Iron Man was that the movie is so damn entertaining, this game is almost certainly going to piggyback quite a few sales off the back of it. For the same price, you can see the movie at an IMAX four times, which will be far more entertaining than enduring the equivalent amount of time with this torturous piece of software. Remember Superman 64? Just saying…
Don’t be a sucker. Avoid, avoid, avoid.