Reviewed: May 2, 2009
Released: May 1, 2009
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Activision has the corner on the super-hero videogame genre these days with awesome Marvel licenses like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear that they would be taking on one of this spring’s biggest and most anticipated action movies, and with Griptonite at the helm for the PSP port, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is very likely to be one of the few videogames to live up tothe action of the film that inspired it.
Gone from the PSP version is the "uncaged" reference, and observant gamers will also note the M rating is now T. Sadly, this means that Logan has lost nearly all his edge, at least when it comes to controversial violence and rampant blood. Even the amazing opening movie has been sanitized so there is no blood and no visible impacts or impalement when claws pierce bodies. It actually looks quite ridiculous now, which is a shame because it is so cool on the uncaged versions of the game. Still, if you have overly sensitive parents then you at least get to play some sort of Wolverine game this summer.
The PSP version of Wolverine mixes up the storyline and major plot points of the console version even worse than the console game. The chopper explosion that kicks off the console game doesn't happen until a few levels into the PSP version and the African village raid happens much sooner on the PSP than the console. The level designs are totally different and there are a few PSP-exclusive levels thrown into the mix to give this handheld version some added substance, but it seems they purposely scrambled the levels just so they could say they were different.
Game controls are good but nowhere near what console gamers might expect. The dual-button lunge attack as been reduced to a push of the circle button making it all too easy to simply hit that button to leap from enemy to enemy in quick succession and dispatch them with a few flurries of your blades. There is no blocking and you don't even get rage abilities until after a brutal fight with Victor in the bar. You basically mash on the square and triangle buttons to pull of combos and wait for a button symbol to appear over the dazed head of the enemy to finish them off. It's fairly repetitive and gets boring much faster than it did on the console since you don't have all the cool gore and violence to mask the repetition.
While there is a bit of character building on the PSP its all automatically assigned with attributes being awarded by completing primary and secondary mission objectives. The primary goals are mandatory, like finish the level, while secondary goals are more skill based like finish the level in six minutes without dying. There is a modest mix of enemies that don't exhibit any real combat skill other than getting in your face and coming at you in numbers. It's more an exercise in persistence than skill in plodding your way through this game. Gone are the truly cinematic moments that made the console version wildly entertaining.
Overall, I found the gameplay to be extremely more difficult than any of the console versions. Enemies were much more brutal and I was dying constantly and getting annoyed even faster. Even something as simple as the feral sense ability was reduced to scripted locations where they told you to press the button. For the collectors, you can unlock plenty of bonus content like concept art, movies, audio logs, costumes and secret bonus items.
From a technical standpoint Wolverine looks great at times, especially for a PSP game. While the architecture is simple the textures are nice and the lighting is excellent. The game really shows its stuff in the outdoor levels. The overall presentation is pretty slick with a nice menu system that uses a comic book font and visual references to the chosen level. The cutscenes are lifted straight from the console version but with all traces of blood and blade punctures surgically removed. Character modeling is nice, especially for Logan with nice detail and fluid animation.
There is a modest soundtrack that maintains the X-Men themes we expect and then you have a nice sound mix of environmental sounds combined with insane amounts of combat effects, slashing, shots, explosions, robotic hums, and the metallic slicing of Wolverine’s blades that definitely requires some headphones to appreciate. The voice work and pre-mission narration is excellent.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine doesn't come close to recreating the same level of excitement or the experience of actually being Wolverine that the console versions manage to do. I'd like to say much of this has to do with the blood and violence but at the end of the day Wolverine comes off looking and playing like the majority of PSP games out there. There is still some fun to be had here, but Activision has seen better releases on the PSP. Wolverine is still worth checking out, especially if your parents won't let you play the "good version".