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X2: Wolverine's Revenge Review
developer: Livesay Technologies
PIII-500, 128MB RAM, 1.5GB HDD, 32MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Apr 15, 03 (released)
|» All About X2: Wolverine's Revenge on ActionTrip|
While you are waiting for X-Men 2 to hit theaters, Activision and Livesay Technologies have prepared a little something to help pass the time. The videogame companion to the upcoming sire-fire blockbuster is much like Activision's previous action/adventure Spider-Man: The Movie, only this time you won't get to web-zip anybody - you strictly rely on your feral instincts and mutant abilities - not to mention the set of kick-ass claws. Just to jog your memory a wee bit, X2: Wolverine's Revenge was simultaneously released for next-generation consoles. Now we'll get a chance to get deeper into its PC reincarnation.
The game is a companion to the upcoming X2 movie (slated worldwide launch this summer). This, however, doesn't mean the game treats you to the same plot. The basic storyline in X2: Wolverine's Revenge is completely different and takes you back to 1968, a time when Wolverine tries to escape from the horrifying Weapon X program. Tragically, Wolverine learns that his body was infected with the so-called Shiva virus, which started to spread through his blood stream almost instantly. After escaping from the Weapon X program, your only hope is to locate an antidote within the next 24 hours, and save Wolverine's hide. From here on, the story will become even more intense as the player goes deeper into underground research facilities in order to locate the serum he needs to overcome the deadly virus. Throughout the story, fans of Marvel's X-men comic series will recognize some characters like Professor X, Magneto, Juggernaut, and others. One of the most commending aspects of the game was the effort that was poured into making first-rate character voiceovers - naturally, with the aid of celebrated Hollywood actors like Mark Hamill (Star Wars), who lent his voice to Wolverine and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek), the voice Professor X.
Surprisingly though, such a fine selection of actors wasn't enough to overcome many obvious technical and gameplay flaws in the game. Under the gun to make the game's release coincide with the movie deadline the developers probably had very little time to concentrate on retooling the engine and balancing the gameplay. Unfortunate, but it happens far too often in this industry. Numerous publishers and game designers out there are rushing to make their overzealous deadlines and quite often their endeavors keep falling short of the target. Their projects end up being at best mediocre achievements. In X2: Wolverine's Revenge players will encounter many issues, some of which can be really annoying and frustrating. Some of these setbacks are noticeable right at the beginning of the game. The moment Wolverine takes his very first step into danger; you'll immediately sense how clunky and unintuitive the control system is. Any gamer (regardless of previous experience) will have a hard time getting used to the poorly mapped keyboard controls, as well as the awful positioning of the camera. So, as you may have gathered by now, a controller or any kind of joypad would be the ideal solution for this title, since the developers clearly failed to adapt the controls to the standard PC mouse and keyboard combination. On the other hand, this editor managed to find a reasonably good way to control the main character. This was achieved with an effective combination of Num Pad keys and the typical WASD set up. To my surprise, this provided only temporary comfort. Soon afterwards, I encountered the annoying camera problem once again. Switching back to the mouse didn't work either, due to the inadequate and badly optimized sensitivity level.
The very first few sections have introduced another disappointing aspect of the gameplay - the unbalanced AI. There's a range of enemy troops that responds appropriately, accurately, and intelligently. But, in some cases, your opponents simply refuse to react to Wolverine's actions; even if he is standing right in front of their noses. Every now and then, enemy soldiers will surround you in a vain attempt to gun you down or knock you out, which stands as yet another example of how weak and unpolished the AI routines are. There are a few occasional boss sections where players can witness a slightly improved version of the AI, but I'm afraid these are rare and hardly sufficient to make up for the majority of slow-witted foes. This unbalanced AI also has some weird and unexplainable side-effects, making certain opponents almost invincible. Generally, a rather sloppy job by the programmers.
But in all honesty, despite the game's many flaws, X2: Wolverine's Revenge is not all bad. Good ol' Wolverine can slip through enemy ranks using his animal instincts and slyness. Basically there are two ways you can attack: you can jump straight into action and engage in combat against multiple opponents or you can enter the sneak-mode which changes Wolverine's perception of the surroundings and he can see and feel things a lot easier. This mode alters the hues and colors of the environment, highlighting body warmth, footprints, and stuff like that - in a way similar to Predator's thermal vision. Besides that, Wolverine has the advantage of his special abilities that give him the chance to creep up behind troops slowly, quietly, and undetected. This kind of approach is quite effective and (in many cases) instantaneously lethal, and, thankfully, very easy to carry out. It also adds an RPG-like flavor to the gameplay, allowing your character to plan his moves and attacks in advance as he progresses through the game.
The visuals aren't brilliant, but they're not bad either. There are a number of nice touches here and there such as smoke and fog, nice particle effects, etc. The explosions and lighting effects seem to work rather well, putting on a highly-detailed and colorful "light show." The in-game models were well-animated, even though they appear to have been deprived of additional details - an improvement which would certainly be more than welcome. The sad thing is that most of your enemies aren't that good looking either. The only exception would be the models a few bosses and, of course, the model of Wolverine himself (you get to unlock and use various skins). It becomes obvious that the designing team did a decent job on the main character, but somehow forgot to concentrate on other in-game models. Frankly some of them seem downright ugly. It appears that in an attempt to make a crossover between comic-like and real-life characters, the developers stumbled and have failed to achieve the desirable effect. Another bad aspect of the visuals in general, is the complete lack of embellishments like reflections on the walls and floor, or perhaps some of those nifty GeForce-powered anti-aliasing effects. Mysteriously, the frame-rate can become rather choppy at times, even if you turn down the amount of detail and objects on screen. Note: This was only the situation when we tested the game on my system - Athlon 1.6 Ghz and a GeForce 3 video card. 2lions' system didn't have any problems though (Athlon 2 Ghz with a GeForce 4 Ti 4600).
Anyhow, one of the rare positive aspects of the game can be attributed to well-designed characters and the enjoyable movie-like atmosphere. Besides the good artwork and decent character animation, the game was infused with a number of interesting features that make it exciting to play. It was rather fun using various objects in the background to knock out your opponents or ice them on the spot. An interactive environment is always a good boost to the gameplay mechanism and gives the game a more realistic feel. Additionally, you'll be running into a lot of things throughout the levels, like obstacles that can be smashed or other objects that can be used to your advantage.
In-game sounds have no doubt improved the atmosphere. Although slightly repetitive, the game soundtrack is quite good (fans of the movie will probably be familiar with it). Actually, the audio quality of the project is not that bad altogether. The dialog is excellent (enter Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill once again), explosions, combat sounds, and various ambient and backdrop noises are all top-notch. But, these fancy touches are not enough to ensure a satisfying and complete gaming experience.
So, once again ladies and gents, we're looking at a sloppy console port, which could've easily become a worthy successor of the film's delightful story and characters, if it was just given the appropriate amount of attention. To top all the negative aspects, the game is rather short and, quite frankly, hardly worth its current $30 price tag - yeah I know it's not much, but it's still not worth it. At the end of the day, it looks like the game is heading straight to our "shoddy console ports" pile. It's a shame really, the movie really looks spectacular and the console versions were certainly better, controls and visuals wise.
Occasionally fun, combos are a blast, but get repetitive. Explosions, fine voice acting, sneak mode are all positives;
AI is AWFUL, Camera is AWFUL, Controls are AWFUL. Game is way too short. The bad outweighs the good.
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