by Jeremy Pinkney
While the first Iron Man movie went on to become a blockbuster when it debuted in 2008, the video game of the same name didn’t quite reach the same level of success. Fun flying mechanics and great superhero moments (like catching missiles and throwing them back at enemies, or tearing helicopters in half) were overshadowed by complex controls, spikes in difficulty and somewhat repetitive level design. Issues aside, the game did go on to sell well, over a million copies between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions alone, and like the movie franchise, a sequel was pretty much assured.
For Iron Man 2: The Video Game, SEGA brought in writer Matt Fraction of Marvel’s “Invincible Iron Man” comics series to help craft a new storyline, and the developers made several enhancements to the game play, improving everything from the controls to the customization options. Sega’s Michael McHale is the Development Director for Iron Man 2, and this week he talked to CBR News about what’s changed, and how the game is offering a different experience from the movie.
Iron Man 2 isn’t a terrible game. And that’s a compliment, because the first game truly was terrible. But, Iron Man 2 is still infuriating and awfully, awfully short.
Iron Man 2 tells a convoluted story about bad guys taking advantage of Tony Stark’s technology to wreak havoc on the world. As closely as I can put it, Iron Man 2 is about Jarvis, Tony Stark’s advanced AI, being copied after an attack on Stark’s archives. A host of bad guys, ranging from a rogue Russian general to a former Stark employee, utilize the technology in ever-more-frightening ways until Tony finds himself and War Machine, voiced by Don Cheadle, fighting an enemy, Ultimo, who is the size of a skyscraper. The story is a mess, and this is partially because the game is so short.
Iron Man 2 consists of only 8 levels, and can be beaten in 4 or 5 hours at most. As you advance between levels you get glimpses of a story, but there isn’t enough exposition or detail gleamed into to make sense of what’s happening. The Russian general appears out of nowhere and quickly disappears after you dispatch him, giant machines with a mind of their own seem, for some reason, to want to fight you, and before you know it, Tony is staring down a former employee who we really never gain any understanding about.
That said, Iron Man 2 can be fun. The levels feature a small amount of destructibility and you do feel awfully powerful in your Iron Man or War Machine suits. It’s easy to target enemies and fire at them, and the fighting can be fast and furious at times. In addition, close-hand combat feels great and the time can pass quickly while fighting.
Unfortunately, my experiences with the final level were so disastrous that it almost made me forget how much fun the combat could be through the first 7 levels of the game.
Ultimo is one gigantic bad guy. He is humungous, impressively, stunningly huge. It is frightening to see him and to ask yourself, “How am I going to defeat him?” and then it becomes clear – there are power modules on his body that must be shot and then approached and removed. The problem is, Ultimo is so gigantic that simply getting up to his chest height takes a significant amount of time, at which point his laser breath or big, swinging hands sent me flying. It was absolutely infuriating to try and get close enough to Ultimo to remove the modules, and I spent a good amount of time getting knocked down to the ground, flying up, pressing “B” over and over again in desperation, hoping that War Machine would get close enough to remove the modules. Adding to the confusion of the scene with Ultimo was a frame issue in which I constantly found myself stuck behind buildings or behind parts of Ultimo and had to either restart from the last checkpoint or somehow weasel my way out of my precariously stuck position by mashing buttons. The strange part of all this is that throughout the rest of the game, clipping issues weren’t a problem, but in the final fight, everything was an issue. The fighting was too dependent on button-mashing, he was so gigantic I couldn’t even get close to him to remove the modules, and I constantly got stuck on body parts or buildings that Ultimo had smashed.
Iron Man 2 also features the ability to invent new hand-to-hand combat moves, weapons and modifications to your suit. You earn points by performing well on missions, and while it’s neat to have the ability to upgrade your weapons systems, actually implementing them into your suit is an exercise in frustration as nothing is clearly explained and while I would have weapons available, the ammunition would apparently, not be equipped. Unfortunately, the research aspect, while novel, isn’t implemented well and suffers as a result.
But in spite of all my harping, there is some stuff to like about Iron Man 2. It features the voice talents of Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle, both of whom are quite good. But most impressive of all was the voice work for Tony Stark. He is not voiced by Robert Downey, Jr, but I’ll be damned if I can tell the difference. The voice actor portraying Tony Stark sounds just like Robert Downey, Jr and he carries the same attitude as Tony Stark as well. The voice acting is some of the best I’ve ever come across in a game.
In addition, as I said before, the combat is quite fun once you get the hang of it and the music fits the game well, with songs from Lamb of God included on the soundtrack.
The biggest detraction in this game, though, and the biggest reason I can’t recommend it isn’t the frustration in fighting Ultimo or the awful research implementation, it is the length. Iron Man 2 is frighteningly short, which would be fine for an Xbox LIVE Arcade title or something of a similar ilk, but when you’re looking at a $60, full-priced game, you had better at least be able to get seven or eight hours of enjoyment out of it. This offers half that, and as a result, I can’t recommend it for anyone but the most die-hard of Iron Man fans.
Iron Man 2 is a short game that’s hampered by a convoluted story and a frustrating boss finale. But, it does feature stunning voice acting and, through the first seven levels, fun action. This isn’t the worst game I’ve played this year, but it’s a far cry from the best. *
Ironman 2 Game/Movie Review
by Jeremy Pinkney