Superheroes should be larger than life and so, too, should be their adventures.
SEGA’s Iron Man 2, for the 360, is neither of those. It presents a mundane story that is less than original, and then tosses in graphics that are rather bland and uninspired to deliver a game that does not use the characters well or present anything remotely close to a compelling adventure. It’s a rinse and repeat sequence where wave after wave of enemies swarm toward the hero in each level, stealing the feeling of an epic adventure. As for the obligatory movie tie-in … well, those expecting to relive the big-screen adventure will be disappointed as well. Sure, there is an evil corporation tossing wave after wave of robotic enemies at Tony Stark in his Iron Man suit, and Rhodey gets to split time as War Machine tackling other weapon-based systems, but the game is an attempt to capitalize on the licensed characters rather than present a compelling and entertaining adventure.
The game has about as much originality as there is bump-mapping on the Iron Man suit … none.
And while there is a basic similarity to some of the actors in the film, likenesses are only semi-close and the voice acting uses a mix of sound-alikes while some of the supporting film actors in attendance aurally. Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle voice Nick Fury and James Rhodes, but Robert Downey Jr.’s voice is not present here.
The premise has Iron Man and War Machine confronting waves of enemies who are out to steal a copy of Jarvis (Tony’s AI butler and the intelligence running the systems inside the Iron Man suit) with the goal to create the ultimate robot, aptly named Ultimo. The game flows between offering up a choice between the two hero characters – at times, but early on there is no choice. Tony and Rhodey may conspire about how to take out the enemies and confound their world-dominating plot, but some levels are strictly for Iron Man and others are for War Machine. The first War Machine level does not feel so much like a character with a high-weapon load-out blowing the enemies to bits as it does a flight simulator.
Combat in general can be on the frustrating side due to the targeting system. Players can lock onto targets with the press of a button, but the game generally will key on the closest enemy, meaning that even if locked onto a certain foe, if another dances closer, you may find that you switch targets mid-engagement. And each of the levels, though there are checkpoints to save progress, has conditions that must be met before the scenario advances. This happens right at the start and continues throughout the game. For example, in the earliest setting Iron Man has to reset a generator, but that generator won’t pop to life until all the machines in the area are destroyed. And some of those enemies may be floating off to the side and are not actively interested in attacking right away.
There have been tweaks to the first SEGA effort, like stronger defensive abilities, and the final boss battle is decent, overall, the eight missions and short overall time it takes to complete the game (about 6 hours or less) leaves a hollow feeling. Between missions there is the ability to research better weaponry, and that will have an impact in the latter stages of the game, but the user interface is cumbersome at best.
Graphically, the game lacks a sense of wonder and while the environments are Ok, the character models have some rough edges. And there are some freezes in the gameplay that may have gamers slamming on the movement thumbsticks and wondering what just happened. Don’t worry, though, it’s generally the prelude to a cutscene.
Iron Man should be the ultimate mech, the battle suit that tantalizes, and fires the imaginations of gamers. Iron Man 2, though, is more blech than mech, and it stumbles along delivering a gaming experience that is unrewarding. The levels up to the final boss battle, with Ultimo, are repetitive and start to feel like work rather than an entertainment vehicle.
Watch the movie, read the comic book, but pass on the game.