Review: Iron Man (Sony PS3)

Iron Man (PS3)
Genre: Action
Developer: Secret Level
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 05/02/08

“Iron Man / Iron Man / Does whatever an iron can.”Yes, I’m a fan of Iron Man. Irritatingly unintentional rhyme-scheme aside, I really do like the character of Tony Stark. Tony’s gotten quite a bashing in the Marvel Universe lately, so there’s already a lot of negative energy directed towards him. Will this game be a beacon on the way to the Utopian future the good Mr. Stark sees for all humanity? Or will it only cement his reputation as the world’s only hero whose sole power consists of being a colossal jerk to everyone?

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To put it simply, it’s the latter. When I told my friends I was going to review Iron Man as my very first review, the immediate response was “Why? Movie games suck.” With very, very few exceptions (Spider-Man is the only example that comes to mind.) movie games have had a tradition of being the equivalent of a Taiwanese knock-off of your favorite toy. It looks a lot like what you’re looking for, but it’s built so poorly that as soon as you open the packaging, the toy shatters releasing hundreds of poisonous tropical spiders that swarm over your body and begin to crawl into your brain via your nostrils.

If you think that last sentence was hyperbole, then you’ve obviously never played “Iron Man: The Movie: The Game”

1. Story / Modes

The story is a rough amalgamation of the movie and the comics. You start with the origin story action in the original suit, move into the Mark II, and finally into the red and gold Mark III you’ve been seeing everywhere. The story quickly moves into Tony trying to destroy all the Stark Tech weapons that have gotten into the wrong hands and fighting off all the angry tech-savvy factions of the Marvel Universe who want their fun toys.

There is also a One Man Army mode, which has unlockable levels. Each level of OMA beaten rewards you with one of the many suits of armor from Iron Man’s history. You can unlock the classic armor, Extremis, Hulkbuster, and several variations on Marks I – III. PS3 Also gets the Ultimate armor, which would be a nice bonus if the game were playable enough to make it worth your while to unlock.

Story / Modes Rating: Decent

2. Graphics

ironman4The armor and backgrounds are nice, but nothing terribly special. In fact, that sums up the whole look of the game, “nothing terribly special”. I could tell I was playing on a next-gen system, but it didn’t really stand out. And you’d better enjoy your view of the armor and background, because that’s all you’ll ever see. Enemy encounters are dealt with largely at range, so that means all that beautiful, high-powered, searching-for-the-cure-for-cancer-in-its-spare-time hardware under the hood of my PS3 is utilized almost exclusively to create a series of blue targeting circles. Wait, that’s not fair, sometimes the circles are orange or yellow, just to mix things up a bit.

When you do get up close and personal, the result is rather disheartening. When enemy soldiers are confronted with my flame thrower, rather than run around helter-skelter catching nearby tents or terrorists on fire, they simply slump to their knees and fall over. That’s right, blast a man full in the face with a flame thrower, and he simply kneels down and falls over. The same happens with repulsor blasts, Uni-beams, and missiles. I suppose we should give credit that they did not just simply disappear, leaving only a disembodied set of floating eyes that rushed back to base to respawn. No, wait, nevermind. That would be cooler.

The cut-scenes are purely standard. Nothing that makes you jump out of your seat with excitement. The faces look eerily similar to the faces in Half-Life 2, with the exception of the eyes. It’s like the game processed the whole body, and then made the eyes, but left them inside the head by about an inch. They give all the character interaction a creepy “West World” robot vibe, sort of like if the Hall of Presidents at Disney played the cast of Iron Man.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

The music is again, standard. The voice acting got all the characters from the film, which starts off well, but as the game goes on you start to get the feeling they phoned it in. The dialog stands out, though, feeling natural for the characters even if some bits were lifted straight from the movie. Iron Man and Jarvis quip while in flight, and Rhodey interrupts to whine. Everything seems to be in place. The only nit-picky point for me is that sometimes you can’t make out what’s said, which can be important. Subtitles would have been a nice option.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

4. Control / Gameplay

Okay, here’s where the game really starts to fall apart.

The controls are awkward at best. In order to hover, you pull down the L2 button and slowly gain altitude. To hover in one place you need to pull the L2 trigger in halfway. This takes some practice, and when under fire by a host of unseen foes (more about that later), it can lead to problems. Flying is done by hitting L1, and holding X for turbo. This works well as long as you’re flying in a straight line, but maneuvering is difficult. It’s easy to get lost trying to turn around when all you see is sky and clouds. On the ground, things go alright, unless you need to make a 180. To turn around requires a small jig and then a dash in the new direction. I don’t know why game makers still do this. I am perfectly capable of rotating 360 degrees in one spot, so I’d like to think a multi-million dollar suit of armor could do the same.

Attacks are okay, but the melee leaves a lot to be desired. It’s hard to look cool as a superhero when you’re slapping a tank like you’re a school girl having a hissy fit. Grappling with planes or missiles is a matter of split-second button mashing. Mash too soon and it doesn’t count, too late and you’re girly-slapping an explosion instead of a missile.

The AI is retarded. No, really, I don’t say that sarcastically. I’m saying it in an honest, “I think that thing is missing a chromosome or two” kind of way. The enemies will start out psychotic, and then give up. If you walk up to any infantry troop and stand in front of it, they stop firing. Seriously, they just stand there and lower their weapon. Maybe it’s on purpose. Maybe it’s some kind of advanced Morale system that makes the guy think “Holy crap! A metric ton of ass-whup has walked up to me and my bullets are bouncing off him. Maybe it’s time to close my eyes and think of Christmas.” Maybe they forgot to illustrate the little puddle of urine that appears at their feet. And I’d be happy to believe all this if it didn’t apply to the bosses as well.

ironman2On the second level you fight a helicopter. It flies around madly firing rockets you’ll need to catch and return (so you have to track it as it dashes about the sky) while shooting you. Then, just when you’re ready to return fire, it runs and hides behind a building. This went on for about 5 minutes before the helicopter just stopped. The blades were whirling, and when I went in front it would fire, but it steadfastly refused to go anywhere, or even pivot. Later on I fought Whiplash, who did me a great favor by finding a corner and running at it for 30 seconds. I can’t remember a game since the NES that had enemies who would get trapped in corners. In fact, I can say with certainty that the villains in Captain America and the Avengers (Iron Man’s first video game appearance) weren’t half as dense as the ones featured here.

Finally, it seems that your weapons have an arbitrarily limited range while the enemies can shoot for infinity plus one. In certain levels, the very act of leaving the ground to hover invites a host of gunfire. Perhaps the magnetic repulsion system on your armor was inverted, but whatever the reason, you can’t fly for more than 10 seconds without seeing half a dozen missiles locked on to you on the radar (Which is useless, by the way. Distances seem subjective and dots don’t always correspond with actual items). When you stop to look around for the culprit, all you are rewarded with is that beautiful idyllic background scenery. Meanwhile another 5 missiles hit you in the face. This barrage of invisible attacks is what really makes the game almost unplayable for me. “Get Hit In The Face: The Game” is not my idea of a good time.

All together the gameplay makes me really question why these video game tie-ins are necessary. A game this bad surely does more to harm the franchise than to help it. If every Burger King Iron Man toy were covered in lead paint, the press would have a field day. And yet here is this game that practically punishes you for playing it, and no-one says a word. Priorities people, priorities!

Control / Gameplay Rating: Dreadful

5. Replayability

The unlockable armor variants are a nice idea to increase replayability, but I think with this game, the question is playability. If it weren’t for the purposes of this review, I wouldn’t have played the game more than 20 minutes before returning it to Blockbuster saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but my wife accidentally rented the wrong game.” Only the actual inclusion of the chance to replay gives the game anything other than a Worthless rating. Someone, somewhere will replay it, if only to show off that they could.

Replayability Rating: Awful

6. Balance

For there to be balance, there must be some kind of system in place. For instance, nature as a whole, with all her laws and forces, likes to keep an even keel. As one population goes up, so must another go down. Such is the way of the universe. Iron Man: The Movie: The Game holds to no such tenets, essentially throwing things at you under the dubious auspice that it would “be cool”. I can think of no other reason for the game to function the way it does. It is random and chaotic, viciously swinging from rampaging destruction to utter inactivity for no apparent reason.

Balance Rating: Dreadful

7. Originality

I have to give credit where credit is due, the game tried very hard. The armor configuration before each mission is nice. You can upgrade the different systems (system, energy, weapons, maneuverability, etc) and unlock advanced options, modifying your armor before each mission. The screens look and feel good, like you’re in the armor selecting your final design. I’ll admit it’s not the most original thing, but it’s one of the few good things about the game, and it deserves some credit. The in-game energy allocation system works pretty well, too. At any time you can re-rout power to your life support, thrust, melee, or weapons systems. You can fly, shift power to thrusters to conserve energy, land, and immediately shift back to weapons to increase damage yield. It’s a great idea hampered by a bad game.

Originality Rating: Decent

8. Addictiveness

AHAHAHA! AAAAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAAAAA! ROFLMAOLOLOMGWTFBBQ!!!1one

No. (Unless you’re a masochist.)

Addictiveness Rating: Awful

9. Appeal Factor

I honestly can’t think of anyone this game would appeal to. Even small children, abandoned in a Dickensian orphanage, praying for that one single present from Santa, would trade this in for a nice pair of underwear and some socks. I’m an Iron Man fanboy and I can’t stand the game. Perhaps someone who has never played a video game before would get some enjoyment out of it. Or perhaps they’d just end of hating the video game industry.

Appeal Factor Rating: Very Bad

10. Miscellaneous

As movie games go, you really can’t hope for much. You really have to have a love of the character/franchise (or a basic lack of understanding of what makes a video game) to enjoy the game. As I said before, I’m a comic book geek and a big supporter of Iron Man, even through all the Civil War stuff that’s happened. But this game is just a step too far. It’s too much, even for a fanboy. *Insert gratuitous “driving me to drink” Stark/alcoholism joke here*

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores

Story / Modes: Decent
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Enjoyable
Control / Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Awful
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Awful
Appeal Factor: Very Bad
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: BAD

Short Attention Span Summary
This is not the real Iron Man. It’s a Skrull sent to destroy his reputation and make you hate him. Please disregard the Skrull and see the movie. Or if you really need to play an Iron Man game, I’d recommend buying the giant sized lights-and-sounds Iron Man and using your imagination.

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