Developer: Artificial Mind
Release Date: 05/02/08
I’ve never really been a fan of the Iron Man character, but when I saw the trailer for the movie, I knew it was something I couldn’t miss. Lo and behold, May second saw the release of what is in my opinion one of the best super hero movies ever crafted. If this is the future of Marvel films, then the future is a bright one indeed.
So it was with cautious hope that I grabbed Iron Man for the PS2 after seeing the movie. Movie tie-in games are notorious for their suckitude, but there’s always a chance that somebody, somewhere got it right and did the movie justice, right?
Despite being “based on the motion picture”, Iron Man has surprisingly little to do with the film. Sure, Robert Downey Jr. and Terrance Howard both reprise their roles, and the character models are taken directly from the movie, but after the first mission or two, the game spins more into a comic book type feel until the ending, which is a poor man’s version of the movie’s climax.
You’ll play as Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy genius who’s living the high life by creating and selling super weapons. The game opens up with Tony already captured by some sort of terrorist regime that demands he create them a missile. Tony instead decides to fashion himself a robotic suit that he can fight and escape with. Thus is born Iron Man. After some major modifications to the design, Tony decides to use his new suit to destroy all the weapons his company has created and sold over the years in an attempt to ease his soul take responsibility for what he’s made. This brings him into conflict with Obadiah, his friend and partner of Stark Industries. Obadiah wants to use the Iron Man suit to make vast amounts of money, and of course ends up plotting behind Tony’s back.
This is all told through short cgi cutscenes between missions. Bad ones at that. The characters are given no real depth at all, and are all a pale shadow of their movie counterparts. Tony comes off as a whiny self pitying bastard, and Pepper Potts might as well be a piece of cardboard telling Tony to be careful. There’s barely any real conflict, and it becomes uncertain what the motivations for everyone is. Also, large parts of the movie are glossed over. You actually start off as captured, and thus never get to see the death of the soldiers that changes his mind. Also, new characters are introduced by a simple mention of their name at the beginning of a mission, but then end up dying off screen before you ever see their face. We’re expected to care about characters we never meet? Weak.
The movie is a blockbuster. The game is a bust.
Certainly the expectations for the PS2 version of this game aren’t nearly as high as the upper end of the current console generation, but there really isn’t a good excuse for how bland this game looks.
Iron Man himself is well detailed and bright beacon of hope in a desolate and colorless world. Of particular note is how well he looks when he’s flying at full speed. The flames create a wonderful hazy effect that adds a lot to the sends of speed. However, his animations are complete and total crap. Go to punch someone and you’ll be reminded of a toddler attempting to throw his first punch after watching an hour of WWE. Try to interact with the environment, and Tony will run in place for several seconds before finally bending down to open the chest or activate a console. It’s sloppy and incomplete. It should never have been shipped.
The rest of the world is bland. I can’t really describe it better. Everything is one of three different locales; desert, frozen wasteland, or industrial buildings. There are very few colors to be seen at all. (You see a TON of brown and white) They attempt to spice things up by having plenty of buildings around, but they all look exactly the same and somehow make the world seem even emptier.
Enemies look horrible. Human grunts are undetailed and generic, while boss vehicles all look like a big gray boxes with a few guns on top. You’ll get a little more detail with the human bosses, but not much, as they only have a few animations that they repeat over and over again.
Even the cinematic scenes are disappointing with detailed character models that don’t move their lips and don’t change their expression, no matter what’s happening.
The music sounds just like every other action game in the past ten years. There’s nothing remarkable here at all.
The voice actors all do decent jobs with the script their given, but they’re not exactly above par for voice work. Maybe it doesn’t help that Iron Man always has a metallic tinge to his voice thanks to his communicator, but lines tend to feel as if the actor was bored and just wanted to get out of the booth. Nothing horrible, but nothing worth mentioning.
Sound effects are hit and miss. While firing off a repulsor blast will yield a satisfying laser blast, punching enemies doesn’t make any sound at all. You’d think a giant piece of metal hurtling itself at a tank would make some noise, but it’s clear the development team forgot.
Controls and Gameplay
Flight controls for an action game are always a bit tricky, and I’ve got to give the dev team some credit for making the game as playable as it is. You’ll use the L1 button to hover and ascend, while the L2 button drops you back down to earth. Holding the R2 button allows you to go into afterburner mode, and tapping the x button will give you a short burst of speed in any one direction. (Except straight up.) You’ll use the Left analog stick to steer and the right to control the camera as well as make sharp turns when in flight. R1 fires your weapon while triangle switches between the. Square gives you you’re melee attack, circle is used to interact with the environment, and finally, the directional buttons are used to reroute power to you propulsion, armor, and weapons systems.
It all works surprisingly well, although you won’t be able to be as precise as you might like in regards to turns. It’s safe to say that after the first couple of missions that get you acquainted to the controls, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem moving Iron Man around. The camera isn’t always as fast to turn as you might like, but you’ll be able to increase or decrease the sensitivity to your liking, which allows you to find the best combination for you.
Enemies are targeted by manipulating the camera so that your reticule is placed over them or close enough that you can auto lock on. Once you’re locked, a simple press of the R1 button spells death for most enemies, while a few more presses will be required for the larger baddies. You’ll usually fight from far away, meaning you’ll see very few enemies, and an amazing number of red blinking lights. Dodging isn’t particularly easy. You can press the x button to jolt in any direction, but enemy fire is often too fast for you to see it coming, and you’ll be too focused on moving the reticule in their general direction to bother. Not that it matters, as you can absorb a ridiculous amount of firepower before succumbing to your injuries.
Speaking of which, you can’t really die in this game unless you try. When your armor takes too many hits, the game will freeze and a little minigame comes up. Simply press one of the four face buttons as they pop up, and you’ll restart your armor at full power. Screw up, and you’ll use one of three of your automatic restarts. (lives.) That being said, only a great fool will mess up the manual reboot. Not only is there only four buttons you have to worry about, but before each one pops up, you’ll see its shadow, meaning you’ll be give a second or two to figure out which button it is BEFORE you have to press it! Needless to say, I never saw a game over screen due to death.
Most of this game is flying around roasting small enemies from the air, and then going to the ground to take out the tanks with a few punches. (It’s the fastest way, and they won’t be able to hit you up close.) Occasionally, you’ll get yourself stuck in a major crossfire, and you’ll be bombarded by missiles, bullets, and tasers until you’re forced to play the reboot minigame. Once you’re back online, it’s as easy as finding cover and picking off the outsiders to tip the advantage back in your favor.
Bosses are amazingly simple. They don’t even have patterns. Titanium man, for instance, would either shoot little radioactive bolts at me, or discharge a ton of radiation in one burst that only hits if you’re up real close. All you have to do is keep your distance, dodge the sparse fire, and blast away when his shield goes down. Even the final boss is a walk in the park, practically allowing you to walk right up to him and punch away.
Level designs are one of two things; big open areas that you can fly around and blast enemies at will, or long tunnels that eventually open up into large areas that you can hover around and blast enemies at will. You’ll rarely have more objectives than “kill X amount of enemies” or “destroy such and such reactor” with “save Pepper” thrown in two or three times for good measure. You’ll be given small blue circles both on your map and on the edges of your screen that will lead you right to your objective every time. This means every level follows the same basic layout. Step 1: follow the blue dot to the objective. Step 2: destroy all the red dots in the area. Step 3: fight boss. Tedious is the only word I have to describe that. It’s just plain boring.
There is an upgrade for your weapons and armor, but it’s really just a sham. You’ll earn upgrade points through use of your weapons, and they will automatically be spent on a predetermined upgrade path. Don’t use a weapon, and you’ll have the same crappy machine gun you started out with. You’ll be able to select which upgrade you use at the beginning of each mission, but using anything but the latest upgrade is pointless, AND the computer automatically selects it for you. Its definitively hands off.
And that’s the problem with whole game really. There isn’t much skill required of you to complete it. It’s almost impossible for you to die, and enemies don’t pose any threat because of this. You’ll feel no urgency to get anything done. It sucks the life right out of the experience and leaves you bored stiff as you play. Really, there are too many good games out there to spend any time with Iron Man.
You’ll be able to replay levels using new armors that you unlock by completing the levels the first time. If that sound a bit odd, than let me explain. The PS2 version is MISSING the one man army mode from the 360 and PS3 versions of the game. So the only mode of play you have is the 13 missions you start off with. They’ll only last you about six hours tops. So once you’re done, you’re done. You’ve seen all there is too see.
You are NOT going to get your money’s worth here.
Sure there are times when enemies will suddenly surround you and you’ll be bombarded with so much fire that you won’t be able to move, but even if you run out of health, you’ll be able to reboot your systems for no penalty and then use the few seconds you have when you come back to fly away and find cover.
This essentially means you are GOD. Your enemies can occasionally annoy you, but they’re just a few short finger twitches away from burning in the fiery lakes of hell for all eternity. Feel Free to play this game with a sadistic smile on your face as enemies pretend they can ever cause you permanent grief.
Point in case, the only time I ever saw a mission failed screen was when I accidentally blew a nuclear reactor sky high.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a flight based action game hit the market. I’ve got to say that it can be one of the smoothest out there. It will definitely give developers something to look at when creating games for the future. If nothing else, I feel the game might prove a launching pad for a good game idea.
Until then, we’re left with yet another movie tie-in and yet another mindless action game that tries to incorporate all the latest trends like quick time events.
Haven’t I already mentioned how thoroughly boring this game is? Neither the gameplay nor the story is good enough/interesting enough to keep you interested for the length of a single mission, let alone for thirteen of them. Seriously, if you’re interested in playing the game after the first five or so missions, you’re a poor reviewer like me, a masochist, or someone who REALLY REALLY likes Iron Man.
God knows movie tie-ins sell. There will always be people who the see the movie and can’t wait to continue the experience at home. Then there are the people who don’t realize they’re buying a bad game. They see a shiny guy on the cover and go “oooohh! I must have!”
Still, one would think by now a good majority of us have learned our lessons and would be wary of such games.
In a perfect world this game wouldn’t sell at all, but we all know it will. Damn kids.
For one, I’d like to mention the manual reboot system once more. When your armor runs out of energy, Tony just kind of goes down on one knee, and then the QTE begins. This happens when you’re in mid air too, meaning a metal man is floating in the middle of the sky with nothing holding him up. Stupid. Also, I can’t understand how your enemies don’t finish you off in that time period. You’re a sitting duck! You should by all rights be dead.
Despite missing the one man army mode (which I hear isn’t worth it anyway), the PS2 version offers one big advantage over the next gen systems. It is literally half the price. That’s right. You pay half the price for the same game minus one little feature that no one cares about. If you absolutely MUST play this game, then you might as well grab the cheap one, right? After all, slightly better graphics and achievement points can’t be worth that much more.
Controls and Gameplay: Poor
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Final Score! Poor Game!!!
Short Attention Span Summary
Iron Man is the exact opposite of its feature film counterpart. It’s boring, mindless, and leaves you feeling robbed of your money. If you really need to experience the glory that is Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark again, then just go see the movie again. Watching that thee times or so will last you longer than the game, and you’ll enjoy yourself a heck of a lot more. It’ll probably also be cheaper.
Long story short; DON’T PLAY MOVIE TIE-INS.