Platform: 360 (PS3, Wii, PSP)
Developer: Sega Studios San Francisco
Review By: Eric Stuckart
Games like Iron Man 2 only reinforce the stereotype that movie franchise games tend to allow for the quality to be completely thrown out the window in favor of getting it on shelves by the time the movie premieres. It also shows that the best of intentions don’t always pan out.
The Secret Level-developed first tie-in didn’t exactly wow any gamers; in all honesty, it was terrible. That being said, Sega took the reins themselves this time and had its San Francisco studio take over, promising a better and more compelling gaming experience. As I’m sure readers are aware, this is not the case. The sequel is just as plagued with problems as the first one, and it clearly lives up to the movie-franchise-game curse.
We have to give Sega some props, though. Rather than just remaking the movie into a video game, the publisher attempted to do something a little different. They brought in Matt Fraction, writer of The Invincible Iron Man, to pen an original storyline taking place after the film, and the story for it is actually not bad for what it is, which kind of plays out like a cheesy summer popcorn flick. There’s not a lot of substance or exposition, but explosions galore, and at the very least, the story makes sense.
At the outset of the game, Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) is defending the Dataspine from an attack by Roxxon, who the players learn tried to duplicate the Iron Man armor. Stark finds out the corporation successfully stole an archived version of his personal AI, JARVIS. This leads him to contact SHIELD director Nick Fury (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), who helps him uncover a conspiracy that first leads Iron Man to Russian Separatists working with a competing organization/terrorist corporation Advanced Idea Mechanics, or AIM for short., to help them create a weaponized suit of their own, the Crimson Dynamo.
Their affiliation leads SHIELD to find that former Stark employee/current AIM employee Kearson DeWitt was behind it all along, and was planning to use the JARVIS tech to integrate it with PROTEAN technology, an experimental project that was said to fuse organic matter with machinery. This leads to a final showdown with DeWitt’s gargantuan Ultimo robot.
Basic gameplay consists of the following: Enter an area, wipe out all the enemies without taking too much damage, move on. There really isn’t a whole lot of variety to the game. Six of the eight stages consist of guiding Iron Man or War Machine through an onslaught of very similar enemies without much variety.
While some areas are total cakewalks, the three bosses in the game really get annoying quick. They are overlong and generally unfun, like the rest of the game but more so. There are melee attacks that can be used, but most of the time the enemies end up damaging the player so much during the scuffle that it’s better to just keep one’s distance and destroy them from afar. And besides, the only melee combo in the 360 version is this – XXXXB. Button mashers, rejoice!
The suits fly unexplainably poorly, and the button layout is questionable at best. For example, at one point later in the game, the player has to escort a mech through one of the many warzones, and he has to target enemies for the mech. The trouble is, targeting is done with the down button on the D-pad, and the player has to hover over targets using the left analog stick. Personally speaking, only having one thumb on my left hand really becomes a hindrance during this mission. Targeting is toggled using the right bumper, but if it is not toggled off, the camera does backflips, frontflips and everything else to try to stay on target, thus making smooth getaways impossible.
As mentioned earlier, Iron Man 2 can be played as either Iron Man or James Rhodes’ alter-ego War Machine (voiced by Don Cheadle). Iron Man’s suit is more versatile and relies on energy weapons, while War Machine’s has better armor and focuses more on heavy weaponry, but there really isn’t much noticeable difference between the two suits in practice. Throughout the game, successfully completing stages earns the player Field Data points, which can be used for upgrading the suits through better ammunition, modular improvements and new melee styles. Gaining a set number of Field Data points in a level also unlocks additional Iron Man suits.
The upgrade system is a complete mess. With no walkthrough to speak of, the player is forced to wade through the convoluted menu system to spend his hard-earned data points. There are separate menus for Research, where the points are actually spent, and Fabrication, where the purchased upgrades are applied to the suit, and then another menu must be gone through in order to make sure the proper loadout (of which there can be four) is installed on the suit before venturing out on the mission. “Best” of all, sometimes the player cannot even choose which suit he is going out with, wasting all the effort.
Visually, the game is laughably bad. The character renderings look like plastic and barely resemble the people they were based on; the cut scenes – typically the highlight of any video game in terms of visual quality – look like they are shown through a screen door; and everything is pixilated to the point that it looks just better than a fantastic looking PS2 game. Attention to detail was obviously not the top priority with this game, but then again, I don’t think there were any priorities in the development of this game.
I’m pretty sure the only priority that was emphasized in the making of this game was to get it out by the time the film released, and that’s the best way to make a game destined for the clearance bin. Throw in the fact that this game took only about 5 or 6 hours to complete and there’s no extra content, and there’s really no reason to punish oneself by playing Iron Man 2. Stick with the movie. It’s less of a headache and the jokes are all on purpose.
For more info, http://www.sega.com/ironman2
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.