We previewed the video game based on the upcoming prequel film X-Men Origins: Wolverine last month in San Francisco and discovered that its limb-ripping, bone-baring, blood-splashing violence is not aimed at kids, unlike the PG-13 movie.
You play as Wolverine (and Wolverine alone, contrary to some earlier reports) with all his ass-kicking power and healing abilities. Raven Software artist Doug Smith told us that the film's star, Hugh Jackman, did not do motion capture for the game, but they did get a laser scan of his face. And it's pretty darn close to the Oscar host's looks and movement. Jackman and co-star Liev Schreiber (Victor Creed/Sabertooth) also lent their voices to their characters.
Sound designer Andy Bayless said that Jackman's work is fantastic and that he really took the game seriously. We were also told by Smith and a few of the Raven crew that they all wanted to have either an unlockable Oscar tuxedo costume or an easter egg where Jackman dances and sings, but it didn't happen. Bayless said they actually recorded a line where Wolverine says that he's the sexiest man alive (a reference to Jackman's Sexiest Man designation in People magazine), but that it was cut before they finished the game.
Gameplay is fast and furious and very, very bloody. You're taken through different parts of Logan's life, from Weapon X to Alkali Lake and locations such as a jungle and a river, which involves a quick chase scene/battle on speedboats. You are given a rage meter, which changes the moves you perform, and feral sight, which shows you a glowing path toward your next destination, weak points on an enemy and objects you can interact with. It allows you to see invisible characters and footprints.
The style of the game is reminiscent of God of War but leaves out the most annoying part (actually, the only annoying part) of that franchise: the Quicktime events. Instead, you mash whichever button is indicated on the screen during these moments. It's far superior to Quicktime, and this is coming from a hard-core gamer.
Another new feature is the "quick kill." Each character has a different, well, fatality, to borrow from Mortal Kombat. Wolverine takes out one type by pulling off his arm and bludgeoning him to death with it. Another is ripped in half. A third's gun is used to shoot his head off. Fans of realistic violence in games will find themselves squealing at the screen in happiness as they throw enemy after enemy into a giant fan and watch them cut into bloody little chunks.
Visually, the game is pretty advanced, though the difference between the cinematics and actual gameplay is fairly dramatic. The cutscenes are phenomenal, but Blur Studios did them, so that's hardly surprising. (They did the work on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.)
Gameplay graphics aren't as impressive, but there are a few really cool aspects. The first is Wolverine himself. He is a multilayered character, and I'm not talking about the depths of his psyche. We all know about his adamantium skeleton and his incredible healing powers, so it's going to be damn hard to kill him. Well, in the game there are three layers in his body, skin, muscle and bone. As he's hit by enemies, each layer is broken down. At one point in our preview he was completely bloody, missing half his torso, and his ribs were visible. At another point, he appeared so shot up that you could see through his body to the wall behind.
We spoke to one of the staff about why his shirt would disappear when he was ripped to bits, but not his pants. We were told that they had originally let them get destroyed too, but at times it looked like he was wearing Daisy Dukes, and they decided to make his nether regions a "no zone."
Later, Smith told me that one of the innovations for the game was the shading tools. They were able to make each bullet look as if it were popping through the skin (though you'd have to slow it down a bit to really see that). He said that in the Alkali Lake scenes, the engine produces realistic snow. If you are patient and wander around for a look, you'll see that the snow has fallen perfectly realistically on everything in the environment.
We also played far enough into the game to see the "mutagens." These are abilities that you pick up along the way: "inner rage," "art of war," "healing factor," "samurai" and "rampage." Wolverine has different tactics for each character, and when the boss is halfway down in health, his tactics change again. The great part is, you don't have to change what you're doing.
We were told that the game was in development before the film had even started, and that about 40 percent of the content is outside the film's storyline. We saw a cutscene with Wolverine and Victor, and we got to play a pretty kickass battle between them. We were also shown a boss battle with the Blob (Kevin Durand in the film) in a supermarket, and one with the Sentinel, though we were only allowed to see part of it. There was also a strange teleporting child named Anna. No one could figure whether she was in the X-Men universe, but I'm sure one of you will let us know if you recognize the name.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine will be released on May 1, the same day as the film.