Iron Man Review
Written : Thursday, May 15, 2008
By: Alan Pettit (GT: The Pants Party)
I've discussed what I've come to call Multiplicity Syndrome in the past. Check the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer review for more on that. With Sega's Iron Man game, I had hopes the curse would be over, especially once I saw the movie which was equal to if not better than its comic book counterpart. With step one out of the way (step one being a downgraded movie experience), step two was for someone to make a good video game. Again, I had hopes. The screenshots were looking good and even the gameplay seemed good. I wouldn't listen. My fanboy nature got the best of me. Turns out, I should have listened.
The story loosely follows the movie, and that's an understatement. The first and last levels are taken from the beginning origin section of the movie and the final battle sequence, but in between that the cutscenes try to reflect the character interactions while the gameplay are levels comprised of random attacks on Stark technology stockpiles sold illegaly by Obadiah Stane or airships or energy reactors or anything "comic book-y" developer Secret Level could think of. The difficulties also make no sense. Easy is too easy, letting you sit completely still and absorb barrages of missiles with no effect, while Formidable is too hard, killing you off in mere seconds by the same barrage of missiles, which are seemingly endless at all times.
Nothing like your first super suit.
Sega did manage to acquire all the actors of the movie to reprise their roles as voice actors for the game, but they must not have made it a good payday, because there is pretty much no emotion in any of the delivered lines. They also didn't string any of the in-game lines together, so it's basically One-Liner City the entire length of the game. The worst of this occurs during the final battle as Obadiah spouts off a dozen or more lines from the movie in succession, while you simply fly around him trying to kill him, never once throwing back any kind of retort. The rest of the audio in the game is done pretty well, but sound effects are hard to screw up these days as it is.
The controls start off basically awful if you're used to flight games at all. Once you change the setting to invert the Y-axis (so pressing down steers you up and pressing up steers you down), things become much easier. You ascend/hover with varying pressure on the left trigger while the left bumper controls your forward flight and holding the A button puts on the thrusters to really get you moving. You can also tap the A button while hovering or flying to use evasive manuevers or the X button to fire off flares that will draw rockets away from you. Your weapons are controled by the other side of the controller, the right trigger being your repulsors (lasers) and the right bumper being your Unibeam, a more powerful laser from your chest. The B button controls grapples and melee attacks, as well as catching/throwing incoming rockets and the Y button fires your missiles. The controls overall feel clunky at first, but after a mission or two you'll be right at home.
Inside the missions, your robotic servant Jarvis explains the mission and finds all your targets, marking them for you (I must say this was the only thing I didn't like about the movie... Jarvis is a man, people) and updating with each successive objective. Every level is basically the same, taking out trucks, weapons or enemies until magically you're done. A few levels have mini-bosses of either a bigger weapon or a character from Iron Man's comic book roots, though they come and go with no explanation or impact to the story. With 13 missions, each only a few minutes long (maybe upwards of ten if you're lucky) the game is extremely short and repetitive.
Aerial combat is fairly fun.
After each mission you will receive money to spend on upgrading your suit, as well as a few upgrades to choose from. You'll get a base sum, plus bonuses for speed, kills and whether or not you were able to complete the "hero objective" of that mission, usually protecting civilians and whatnot. Each of those will also net you an achievement, so there's an added incentive to complete them as well. For the most part, each mission will allow one upgrade to one of four areas: repulsors, life support, missiles or flight capabilities. Each area can be upgraded a total of three times, but the upgrades you receive each mission will only be in two of the four areas, limiting your options. You'll have two or three extra once you do upgrade a section to suit your playing style, whether that be increasing your stealth capabilities or upgrading your firing rate for faster but weaker strikes.
The graphics are not only sub-par, but at times it seemed like the people working on them had never even seen the actors they were recreating. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has absolutely no emotion on his face at any point during the game, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) has stubble at best but nothing close to the gorgeous white beard he sports in the movie and Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) magically grew two cup sizes. I guess that last one isn't so much a complaint as an observation though. Aside from that, the landscapes (of which there are many) have no depth or finish to them and the cutscenes look very jagged and again, unfinished. I'm sure Sega realized a tandem launch for the game and movie would sell more copies, but they either didn't care or didn't plan to start far enough in advance to put any polish on the game.
Aside from just looking bad, the AI is nothing short of idiotic. Pretty much every boss has one of the famous safe zones where you can position yourself and not get hit while you're still able to fire upon and destroy them. If not, they would never follow you, so just hiding behind a building, then popping out for a few quick shots and returning is a failproof strategy. The worst occured during the ground fight. He ran away more than he engaged you, but during the fight he got stuck on the side of a building (not even a corner, the broad face of it) and just kept running straight at it. I walked up next to him and held down the trigger to fire at him and he was dead in about a minute. Stuff like that shouldn't happen anymore.
Landscapes are poor, but the suit stands out.
Considering no type of online play or co-op can be included in a game such as this, in a feigned attempt at additional features you will unlock "One Man Army" missions by progressing through the main story, which can be accessed from the main menu. These are basically no different than the story missions, considering you're simply tasked with taking out a set number of enemies by yourself. Since there is already a mission select feature, this feels like a tacked on game mode to take up space and attempt to make the game more fleshed out than it really is.
The achievements are basically the one thing actually done fairly well in Iron Man. Each level has a "hero objective" that not only gives you an achievement, but a boost in your funds to buy upgrades to your armor. There are also random timed achievements for doing either hero objectives or secondary objectives quickly, as well as a few achievements for using the unlocked armors to perform special moves or boss fights. Additionally, One Man Army mode gives an achievement for each level. There are also of course the generic achievements for completing the game on each difficulty, though Sega got these right and they are not only all available to begin with, they also stack. The over-the-top difficulty of Formidable doesn't exactly make this a quick or easy 1000 points, but with some patience, it should only take a few days. Run through on Easy to unlock the extra armors and then make your way through Formidable after getting all the other achievements.
Good sound effects and real voice actors were nice, but the lines all feel forced and very rarely connect together during gameplay.
Cutscenes are decent and the aerial combat is great, but the character renders and environments are very poor.
The controls are difficult at first, but with some practice and maybe some tweaking of the flight inversion they end up being really nice. Formidable difficulty feels on par with COD Veteran at times which I wasn't expecting.
Very short and very repetitive. Aerial combat is pretty fun but it has no variety whatsoever and upon completion you'll never really crave to play it again.
Considering there isn't much to do in the game, the list makes good use of the bonus objectives and extra armors. Going through on easy and snagging any miscellaneous achievements, then playing through again on Hard is advised.
Overall, Iron Man did end up suffering from Multiplicity Syndrome, a fact I am both disappointed and surprised with. There are plenty of decent action games out there, I'm sure Sega has even made a few. Couldn't they just ignore the multi-million dollar franchise and make a good video game? Did they really have to rush out an incomplete game riddled with faults? It appears so. The controls are decent, but sub-par graphics, poor voice acting (from professional actors no less) and a non-existent story with repetitive gameplay really make this a poor effort to recreate the magic of the comics and the movie. It can be fun for a bit, but considering you'll be done in two or three hours, I'd save your money and put this one on your Gamefly or spend a weekend with a free rental from the store.