If you don’t know who the character of Wolverine is from the pages of both the X-Men comics as well as his own solo series, you probably might know him from one of the many animated series he played a major role in or the live-action X-Men feature films in which he’s appeared in all but one: last year’s Deadpool. You don’t get to be the de facto face of a franchise without getting a few starring roles in video games, yet despite how easy it sounds on paper to bring Wolverine into the interactive realm of video games, time and time again companies never quite got there. Whether it was the character having only two claws instead of three, or being forced into an awful stealth game, something was always wrong, but like Spider-Man before him, it took a movie title to finally make controlling Wolverine feel as absolutely good as it could be.
When people say “nothing good came out of X-Men Origins: Wolverine” they cleared never played the Uncaged Edition of the video game of the same name on either the Xbox 360 or the PS3. Though it unfortunately shares the plot of the film of the same name, Cyclops powered, mouth sewn shut Deadpool and all, Origins also expands its campaign like the best movie games often do with things that will appeal to X-Men comics fans like infiltrating a hidden Sentinel factory. Should you also want to forget as much as possible that you’re playing an X-Men: Origins game, you can also unlock classic comic costumes, making this perhaps the only way to see Wolverine in full costume being voiced by Hugh Jackman.
The last Wolverine game previously released to this one was the not that great X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, a game that felt not so much like a Wolverine game with its T-rating and emphasis above stealth over combat; Origins, at least on the PS3 and Xbox 360, is the exact opposite of this and it’s all the better for it. Wolverine is a character begging for an M-rating and it’s pretty astounding that it took until 2009 for that to become a reality. In this game there’s no option to retract your claws and they’re just as deadly as you’ve already felt that they should be: limbs fly from enemies with gushes of blood spouting everywhere as the man who is the best he is at what he does, well, does what he does best.
From a gameplay standpoint, Wolverine feels not unlike other character action heroes like Dante from Devil May Cry or perhaps a better comparison would be Kratos from God of War, but being derivative doesn’t make Origins bad. Instead the ease and familiarity of the controls makes it easy for fans accustomed to games like the above two to pick up a controller and immediately start brutally slicing through enemies like a hot knife through butter. Though this marked the first solo Wolverine game that appeared on the Xbox 360, he did appear as part as an ensemble in another tie-in game, X-Men: The Official Game, which launched around the time of X-Men: The Last Stand. A flaw that made Wolverine the least fun character to play in that game was that his short-range attacks got him called against foes carrying guns. The developers at Raven, those behind both the X-Men Legends series and the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance, remedied this by implementing a lunge mechanic that helped close the gap between Wolverine and a foe cowardly using a ranged weapon, thus eliminating the one area where the title character would be less fun to control than say, a Kratos, with his range closing chains on swords.
Playing on the trope started in the first Halo back on the Xbox where instead of hunting down health packs to restore your health you just took a breather, X-Men Origins: Wolverine too does this but in a way that‘s spectacularly in character. As you take damage, you see the flesh start to peel from Wolverine’s body until you start to see pieces of his metal coated bones. As you start to heal, the battle damaged flesh starts to fill in until you’re back to your regular Hugh Jackman-y self. Previous games that starred Wolverine also had a mechanic where you regenerated health, but it did so at such a slow rate that it killed the pace of the game. Here it not only does so quickly, but also has an awesome visual to accompany it that makes an even at the time worn out mechanic seem fresh and new.
Even though I highly recommended anyone who either loves X-Men, Wolverine, or even character-action games to hunt down the Uncaged Edition of X-Men Origins, it’s not without its faults like combat that does become a tad repetitive in long play sessions. That being said though, the moment-to-moment feel of tearing through flesh with Wolverine’s trademark adamantium claws never truly feels old where if you play in short bursts, you’ll appreciate the game much more. I feel that many perhaps would’ve passed this game over because of the film it was attached too and had it simply been a stand-alone game it would have sold better, but if you can divorce your feelings of the film, you’ll find out that this is not only the best Wolverine game released to date, but also a candidate for one of the best Marvel console games ever.