Iron Man (Wii)
It's so easy to be disappointed with a superhero videogame. They always start off with such great potential. After all, who wouldn't want to play as some dude who can fly around and punch other dudes through walls? The problem is, superhero games very rarely live up to our expectations. Sure, every now and again you get a good game along the lines of Superman 2 or Marvel Ultimate Alliance, but more often than not, you end up with a Batman: Dark Tomorrow or Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The problem stems from the fact that it's tough to design a game around an exceptionally powerful and nigh invulnerable protagonist and the sad truth that most licensed games are terrible. What does it say about the genre that one of the games that best recreates the feel of being a superhero isn't even a superhero game? Yeah, we're talkin' about you, Crackdown.
Still, hopes were high for Iron Man, which is of course based on the new (and quite awesome) movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. The prospect of climbing into Tony Stark's legendary armor to do a little fighting and smiting with repulsor rays is just too tempting.
The game begins with a couple of introductory levels that help ease you into the suit's powers. The first stage has you wearing the Mark I armor while escaping from your captors in Afghanistan (the game earns bonus points for recreating the movie trailer -- as soon as you bust out of your cell, Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" song kicks in). Here you learn the basics of moving and using simple attacks. Stage two places you in the Mark II armor for a brief test flight that leads to a conflict where you must master Iron Man's palm-mounted repulsor weapons. From there, it's into the Mark III armor and the real game begins. Like many movie-based games, Iron Man expands on the film's story by introducing characters and situations not seen on the big screen. In addition to tackling the foes from the movie, you'll also face comic characters like Titanium Man and evil organizations such as the Maggia crime syndicate and Advanced Idea Mechanics.
Within each stage, you're given a variety of different goals to accomplish. These tend to be of the "fly to a certain location and shoot a specific object" variety. As such, the missions tend to grow a bit repetitive after a couple of stages. Luckily, none of the stages are particularly long, so at least you're able to move to a new environment before true boredom sets in. To encourage a bit of exploration, each stage contains a few hidden stockpiles of Stark weapons. Destroying them all nets you unlockable goodies.
Throughout each stage, you face off against two main classes of enemies: airborne (like helicopters) and ground troops (tanks and soldiers and whatnot). Although you encounter plenty of enemies at once, you rarely feel as though you're being overwhelmed. The Iron Man suit recovers its energy after taking damage, so if you're hit by a missile or two, you can simply fly out of range and recharge.
Given Iron Man's flying ability and vast amount of weaponry, you might imagine that he would be tricky to control. Luckily, the controls work quite well and with a minimum of superfluous Wii remote waggling. The C and Z on the Nunchuk allow Iron Man to hover and fall to the ground, and holding down the A button allows you to fly. Targeting bad guys is a simple as pointing the on-screen cursor at your target, allowing you to dispatch it with the B button. Your melee attack is performed by waving the remote, but you're seldom forced to use it. The ? button toggles between your available weapons like the repulsor rays, missiles, and a gatling gun. You'll find that the Iron Man suit upgrades its different weapons and abilities based on how much you use them during battle.
You'll most likely have the controls mastered after the first two stages, and you'll soon discover that simply flying around and blasting enemies can be fun. During the game, you can hover around a base, raining down destructive laser death on the bad guys before hitting the afterburners and leaving their burnt-out vehicles in the dust. It's a satisfying feeling that really sells the power of the Iron Man suit.
One feature that seems like it would muddle up the controls is the ability to reroute the suit's power. By tapping a direction on the d-pad, you can send more "power" to the suit's armor and propulsion. This boosts your health recovery and flight speed, respectively. You can also boost your weapons, which activates the extremely powerful Unibeam cannon. You may not bother with this feature at first as you'll be too busy getting the basic controls down, but once you get adjusted to hitting the proper button to reflect your current battle situation, it adds a fun element to the fights.
Iron Man deserves some credit for getting some of the film's actors to reprise their roles; Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark), Terrence Howard (Lt. Colonel Rhodes) and Shaun Toub (Yinsen) also make appearances. Of course, their presence also makes the absence of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges all the more obvious. Not helping matters are the somewhat bland performances that the actors give. You can almost see Robert Downey, Jr. looking at his watch in the recording studio as he's reading his lines. The voices don't seem any better when they're coming out of the horrible CG representations of the actors.
It's worth noting that despite many similar gameplay elements, the Wii version of Iron Man is an entirely different game than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, complete with a different developer. Although it's certainly doesn't look as nice as those versions (which aren't very pretty to begin with), it's actually the better game. The controls are much more intuitive, and the enemies aren't nearly as cheap. Iron Man certainly isn't a great game, but if you enjoyed the movie, it makes for a decent weekend rental so that you can relive Tony Stark's big-screen adventure.
This review was based on a retail version of the game purchased by Crispy Gamer.