You can count the good movie games on one hand, pretty much using only a couple of fingers. In fact really, there's only ever been one awesome movie game in my book and it isn't exactly a game that follows the movies, it ties in nicely and fleshes out some of the earlier story, that game is the Chronicles of Riddick, every other movie game has been derivative and a complete let down from the Harry Potter series to the free roaming, Superman Returns and the terrible Batman Begins. If you want to pick nits you could say that the Lego Star Wars games are the best movie games of all time, because they're fun! Oh and the Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which was fun too, probably because it wasn't a movie game.
So, now it's the turn of a childhood favourite hero of mine to be mauled into the digital age. I'm talking about Iron Man here, Tony Stark, billionaire weapon inventor and tech genius that gets a bunch of shrapnel into his body that's slowly working its way towards his heart. With the help of a captured inmate and fellow boffin he is hooked up to a car battery and an electro magnet. This isn't quite up to snuff for Stark so he builds what amounts to a small nuclear reactor into his chest over his heart to keep the electromagnet functioning for a long time.
The Iron Man game is supposedly based on the movie, the movie being utterly awesome for an Iron Man fan like me. The game however is a big letdown and proves once again that proper movie games really need to be approached in the same way as Riddick was, but by a team who understand two words, one of these being polish. Iron Man is a Junker, it's a clunky bug-fest that really should have had another few months in development, perhaps even another six months, but it's got to be out around the same time as the movie to 'ca-ching' in on the hype and fanboy LURVE that's going to blind many fans of Iron Man to just how terrible this game really is.
The story is loosely based on the film, and I don't care what Stan Lee or the director say about the game, on as many videos online as I have seen them praise it for the graphics or the gameplay. I don't share their rose-tinted view of Iron Man. The game has numerous bugs that crop up now and then from a loss of frame-rates to floating enemies, Stark getting stuck partially inside buildings and pretty tricky controls. I guess the controls are ok once you invert the flight controls, but still, they made some odd choices.
A half press of the left trigger allows you to hover, a full press lets you gain height, then to bleed off height you have to let go and drop like a rock, hover, drop like a rock again. Firing the repulsors (Iron Man's primary weapon) is done via the right trigger; a full press will lock on to the nearest enemy. Pressing the left bumper engages flight mode and the game doesn't do too badly here, in fact once you get used to flying in Iron Man its pretty fun. But that's the problem, that's really the only fun part of the damn game.
Sure you can upgrade your Mark III armour with a variety of tech upgrades, which means you have to think tactically about your purchases. Do you upgrade Stark's power core and allow yourself more bang for your buck with your upgraded repulsors, or do you go for something in the way of faster flight mechanics, dodging and top speed. This is a welcome addition since these upgrades do actually give you an edge in combat, and you'll need it.
The enemies in Iron Man come at you thick and fast, respawning constantly with fresh air, ground and footsoldiers when you blink enough to be able to take in the fairly detailed graphics on the Iron Man armour alone. You're never given a breather and the objectives fly up on screen along with stupid timers for sub-objectives that could net you more cash, so rather than enjoying the view and having fun blasting the enemies in your supposedly next-generation kick-ass Iron Man tech-armour of the gods, you're stuck watching Stark get beaten down by wave after wave of enemies and resulting to cheap tricks to deal with them.
You can catch missiles in mid-flight (tricky to time), you can grapple in combat, grapple vehicles to do a variety of things like break them, use them against your foes and if you can do it (grappling fighter jets is really tricky) hurling jets out of the sky towards the ground. Boss fights are troublesome at best, they're usually relegated to trading repulsor and vespid missile shots from a long distance since Tony's health depletes rapidly when struck even on the easiest difficulty level (and you only have four reboots) sending you plummeting to the ground until you reboot the Iron Man armour.
The game's levels are huge, open and sprawling, but they're also sparse and unimaginative with bland textures and the supposed power of next-gen systems feels hardly used. It seems that all the details have been put into the Iron Man armour itself and everything else has a low-res and bland texture on it. In the cut-scenes, Tony's chest light looks like a bizarre stuck-on T-Shirt pattern that could have easily said: Go Sox than emulated the glowing white power-source that gives Iron Man his trademark circular uni-beam built into his chest-plate.
There are problems with lip synching and the textures look plastic at times in the cut-scenes. The actors deliver their dialogue well enough, but it's easy to tell that they're not putting as much oomph into their performances, due to the shoddy script and terrible story. It does nothing to bring new fans in and only serves to annoy Iron Man fans in general, like me. What could have been a great experience and a revolutionary movie game for a superb character turns into a clunky chore that plows on through endless levels of the same-old-same-old punctuated by boss fights and swarms of respawing enemy half-wits.
There's some replay value, since you can unlock Iron Man armours by beating a 10 minute timer and slaughtering 80 enemies in One Man Army mode. All the armours are pre-configured and come with a variety of abilities that are as wimpy as they are uninspired. The stealth option of the Extremis armour is a great idea, but lasts for about 3 seconds if that. The Hulk Buster armour can let you pick up and throw heavier vehicles, but by then you're probably just unlocking armours and doing the whole thing for gamerscore because you've realised it's better than sitting, twiddling your thumbs - well - it's not, go out and play something else, really, trust me, your thumbs will thank you.
One day we'll have a decent movie tie-in game, until then, we're stuck with half-assed attempts at cashing in on popular fan-boy related icons like Iron Man and if this game manages sales it's only because it's actually got Iron Man in it and the fanboys are obsessing over it, ignoring the faults that turn it into a clunk fest because you know, it's IRON MAN! Personally, I'll go see the movie again thanks.