Cons: The levels, enemies, and everything else that makes games fun are not so much
The Bottom Line: Likely won't break or even distract Tony Stark from his drinking.
This is another review from my Netjak days. Netjak appears to have gone down again, so I have reason to keep doing this.
I developed a quick enthusiasm for Iron Man when I caught the movie on its opening weekend. Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie and learning about the game via the Chicago Sun-Times, I figured why not rent it and give it a quick whirl? What’s the worst that could happen? The video game reviewer in the Sun-Times said it was better than he expected. Remembering this is a movie-based game, I didn’t get my hopes up very high, but they weren’t quite as low as the reviewer’s either. When I played through most of it, I decided it was considerably worse than what I had expected.
Iron Man isn’t quite based on the movie. Being a video game, of course one expects certain liberties to be taken. I personally think this game has more to do with the comic book than the movie, but I’m not the world’s biggest comic book fanatic and so my exposure to Iron Man has been minimal – and by that I mean “I’m aware of the existence of a comic book called Iron Man.” By my own estimation, around 90 percent of the video game was pulled from the air and thrown into the video game. I’d even go as far as to say only the escape scene which kicks off the game has any basis in the film. The game even contains a level in which Tony Stark experiments with a model of the Iron Man suit which he develops in between the rudimentary suit he uses to escape and the one he develops to tackle his mission of destroying all his weapons. This idea was a bad move because it means the escape scene, a pivotal moment in the movie, is just filler in the game. Since you only get to use your fists and flamethrower during the escape scene and not learn anything about the Iron Man suit until the second level, there’s no point in playing through the first one. It’s an inescapable waste of time.
Iron Man takes you through the standard beginning-to-end level layout point-by-point. You have a radar guiding you to your objectives, which are always crystal-clear. Nothing to complain about here. What I’m going to complain about instead is how the level objectives keep piling on one on top of the other. Don’t think you’re going to be finished with any given level after completing the initial objective because completing the initial objective will only open the gateway to another objective. The way the game onslaughts you like this grows tiresome after you’ve opened up four or five objectives following the first task you were in that level to perform. What makes it worse is the lack of an in-game save feature, and worse yet the near-complete lack of any level checkpoints. If you die, nine times out of ten you’re going to pick up right at the beginning of the level you died in. This is especially frustrating because some of your tasks are very tedious. Others are just plain difficult. These are the kinds of objectives which you shut off the console if you fail because you otherwise risk destroying your controller in a blind rage.
The suit Tony Stark wears is a gosh darn fun little toy and the game lets you use it in a lot of ways which do justice to the character. Iron Man comes equipped with three long-range weapons – a machine gun, a missile launcher, and Iron Man’s standard repulsor beam. You can even divert energy to different aspects of the Iron Man suit to make it more powerful in one area, which in the grand tradition of comic books and video games also weakens it in every other area. If you power up Iron Man’s armor, you won’t be able to destroy enemy helicopters quite as easily, and if you divert energy to your weapons, enemy bullets will suddenly start penetrating your suit. I thought the weapons could have been handled better, though. For all the cool armaments Iron Man gets to use, he can only select one at a time. There’s a single fire button and so the game forces you to cycle through your weapons in order to decide what to use to make the other guys die. I would gladly sacrifice the power diversion feature for some more fire buttons, and this brings me to my second problem with the suit: The diversion feature is just that – a diversion. It’s not necessary at all. I fought my way through the game with no problem without ever giving it a thought. The weapons are certainly nice to have too, but you can easily fight the world using just the repulsor. Just about everything goes down in just a handful of shots with it. If you run into one of the more stubborn enemies and don’t feel like pressing the fire button until it develops a good callous, you can always knock it off with a couple of quick punches.
The individual weapons and features of the suit can be upgraded, but instead of dishing out currency for you to buy your upgrades, Iron Man upgrades by taking the RPG approach: Experience. When you use your weapons enough, they upgrade all by themselves. I’m not sure what to think of this. It dispenses with the common problem of you never being able to afford truly useful weapons, but at the same time it also forces you to cycle endlessly through your weapons and use weapons you don’t really need in order to get the bigger, badder version. Bless this experience system or curse it. The choice is all yours. If you don’t like it, just remember what I said above: The repulsor is so consistently useful against everyone that you don’t really need anything else.
Throughout the whole game, I kept wondering how much more punishment I could take until I was killed. This is because Iron Man had no onscreen energy bar that I could see. In Iron Man, a stream of enemies is often coming at your from literally every direction all the time armed with whatever they can muster. I Wondered just how much of the shrapnel I absorbed was actually hurting Iron Man. A lot of enemies use machine guns and they seemed to have no effect at all. A lot of times, I would just dispense with my happy-footed dodging technique altogether for the kamikaze approach. Lo and behold, nine times out of ten, it actually worked. This isn’t quite a bad thing, because you often have very little time to get out of the way of enemy fire. Roughly 90 percent of the time, I was not only getting shot at but actually hit with something. I had a lot of trouble figuring out just where my most dangerous assailant was hiding, too. Fortunately, the radar comes with a generous lock-on aiming device which was the only reason I was able to save my butt much of the time.
I realize I’ve talked almost repetitiously about the suit here. But that’s because the suit is basically the game itself. While the levels you play through have a handful of inspired moments – the one where Iron Man fights against a flying fortress comes to mind – most of them are very basic. Some of them are inspired at first but become tedious once the first two or three objectives are completed. This could easily explain the way level objectives are piled higher than meat on a good submarine sandwich. By concentrating on the suit, the designers diverted their own creative efforts away from the rest of the game. As a result, Iron Man is thinner than tissue paper.
Iron Man’s graphics aren’t great, but they aren’t bogged down by a lot of little technical problems. The animation is often stiff and it can be tough to clearly make out targets which are far away. My big complaint about the graphics is their lifeless scenery. Iron Man gives new meaning to the term “background scenery” because there’s nothing displayed in the backgrounds to try to suck you into the game, and so the backgrounds just sit unobtrusively in the back. The foreground scenery could also use an artist’s touch. The animated cutscenes which tell the story are solid enough and animated just like any other PlayStation 2 game in existence. The capabilities of the console aren’t stretched at all. On the flipside, I didn’t notice any pop-up problems or slowdown. All in all, Iron Man’s graphics do what they’re supposed to do and nothing else.
One of the things I like about the Iron Man movie is that it steered free of a potentially bad cliché: The use of Black Sabbath’s classic song “Iron Man.” Okay, this isn’t entirely true. The movie does use “Iron Man,” but not until the end credits are rolling, and even then it’s only an instrumental version. The video game dooms itself in the audio department by throwing the Black Sabbath song at you the second Tony Stark breaks out of his cell in his new self-made Iron Man duds. The song plays once through, complete with lyrics, and I could swear I heard versions of it in a handful of levels during the rest of the game. There’s not much more about the soundtrack to remember. The actors who voice the cutscenes are terrible – Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane sound royally pised off most of the time and Pepper Potts sounds whiny.
The gameplay was loosely covered before. I would have preferred to have a one-weapon-per-button layout instead of a weapon cycle system. Another bothersome issue is that when you divert your energy, you can never really tell that you did it or, if you did, when you’ve shut it off. There’s a chest cannon Iron Man can use, but it takes time to charge up a shot and you have to start the charge over if you take damage while charging. Flying was fun, though, and the hovering controls are very simple and easy to learn. The overall controls are very responsive.
Iron Man is strictly about the suit. It’s almost like the video game was based entirely around the suit, with a few levels thrown in for good measure. In spite of the damage you’ll be taking for 90 percent of the game, it’s also too easy. Iron Man’s suit is a fun thing to play with through a rental. But unless you’re a diehard fan of the character, you’ll probably want to hold off on a purchase.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
Iron Man returns to consoles and handhelds in a concurrently released combat action game. Players take the role of the troubled engineering genius (and billionaire) Tony Stark, creator of a powerful suit of high-tech armor he wears to become the title hero.