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Critical Reception: Activision/Raven Software's X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Activision's superhero movie tie-in title X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which reviews describe as "a brilliant kind of ridiculous nonsense."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Activision's superhero movie tie-in title X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which reviews describe as "a brilliant kind of ridiculous nonsense." Wolverine currently earns a score of 74 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Jon Blyth at the Official Xbox Magazine rates Wolverine at 8 out of 10, noting that its Mature-rated content is both overblown and appropriate. "It's a savage game; the only thing more violent that the damage inflicted on Wolverine is the rapid and nonchalant dismemberment of everyone he comes into contact with," he writes. "Mature's one word for it: absurd and childish are other, more accurate words. But it's a brilliant kind of ridiculous nonsense that'll occasionally pull reluctant cheers out of your grown-up neck." Wolverine's gameplay also proves satisfying. "Wolverine is a straightforward action-brawling platformer with a bunch of pressure-plate puzzles thrown in," Blyth describes, "and it manages to tackle everything it does very well." "There's juuust enough variety in Wolverine's attacks (and the enemy's counters) to stop you feeling like an button-mashing automaton — and enough character progress and development to stop you ever getting bored," he continues. "A combination of set pieces, platforming, and puzzles break up the fatiguingly relentless action, and there are enough hidden secrets to stop you feeling like you're in too narrow a corridor." Blyth finds that the experience on the whole is worthwhile, despite some late-game glitches. "Wolverine looks great, and deserves recognition as a game that's far better than it had to be," he concludes. "It's certainly not perfect, and it doesn't feel entirely finished, but it's coherent enough to gloss over the cracks and forgive the glitches." Over at Giant Bomb, Ryan Davis scores Wolverine at 3 out of 5 stars, warning that the game loses momentum after an impressive initial showing. "The danger in relying on brutality and shock is that you have to keep upping the ante, or you'll quickly lose the player's attention," he writes. "Wolverine heeds this maxim for a good two-thirds of its runtime, though it runs out of steam before it limps to its conclusion." "For the most part, X-Men Origins: Wolverine handles a lot like an easier, simpler God of War," Davis notes. "There's a loose combo attack system, counterattacks, grab moves, environmental kills, some flashier rage attacks, and a lunge move that lets you rapidly get up-close and personal with an enemy." Davis continues: "The combat is decidedly group-focused, though you'll regularly finding yourself squaring off against lumbering, goliath-type enemies. Aside from the lunge, which has a comically absurd edge to it, the pieces feel fairly common, but they fit together dynamically enough, and the bloody results are mighty satisfying." Other moments lack the same level of impact, however. "The puzzles usually aren't that complicated, but Wolverine's handling definitely seems more calibrated for wild and furious combat than precision jumping, which can make these sections feel clunky," Davis says. "The boss fights, while often massive in scope, have a tendency to feel artificially padded out." "Once the game stopped stunning me with new outrageous depictions of slaughter," Davis says, "the repetition of the combat started to set in, and I started noticing some of the game's other shortcomings, like the dodgy frame rate and buggy collision detection. These issues aside, if you've come to see Wolverine at his most brutal, this game does not disappoint." 1UP.com's Justin Hayward gives Wolverine a grade of C+. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine does a great job of making you feel like the nearly invincible mutant," he writes, "but it doesn't quite provide a story to match." Wolverine's in-game origin story proves to be more confusing than revealing. "Origins' five-chapter tale alternates between the present (mostly the Weapon X facility) and three years in the past (in an African jungle)," Hayward notes, "setting up a frame story that slowly but surely drives the narrative forward. "After act three, however, things start to get weird; for every question the game answers, it brings up two more. Other popular mutants, like Gambit and the Blob, make brief appearances, but their cameos only confuse the tale of flashbacks further. By the end, the game has set up so many loose plot threads that it leaves no choice but to try and wrap them up in a confusing mishmash of explosions and overlong battles." Repetitive gameplay also proves frustrating. "Both the 'past' jungle levels and 'present' facility chapters pit you against the exact same enemies, reskinned to fit their surroundings," Hayward says. "It's even more off-putting when you start fighting mutants. How many blade-wielding, four-armed dancers exist in Wolverine's world? Apparently several hundred." "As a mindless, button-masher that puts you in control of the eternally angry Wolverine, the game provides some simple fun," Hayward admits. "But it quickly devolves into a mediocre Tomb Raider/God of War mash-up of balancing across precarious ledges, quick time events, and moving crates around to solve 'puzzles.' Origins isn't bad at what it does, but what it does isn't very ambitious."

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