Iron Man Review
Iron Man was a pretty big "if" for Hollywood. Marvel hasn't had the best track of record of comic book-to-movie releases in the last couple of years, with flops like Daredevil and Elektra and a so-so showing for Spider-Man 3. Iron Man could have easily fallen in with the failures, but a slick script that goes far but never too far and some very solid acting by Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges really made the movie. Sure, the CGI was awesome and the action was intense but still watchable, but it's still the characters that gave it the edge over other similar movies we've seen in the last decade. Sure, the Hollywood version of Iron Man has been a huge success, but it's only been a rare occasion that a movie-licensed game that launches at the same time as its Hollywood counterpart is any good. To date, Chronicles of Riddick has probably been the best one, but that may not even count since it was technically a prequel to the movie.
Sadly, the trend of good action movies spawning bad action games continues with Iron Man. Sure, the game mixes in pulse-pounding action with a story that loosely follows the plot of the film - we should be expecting this out of a $60 game at the very least - but the action gets dull quickly and can be frustratingly annoying pretty often. Sure, the story is the same: weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, captured by a terrorist group in the Middle East that has been stockpiling an arsenal of his own design, makes a powered suit that allows him to escape and he sets on a crusade to rid the world of his own creations with an even more powerful one he builds at home. The problem is that the most entertaining parts of the movie had to do with the creation of the suit and its unique weaknesses, and the game simply skips over this and makes its own video game-y weaknesses that the player has to deal with.
What weaknesses, you might ask? Well, incoming rockets that are 20 feet long that are almost constantly barraging you would be a start. Huge amounts of incoming fire will greet you, and while it's manageable in the first few levels, it gets insane later in the game to the point that you'll be spending more time dodging, ducking, weaving, and hiding just to stay alive. Sorry, I don't remember Iron Man ever having to hide to regenerate his health in the movie, and if he did, it'd suck. Well, guess what, folks - this one sucks. In fact, the best way to deal with your enemies isn't even to fly around at high speed. Instead, you just hover around in place, dodging around slightly to keep incoming attacks at bay as you plug your enemies with repetitive missile and repulsor beam fire. Sure, you've got the powerful Unibeam that comes out of Stark's chest, but if you take a hit while charging it, you lose it. In other words, from about level three on to the end of the game, you'll be getting hit so often that the Unibeam, even with the upgrades to reduce its charging time, can rarely ever be unleashed without interruption.
It is pretty fun to tool around these large outdoor levels with the freedom to fly where you want, dip down, grab an incoming fighter jet and throw it and the like, but the game just punishes players for no good reason, and some of the levels will last upwards of 20+ minutes without any checkpoints. I even had the game lock up after I finished a level, and a reboot of the 360 left me having to do it all over again (even though I managed to get the Achievements that come from finishing the mission the first time). In the end, about five minutes with the game will probably be a better experience overall than the five hours it'd take to get through the game, assuming of course that you didn't die at all.
The cutscenes and story elements also drift pretty far away from the movie. Sure, it's unreasonable to expect a two hour movie to perfectly unfold into a game that should take three to five times as long to finish, but the odd part - and it's one that we've seen in a lot of movie-licensed games - is that even when the game is following the movie closely, the script is totally different and many of the good lines of the film (much less their excellent delivery) aren't here at all. Maybe it's that Hollywood didn't want to send their precious script to the game developers for fear of it being leaked, but I don't see how hiring a mediocre game writer to just fill in 90% of the blanks is a better solution. The end result is that even though Robert Downey Jr. and Terence Howard lent their voices and likenesses to the game (Bridges and Paltrow did not), they're acting in a totally different "movie" that's like a B version of Iron Man with bad setpieces, bad lines, and shoddy delivery.
Iron Man is a waste of your time. The few minutes that it takes to screw around with the fully-powered suit are probably the best moments of the game and some of the upgrades you can put into the suit are kind of impressive, but it goes downhill from there with bad design and a frustrating difficulty that forces you to make up some pretty cowardly solutions in order to win. Sure, there are unlockables and a few gameplay modes, but they don't fix the major flaws that are in this sub-par action title. Take your sixty bucks, go watch Iron Man in the theaters three more times, and keep the thirty you have left over for pizza delivery or something. Just don't waste any on this game.