It is games like this that make Tony Stark drink.
I have good news for folks who are fans of cutting themselves and/or rolling around in broken glass; Iron Man has been released for your console of choice and offers a completely new way to self-mutilate.
This time, it is your psyche.
At first, Iron Man comes off as a title that won’t have you hurling controllers across the room and screaming obscenities, but do not be fooled. Loosely based on the blockbuster movie bearing the same name, Iron Man casts you as Shellhead and sets you loose on more than a dozen missions of enemies, missiles and anti-aircraft guns. The game pulls in characters from the comic universe that were not in the big screen version — folks such as Whiplash and Titanium Man — and gives you an incredibly glossed over version of the events happening on the silver screen.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Terrance Howard reprise their roles as Tony Stark and Jim Rhodes respectively, but the cinemas they are in look terrible and the voice work sounds phoned in.
Still, Iron Man has a few good points. On your quest to vanquish the legions of foes in front of Tony, you will have access to all of Stark’s toys. Before heading into each mission, you will get the chance to tinker with your suit’s configuration when it comes to Core Systems, Repulsors, Power Systems, Auxiliary Weapons, and Mobility Enhancements. During this process, you will get to decide if you want a faster gatling repulsor or if you want the more powerful ion repulsor — as you play, you will earn money to unlock further technological feats. In the game, you can click around on your D-pad and distribute the power from your heart to make one aspect of your Iron Man façade more powerful than another. If you want to go super-fast, you can kick the juice to your thrusters and tear up the sky. The same can be done with the power of your punch, the lethalness of your weapons, and how quickly your health regenerates.
Of course, none of this matters because Secret Level and SEGA have made sure that most people will never enjoy their time as Iron Man. Let’s go over the formula that every level follows: there’s a terrible looking and sounding cutscene, it is followed by a short intro to the oncoming battle, orange objectives pop up on the screen, Tony goes after the orange objectives, Tony destroys the orange objectives, more orange objectives pop up, Tony beats those objectives, and this process continues until the level is over.
Sounds redundant, right? It is, but that is not why I am flogging this game. What ruins Iron Man is the fact that while you complete these remedial tasks, you are constantly attacked by swarms and swarms of retarded, respawning enemies.
When I came upon a Maggia compound — oh, there are these people who bought a whole bunch of Stark weapons and are using them for evil — I needed to get in and destroy the bad guys along with a secondary objective of crushing some Prometheus rockets before they obliterated neighboring cities. However, anytime I stuck my head out to try and crush one of these missiles, I was flattened by the tanks, dropships, rocket launchers and seemingly hundreds of other men waiting to kill me. I would try to be the hero, get stomped and lose one of my four lives, which can never be refilled in level… levels that don’t have checkpoints.
So, I took the coward’s way out and sat in a garage while the missiles were fired into the cities and killed millions. Once they were launched, I was able to move onto the primary objective. I did this type of stuff a lot. I watched a nuclear power plant explode, did not save falling jet pilots and basically only looked out for myself.
This is what Iron Man is good at — making you not give a damn about being a hero because the world you are living in is so goddamn cheap. Most of the time, battling a boss or an objective means putting some kind of obstruction like a mountain or a building between you and your target and then slowly hovering from the ground to the air, firing your payload, and drifting back down behind the cover to heal from the ass beating you just took. Repeat until everything is dead and you can move on.
To survive in this game, Tony Stark must be a wuss.
I am sure the Iron Man fanboys who bought this game and now feel the desperate need to champion it are going to flame me for taking the coward’s way out, but that’d be an unfounded attack. I tried to be the hero in this game and to play by the rules and morals Mr. Stark would have. When I was getting decimated time after time in the Artic as I tried to blow up some orange objectives, I started my umpteenth run with the mindset that I’d take out every enemy as they came at me. The level began, and the bombers that had been making my life hell came in for their first flyover. I took to the skies, lit them up and began to move on.
Three more came from the exact same spot on the horizon. I blew them up. Three more. Explosion. Three more. Explosion. Three more.
This cheap crap doesn’t stop here. When I was trying to take down an island outpost, I had to take out these sets of couplings. Of course, each coupling is crawling with bastard enemies who have laser sights on their weapons. So, after hovering out from behind a rock and blowing the bad guys up, I took out the coupling and moved on. The process continued, but suddenly Jarvis broke in to tell me reinforcements were being deployed. Then, Jarvis let me know one of the couplings had been repaired. Then, I screamed curse words and quit to go play something worthwhile.
What sucks is that when you are not getting 15 missiles up the ass, it can actually be pretty cool to be Iron Man. The shoulder buttons control flight, hover, repulsors and your unibeam, while the face buttons are your secondary weapons and melee commands. Once you get into a game, the scheme feels like second nature and it’s pretty cool to see Iron Man with his arms at his side flying through the air as the sun reflects off his suit. When you are sitting down to play in a world built around a superhero who can fly all over the place, there is always that fear you are going to slam into the edge of the “battle zone” or something equally as lame. For me, that didn’t happen with Iron Man. Sure, there are ends to the maps, but they are not close to where you’ll be playing, so you will actually have the feeling that you’re part of a massive world.
Still, this is not enough of a silver lining to overlook the other crap in this game. Beyond the story mode, you can replay missions in the archive and unlock new suits of armor in One Man Army. However, One Man Army is just you in the same old levels trying to beat a specific number of foes in a set time limit. Do you really want to relive the horror?
The problem with Iron Man is that at some point someone sat down and said “You know what would be fun? Drop players into situations where they have to do repetitive, meaningless tasks and then add respawning, overwhelming douchebags.” That is a shame. Flying is fun, the upgrades are neat, and the game can look good. However, these pros are outweighed by the aforementioned frustration, crappy storyline and lame cutscenes. You never feel like Iron Man in this game, and if you are like me, you never feel like you are having fun.