It’s a watered-down PS2 version. That’s not a typo. PlayStation 2.
It’s not often that I’m flabbergasted at work. After reviewing five versions of Iron Man in five days, I thought I had seen it all, but I was wrong, friends. Today, Iron Man on the PC showed up, I popped it in, and my jaw dropped.
This is the exact same game as the PlayStation 2/Wii/PSP SKU.
Don’t get me wrong, that fact alone isn’t a reason to condemn it. It’s just that in our world of multi-platform releases, it’s rare to see the PC share a version with anything other than PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. I started the first mission and gave the title the benefit of the doubt that perhaps PC was the lead SKU and the muted textures and all-around sad visuals I saw on the other systems wouldn’t be a factor on the PC.
I was wrong. This is literally the PS2 game at a higher resolution.
Loosely based on the No. 1 film in America, Iron Man tosses you into the red-and-gold suit of Tony Stark and sets you loose on more than a dozen missions filled with guards, laser cannons and super villains that you won’t find in the movie–folks such as Whiplash and Titanium Man. It might sound cool, but the problem is that this story is largely invented and strays from the plot points and character-defining moments of the film. You’ll never get to care about Yinsen, Obadiah’s power-hungry from the get go, and Stark almost always seems like a jerk. Plus, the cutscenes stink. Not even voiceovers from Robert Downey, Jr. and Terrence Howard can save them from being ass–there are crazy eyes, mouths not moving the right way, characters that don’t look right, etc.
However, games aren’t all about story, and Iron Man does have a few things going for it. Each time you’re ready to jump into your flight suit, you’ll choose your mission, one of the six unlockable suits of armor, and which upgrades you’d like to use. See, rather than have you earn money from your battles like the PS3/360 version of Iron Man does, this incarnation of the game upgrades your gear–repulsor, ballistics, explosives and armor–based on how much you use them. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself hovering around levels and blasting evildoers with your repulsors the most, and in no time, you’ll have taken your laser gauntlet from the most basic tech (fast but weak) to the mega-awesome Optimal Beam Damage. Of course, this applies to whichever device you’re using, and a few will actually upgrade to the point where you need to choose which option you’ll be using in battle (i.e. which type of missile you want to launch into some dude’s face).
Once you’re into the actual mission, Iron Man works like most third-person shooters on the PC–WASD to move, mouse for the camera and to fire weapons, etc.–but when you want to speak specifically to what makes this an Iron Man title, it comes down to suit controls. Space makes you hover, Alt kicks on the afterburner, and 1 through 4 control your energy manager. This feature actually allows you move from a balanced energy-spending state to favoring one of Iron Man’s attributes. Shift the power to propulsion to fly faster, to armor to take less damage, or to weapons to wreck shop.
While this scheme works pretty well for fighting on the ground or standing/hovering in one place and blasting foes, you can’t really brawl while flying. This means that you’ll rocket toward your enemies, stop, and then hover around while shooting repulsor blasts. It looks and feels nothing like a real Iron Man fight. You’re just some guy somberly gliding around the map.
Luckily and sadly, Iron Man isn’t hard. At all. Enemy attacks do little to no damage, but if they should gang up and whittle your armor energy down to nothing, you’ll have the chance to restart your heart. Basically, a minigame pops up where you have to tap a corresponding button to register a heartbeat. If for some reason you fail at this simple task, you’ll consume one of your three backup power cells and be tossed back into the game. It’s not that I mind a simple game–and it’s way better than the uber-frustrating PS3/360 version–but when you can just sit down and plow through the game in a day, there really isn’t much of an incentive to pick it up. There’s no challenge.
Still, there are two problems that are evidence enough to convict this game of crimes against a PC. To begin with, it looks terrible. Everything’s clearer than the PS2 versions, but the same blocky models, blank textures, and bland colors remain. The PC version even adds visual glitches such as giant brown swatches instead of shadows underneath tanks and building windows that flicker. Next, this game just isn’t any fun. I haven’t called out or praised any specific levels or enemies because Iron Man just blends together. You just move from one point to another eliminating whatever is in your way.
Both the pros and cons of Iron Man on the PlayStation 2 led to me scoring the title as a “Meh” on the IGN scale–it wasn’t awful or amazing for the platform. However, with the unlimited potential of the PC, standards are different here. Terrible visuals, straightforward/easy gameplay, and a plethora of other problems make Iron Man fail at being anything worth trying.