Origins Wolverine Was A Special Game

I have a lot of nostalgia for the era of movie tie-in games. Yes, the vast majority of them were hastily-made cash grabs developed at fly-by-night studios that weren’t worth the price of the plastic cases they came in, but the few exceptions are notable enough to make me look back fondly on those days. My Mount Rushmore of movie games includes Toy Story 2, Spider-Man 2, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Terminator 2 Arcade (which I now have in my office thanks to 1Up Arcade) and at the very center, wearing George Washington’s powdered wig, is X-Men: Origins Wolverine – the only movie-tie in game better than the film it’s based on.


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Yes, my Mount Rushmore has five heads.

If you haven’t played 2009’s Wolverine, think of it like a God of War clone, but with all the Greek Mythology swapped out for Mutant Mythology. It had a typical combat system for hack-and-slash games of its day, but set itself apart for its excessive brutality. This wasn’t the case for every version of the game, depending on the console you played – another thing that was typical in games of its day. The handheld versions on PSP and Nintendo DS were rated E while the PS2 and Wii versions were T for Teen, but if you really wanted the full Wolverine experience, you had to play the Uncaged Edition on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. That was the M-rated version that really let Logan let his claws hang out.

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If you’re going to ape God of War in 2009 you better go all the way, and X-Men: Origins did. One of the attacks you can do once the charge meter is filled is dive claw-first at an enemy, plunging directly through their chest and shredding them into a pile of wet meat. One of my favorite finishers had Wolverine stab a dude in the belly with one hand, lift him up in the air, then stab him three more times with the other hand. Next he holds him up as he bleeds out, while the camera circles around him in slow motion as Logan bathes in the blood of his prey. In another scene he pulls a pilot from a moving helicopter and kills them with the propellers while it crashes.

It still looks great after all these years.

The whole game is a ridiculous display of overt brutality that defined that era of games, and the last great movie tie-in before the trend faded away. Critics at the time were unreceptive to its simple puzzles and repetitive combat encounters, but looking back on that time it’s easy to see that Wolverine is way better than it had any right to be. It might not be surprising that Wolverine was so good considering the pedigree of the studio behind it. Raven Software, an Activision studio now known for its work on the Call of Duty series, is also the studio behind Jedi Outcast, X-Men Legends, and the original Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Raven’s experience with the action genre and Marvel characters, as well as the involvement of Hugh Jackman – who worked on the game’s VO for over a year – all set it a cut above.

It’s nice to see that games based on movies have started to come back with big studios behind them. This year’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, RoboCop: Rogue City, and the upcoming Jurassic Park: Survival all come from established studios that, unlike Raven, were not under strict constraints to release alongside the films their games are based on. That has ultimately led to better movie-inspired games, but there’s something special about the extreme constraints Raven worked under, and how much it was able to do with how little it had.

I’ve seen some renewed interest in this game following the Insomniac leak. It’s a shame that it’s been delisted ever since Activision lost the Marvel publishing rights in 2014, because this one is worth re-examining. It’s bizarre to see this game being used to criticize the leaked (and very much unfinished) gameplay footage of the new Wolverine, for reasons I think should be obvious. For so many reasons, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a relic of its era, and I have no doubt that Insomniac’s take on the character will live up to expectations and surpass this old movie game in every conceivable way. Still, I’m not mad that other people remember this game as fondly as I do. With so much animosity in online gaming spaces, it’s nice when there’s something we can all agree on.

Next: Insomniac Says Wolverine Game Will “Continue As Planned”

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