Hands-on / Iron Man

There were three games at the New York City Comic Convention that had perfectly legitimate reasons to be there since they are in fact based on comics. We’ve already told you about one of them in our interview with Graham Fuchs, the executive director of the recently announced Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. The other two are SEGA-produced super hero games Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Both are based on upcoming movies with Iron Man arriving May 2 on all platforms to correspond with the release of the film and Hulk is doing the same thing later this summer.

I’ve already talked about Hulk a bit with some news that excited every fanboy out there so now lets talk about my hands on with Iron Man in which I also got to speak a bit with senior producer Michael McHale. There’s already a demo out of one of the levels I played so you can hop on your 360 and try it out for yourself too, but I got to play a few levels later in the game and check out how some of the suits look. All in all a very interesting game that actually plays far differently than the rest of the super hero games out there.

So we’re starting things off with Iron Man since the game will be coming out soon and that’s what I got to spend the most time with. According to McHale the game is not just taking from the movie but from the entire comic book series with plenty of classic Iron Man villains popping up in the game. In fact, the films story should only take up about 30 percent of the entire game with the rest of the action being more comic book influenced. That doesn’t mean though that they skimped on the budget. Robert Downey Jr. and Terrance Howard both lend their voices to the game and a few other of the actors from the film are involved as well.

Graphically the few levels I played and saw played looked fantastic. I was on the 360 version and there is no telling how downgraded the Wii and PS2 versions are going to be but McHale says they look very impressive too. Iron Man sort of takes an open world/contained level approach to its design. Each level is really massive, since Iron Man flies so fast, but there are definitely walls you can fly into if you go to far. I played the one in the demo and a much later level revolving around a floating island which was far trickier since it basically took away much of your ability to land. On the levels I played you were simply given a set of objectives that you could complete in any order and, as far as I could tell, any amount of time, though I’m sure there will be timed objectives. This meant that I could fly around with the armor clad hero at my leisure or start destroying things.

I say fly and not walk because the game is really more akin to a jet fighter than anything else, though McHale likes to describe it as three types of games – a third-person action game (while you’re on the ground), a helicopter shooter (while you’re hovering) and a flight sim (while you’re flying). This is actually probably most appropriate since I’ve never run into a jet fighter that lands on the ground in front of a tank, runs towards it, hops on top and tears the gun off. Iron Man can do this. If you tap the B button at the right time you can hurl missles back at the helicopters that launch them, grab a helicopter by its tail or, my personal favorite, latch on to a speeding jet, pull the pilot out and then hurl the jet into the ground. These aren’t canned animation either, you might have to tap B repeatedly or time another button tap to the action.

Still, the main thing here is flying and shooting, and as such the flight controls are insanely important. You basically hover by pulling the left trigger half way in – all the way makes you fly upwards – which I’m sure I would have eventually got use to but with the time on the floor was a bit of a pain. I’m a full trigger squeeze kind of guy and pulling it in half way in order to hover, a move you’ll probably be doing a lot, was not something I was getting the grip of. But that is just up and down, you can rocket forward and basically fly around like a jet too. It took me a few tries to remember that you didn’t have to press forward to go forward, so I went plummeting into the ground a few times but once you get the gist of it you stop doing that. Otherwise shooting comes across pretty easily. You lock on and fire either missels or other projectiles and things blow up, things blow up good. The controls are a bit complicated at first but that is because, as McHale put it, Iron Man is kind of complicated. There is a lot you can do with that suit.

Speaking of the suit there are also a whole lot of them in the game. Each gives you some different advantages. So the Hulkbuster Armor (no the Hulk will not be making an appearance in Iron Man) is slow but ridiculously powerful while the 360 exclusive Silver Centurion is built for some serious speed. I would assume different challenges in different levels will work better with different suits but it could just all be for fun and games. McHale said that the games do take you through the progression of the suits with the tutorials being in the Mark I and Mark II suits and the non-film suits being unlocked through side challenges and other goals throughout the game. Sadly, I only got to play in the films orange and gold suit so we’ll just have to take his word for it.

Really, my major concern from my hands on time with the game is how repetitive the game might get. Like many flight sims, I can see the flying and shooting getting pretty tiresome halfway through the game. Of course Iron Man isn’t most flight sims so unless they really messed something up and stop offering variety in the levels I could easily see playing through and never getting bored, especially since they won’t be forcing us to walk around as Tony Stark during any point in the game. Other worries are of course how gimped the Wii version will be, but McHale says they put the same amount of effort into that one and the only major difference should be the size of the levels. Not of concern, as long as it’s good, is the DS version which McHale says is a classic top down shooter (glee!). Hopefully that will kick some ass and not just be obligatory game release that some many DS multi platform games are.

[See also: Iron Man gallery]