Iron Man 2
Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Also available for: Wii, PSP and Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Teen (mild language, violence)
By Billy O'Keefe
If you're bound and determined to enjoy "Iron Man 2" in video game form, here's a tip even the most skilled of you may wish to follow: Play the game on its easiest difficulty setting.
That isn't a testament to the steely challenge "IM2" poses to players so much as — as was the case in the first "Iron Man" game — its aggravating propensity to let some truly sloppy execution get in the way of what otherwise could be an ideal action gaming playground.
Like its predecessor, "IM2" kinda sorta keeps in step with the movie throughout a series a linear missions in which Iron Man (or War Machine; outside of one mission, "IM2" lets players select whichever character and corresponding weapons loadout they prefer) performs some occasional bodyguard duty but mostly just shoots and blows stuff up.
When it's done well, the results are perfectly, mindlessly fun. Both characters can dash, hover, fly, engage in airborne hand-to-hand combat and fire short-burst and explosive weapons, and "IM2's" flexible controls allow players to mix and match those abilities as they see fit.
But any time the action enters a tight space or finds our heroes surrounded by a barrage of enemies — which, by the way, is often — things just fall apart.
Nine times out of 10, it's the fault of a spastic camera and auto-targeting system, which finds the former spinning around wildly while umpteen targets fire liberally from all angles and play tricks on the latter. On the easiest difficulty setting, it isn't terribly difficult to just dash away and rebuild the deck, but those who engage the higher difficulty settings should expect to die repeatedly and cheaply at the hands of these technical failings.
The headaches come to a head during a final boss fight against an absolutely gargantuan Ultimo. The scope of the showdown is visually fantastic, but it's entirely beyond the camera's capabilities, and the hysterical fit that ensues will leave some players dizzy and others just scrambling for the off switch. What should have been "IM2's" shining moment instead becomes its lowest low.
The co-op applications for "IM2" are pretty obvious given its two-protagonist cast, but in another sign that the game was probably rushed to stores in concert with the movie's release, the relatively short single-player story is all there is. An interface for upgrading and unlocking customizable weapons and suits is nice (if a bit user-unfriendly), but once the end credits roll, there's nothing to do beyond replaying old missions.
Hopefully, some developer will one day get a chance to do with Iron Man what Activision is doing this year with Spider-Man: create a proper game that isn't tied to the creative direction and release date of a film. The ingredients for gaming greatness are there, and a proper development cycle and all it entails (polish, a stable camera, a storyline written specifically for the game and some value on the features side) would probably produce something pretty special.
Beyond "IM2's" startling inability to improve on the well-publicized failings of the troubled first game, no such significance exists here.
(c) 2010, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.