|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Artificial Mind and Movement||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sega of America||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 2, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
The translation from comic book hero to video game protagonist has not had the most illustrious past. One need only bring up titles like Aquaman and Superman 64 to make others recoil in horror. Movie-based games share an analogous past. Rarely are they decent - the basic mechanics are usually broken, yet digital recreations of actors and set pieces from the film are done in painstaking detail. This arises from the nature of the production process: these kinds of games have to be out the same week the movie starts hitting box offices. The marketers figure they can get people to shell out for a game while the movie is still fresh in the public mind. Now, given that these two areas - comic books and movies - make for a terrible historical record, it should not be surprising that Iron Man falls short of expectations.
The game, much like the movie, follows billionaire playboy/weapons developer Tony Stark, who is captured by a terrorist group and forced to build a devastating weapon. Determined to turn the tables, Stark uses his captor's resources to build a suit of armor which not only protects his damaged heart, but also allows him to deal out a superhuman amount of damage. Disgusted with his unscrupulous business tactics in the past, Stark turns into a philanthropist hero-for-hire. His goals are simple: divert his company's resources from weapons development to peaceful technologies while destroying any of his weapons caches found on the black market. It's a shame the gameplay can't match the story.
Mission structure isn't the game's strength. Every level in the game has a very similar pattern: follow the way points to targets and then destroy said targets. That's it - that's as deep as it gets. Most of the time your objectives are the same as well: you destroy weapon caches while taking out the bad guys. To mix things up, the developers put in a leveling system for Iron Man. After every level, you're awarded points toward certain parts of the suit - you may up your armor defense or increase beam damage. Unfortunately there's no way to decide how to spend points - the game simply auto levels Iron Man's suit, and that's it. It would have been nice to have the ability to customize the point spread, but that functionality is simply not there.
Perhaps the biggest slip-up is in the game's control department. Iron Man should be a joy to fly around, but instead he's the exact opposite - just moving him around each level is a trial. This arises because of the button mapping. Almost in a homage to the way first person shooters on the Nintendo 64 played, the developers chose a wonky setup - the analog nub moves Iron Man, but the face buttons control the camera. This makes your primary goal in the game not really playing Iron Man, but being his camera operator. You'll constantly be adjusting the direction of the camera while trying to get him moving in the right direction with the analog nub.
Obviously this control scheme is a drawback, but its defects are compounded by other strange design choices. For example, there is no auto-target button. With the immense amount of enemies on screen and the fact that you're flying most of the time, the omission seems strange. However, all is not lost - there is an attempt at a half auto-target idea: when you center your aim on an enemy and gently hold it there, Iron Man tends to relay his shots to that one location. But pull away, and suddenly you'll have lost the target.