Look, we’re confused; this doesn’t make sense: why is there a first-generation PlayStation 2 game on the office PS3? Questioning whether SEGA had sent us the wrong disk doesn’t inspire confidence – Iron Man is one rough looking game and it doesn’t get much better once you get past the visuals.
Sadly, whilst the movie was decent enough, with Robert Downey Jr playing a cracking lead in the role of the troubled Tony Stark, even his voice over can’t lend enough weight to push the videogame adaptation beyond it’s tragic production levels. Yes, the action is nice and smooth but that’s because the graphics are ridiculously basic and we can’t imagine developers Secret Level even scraped the PS3’s processing grunt.
And when we say action that’s something of a stretch. The confusing array of controls battles constantly with Iron Man’s expanding selection of weaponry, with which you’re meant to dispatch countless dumb goons cascading towards you like a drunken Tetris. An alcholic Stark might be, but when a game forces us to crash through a few gin and tonics before having to plug through the game it’s not a good sign. Still, it’s nice to get into character.
So, Iron Man is a vicious blend of fighting and flying, much like the movie but without any of the grace and poise: despite the hunking great iron suit, Stark is deceptively nimble on his feet but struggles to turn and aim as quickly. Think Sonic The Hedgehog in 3D, but dressed in a deep red exoskeleton weilding a flame-thrower. This ‘on-off’ digital approach to movement extends to flight, where the left trigger acts as both hover and ascend (releasing it lets you drop) which seems to work ok but then lateral movement is magnified ten-fold as soon as you touch the analog stick.
Quite why the controls weren’t refined is anyone’s guess, but we’re assuming the game’s release was tied to the movie’s. That still should have left plenty of man-hours to get the combat right, right? Well, if you think holding the right trigger ad-infinitum is ‘combat’ then sure, it works wonderfully – despite the ever-expanding array of weaponry at your disposal it’s often easiest just to use the repulsor rays, especially given the automatic lock-on. Sure, other options such as missiles can be more devastating, but the effort required to switch and aim outweighs the reward unless you’re forced to do so during a boss battle.
And then it’s back to the graphics, which we couldn’t let lie. They’re terrible. The animation is basic, the environments look last-generation and the whole game just looks dead, as if it was thrown together by a work-experience lacky at the last minute when SEGA realised they’d forgotten something. As we’ve said, the frame-rate is nice and fast, but we wouldn’t expect anything less, and it’s worth mentioning that Iron Man himself is actually pretty good looking, with some nice light mapping and a convincing, tangible solid feel about him.
So, clearly this is one for Iron Man fans alone, and we suspect that if this is you, you’ll get considerably more out of the game than the rest of us: there are numerous fully acted FMV scenes, additional suits to unlock and plenty of superhero fun to be had if you’re not bothered about doing it in a decent game and the demo on the PSN should be enough to convince you either way. For everyone else with a tad more financial sense and dignity, we’re sorry, but this isn’t for you.