Hands On: Thor: God of Thunder

Video games based on movies, with the exception of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Spider-Man 2, are notorious for being poorly designed cash in titles. Generally, these games aren’t worth your time. Iron Man 2, Sega’s most recent effort with the Marvel license, was an unsurprisingly awful game. Thankfully, Thor: God of Thunder is not your typical movie tie-in. In fact, it doesn’t even follow the film’s plot. Sega was actually given some creative freedom this time around and it definitely makes a difference. Based on what we played of the Wii and Xbox 360 versions at C2E2 this past weekend, Thor is shaping up to be a pretty solid action game.

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The demo for the Xbox 360 version focused primarily on boss fights. As a result, none of the levels allowed for any exploration. It’s also worth noting that the demo, which was running on a debug unit, had some technical hiccups. It was easy to notice framerate drops and screen tearing since both were frequent occurrences. I was told that the quality of the demo differs from the retail version, but there’s no way to confirm that until we try it ourselves.

The gameplay is standard for the genre and is similar to God of War in many ways. You can easily link moves together by using Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) in combination with his elemental powers. It actually feels like there’s weight to the hammer and the animations are fluid. There’s a lot of eye-candy for the elemental powers, and it’s not just limited to thunder. Thor also has the ability to use wind and lightning to devastate his foes. By defeating enemies, players are given Valor points to upgrade combat skills and powers. Unlike GoW, you can actually rotate the camera around since it’s not fixed to a single angle.

As with most games nowadays, there are quick time events. These sequences tend to have multiple paths to take so it’s not always linear. This adds a bit of variety to the combat but the result is generally the same regardless. The placement of some of the QTEs could have been better, as well. It’s annoying having to run around a giant just to activate a QTE at a very specific location. If you ever played God of War before, you’ll feel right at home. The moves are satisfyingly over the top and generally have you mashing or pressing buttons. For a game that doesn’t exactly reinvent the genre in any particular way, the QTEs are more varied than you’d think.

To stay consistent with the film, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are the voices behind Thor and Loki. Aside from their likenesses being used for the game, there’s very little relation to the movie at all. The story is completely original and has players battling against comic book villains such as Surtur, Ulik, and Ymir. The game takes place in four mythological worlds – Asgard, Muspelheim, Niflheim, and Vanaheim. Since many of the locations in the game are unique, Sega worked closely with Marvel to make sure that the environments would be similar in style if they were ever used in future films.

Stephen Frost, one of the producers of Thor: God of Thunder, estimates that it will take players about 8-10 hours to complete the game. In terms of replay value, there are additional costumes to unlock and multiple difficult modes to play through. There are no online modes, unfortunately.

Check out the video below to see a live demonstration from the producers of the game.

The Wii version of Thor, developed by Red Fly Studios, is essentially a different game altogether, although it does follow the same overarching storyline. Unlike its HD counterpart, Thor: God of Thunder for the Wii also takes place on Earth and has additional costumes to unlock. This version also uses a comic book style presentation for its cut scenes and in-game models. It actually looks a bit like Spider-Man for the PSone.

The control scheme is deceptively simple. For basic combos, all you need to do is press the A button a bunch of times. If you want to utilize the hammer for finishing moves, a quick gesture with the Wiimote should suffice. By pressing down on the d-pad, players are able to choose between different elemental powers. When you achieve a combo chain of at least 50 hits, you can perform an even more devastating elemental attack. The controls feel intuitive and it’s fun to mess around with combos. You can even juggle enemies in the air or throw your hammer with just a flick of the wrist. It’s all very satisfying.

The demo featured three stages to play through and focused on more than just boss encounters. The first level, which takes place on Earth, has Thor running around a city as it’s ambushed by demons. After that, there’s a flying sequence with gameplay similar to an on-rail shooter (somewhat like Rez). Thor has the ability to dodge attacks, throw his hammer, and reflect enemy projectiles. It’s nice change of pace and works very well. The last section of the demo was a boss fight against a giant Surtur. The encounter is different than the one from the Xbox 360 version and seamlessly transitions to a flight sequence near the end.

What’s most surprising about Thor for the Wii is how deep the combat mechanics can get. Like the Xbox 360 version, you can upgrade your skills and customize Thor to your liking using points. In addition to that, you can also equip Runes found throughout the game to give Thor even more unique properties. Although we only played brief segments for both games, Thor was easily more impressive on the Wii.

The video below goes through all three levels of the demo and has a tiny bit of commentary thrown in.

Thor: God of Thunder has a lot going for it. Not being based on the movie is already a good start, but the game was also in development for a longer period of time. In comparison to the Iron Man games, Sega made specific sections to properly realize Thor’s abilities instead of using half-hearted gameplay mechanics all throughout. The difference in quality is apparent right from the start.

What we didn’t get to see was the Nintendo DS version of Thor. It was described as a 2D brawler that utilizes both screens at all times. The game was developed by WayForward (Contra 4, Batman: Brave and the Bold), and it looks very promising based on the screenshots.

Thor: God of Thunder releases on May 3rd for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and DS. A 3DS game is also in the works but it won’t be released until a later time.

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17 Comments

  1. I have to agree with you Isaac, Spiderman 2 and Wolverine are genuinely the only two direct movie tie-ins I have enjoyed.

    I may look into Thor, thought would have liked to have heard more about the exploration etc. Good read.

    • King Kong was pretty good

    • There are a few others I can think of – The Thing, The first Chronicles of Riddick game, Goldeneye, various Star Wars games, Dune, The Warriors, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (point n’ click adventure game), Blade Runner (also a p’n’c adventure) etc…

      • This is true, there have been a few successes over the years – Has to be said that MOST do end up being complete tosh though.

  2. Sadly, after all the sub par titles SEGA has released in the last 2 years it’s hard to get excited about anything they put out… unless it’s some kind of remake, or HD upgrade of the Genesis/Master drive era.

    • they have a few great RPGs and Yakuza but they’re not for everyone I guess

    • Vanquish was not sub par at all…in fact it was one of the best games released in the past couple of years.

      • Oh I forgot about Vanquish & Bayonetta great games although I haven’t bought them yet

    • Apart from the aforementioned:

      Valkyria Chronicles.
      Valkyria Chronicles II.
      Virtua Tennis 2009.
      Rez HD.
      Crush.

      I also think Resonance of Fate is underrated, as is The Conduit (to a lesser extent – it wasn’t great.)

  3. There’s a lot of eye-candy for the elemental powers, and it’s not just limited to thunder. Thor also has the ability to use wind and lightning to devastate his foes
    i always thought lightning was the same as thunder. :)

    anyway.

    i’m not very familiar with the thor comics, or at all familiar come to think of it, so it’s not like i’d be interested in this because it’s thor, so the game will have to stand on it’s own, and after sega’s last couple of comic book movie tie ins i’d need a demo of this before i could even think of buying it.

    though it sounds like this isn’t the usual crappy movie tie in.

    i do have one question, were there any QTEs in the boss fights?

    • The 360 demo was pretty much all boss fights aside from dealing with minions along the way. So yeah, there were QTEs for the boss fights.

      >_> I haven’t really thought about the differences between thunder and lightning but they are both specifically mentioned lol.

      • I should clarify a bit. by “along the way” I mean during the fight >_>

  4. Great article. Only problem I see is the comparison with games based on films as this isn’t one of them. Just like the recent Batman games. I guess most of the industry (along with scores of TSA fans) realise that this is the far superior way to go. Use the world that the film paints as a foundation but build the game from scratch so it suits the change in medium.

    • True, it’s not based on a film, but it’s most certainly a tie-in given the release date and the casting choices.

  5. Indeed Iron Man 2 was terrible and horrific and awful. A bit concerned that they only gave access to the boss fights, I’m worried it may mean they are trying to hide the lack of exploration and level detail.

    However, from what’s been shown here, this already looks a cut above and I really hope the freedom given to the development team will have been used to good effect.

  6. May have a gander

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