E3 2002: Wolverine's Rage impressions

We go hands-on with GenePool and Activision's upcoming Marvel brawler.

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We had the chance to sample a good bit of Activision and GenePool's upcoming Wolverine game at the publisher's booth at E3 today and came away with some pretty strong impressions about what the game will be like. As mentioned in prior coverage, the plot in Wolverine's Rage revolves around the superhero contracting a strange virus, whose origins lie in the very Weapon X research facility in which Wolverine was created. The level on demo at Activision's booth took place within the walls of the facility, and it was rife with force fields, attack bots, and heavily armed security agents. If what we saw today is any indication, the game will be heavily combat-oriented, with a good number of tasteful switch-hitting objectives thrown in for good measure.

We got our hands on the game's combat system for the first time and found it to be quite exciting and versatile. You basically have four attacks: punch/slash, kick, sweep, and grab. You can weave all of these into combos that seem, for the most part, to emerge dynamically depending on how many enemies you're facing, where they're standing, and other such factors. Lots of these are context-sensitive to an extent too--if you execute a sweep while running, for example, you'll perform a sliding kick that knocks enemies off their feet. Execute a grab while running, on the other hand, and you'll lock your legs around their chest and hurl them as you back-flip out. Wolverine's moves seem to be pretty exaggerated like that, though the specials take it to another level entirely. You can execute special moves at certain times, depending on how well you're performing in combat. During certain sequences, the word "special" will appear onscreen, which serves as a prompt to press the circle button. When you do, you'll execute the canned specials, the looks of which resemble something you'd see in a fighting game. You can also lock on to and off your enemies at your leisure, which puts you in combat stance. You'll circle enemies when you're set on lock, which greatly reduces your movement rate. Sometimes, when running through a thick group of enemies, you'll automatically lock on to them, which makes it hard when you intend to avoid them rather than engage. Hopefully, this kink will be ironed out before the game goes gold.

Outside of combat, you'll find lots of light exploration. The layouts of the environments are never complex enough to get you lost, but they are nicely varied and are both compact in some places and expansive in others. The designers have come up with some very neat mission mechanics, which, while they're still fairly "lock and key," do a bit to mix things up. One example revolves around a heat sensor that you'll have to foil to safely traverse a stretch of hallway. To lower Wolverine's body temperature enough to pass through safely, you'll have to break into the facility's kitchen area and stand inside the meat locker for several seconds. Other sequences will involve Wolverine's mutant senses. You can activate these by hitting the L2 button, which causes the gameworld to be displayed in the slick-looking red, hazy, outlined filter that has been shown in screenshots. We used this to reveal a hidden keycard in the guards' barracks in one scenario that we played, as well as to illuminate the vision ranges of probing camera bots in another to facilitate stealth.

The E3 demo also made evident one other way that GenePool plans to break up gameplay. In one sequence, we got a chance to commandeer the controls of a heavily armed attack bot, and the resulting sequence played a lot like a first-person shooter. Our perspective changed to that of the robot's camera view--a first-person view--and we were able to shoot enemies with its mounted machine gun and plasma cannon. It was quite satisfying.

In any event, we'll have more information on this for you soon after E3. Till then, check out the recent media updates provided by Activision.

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