X2: Wolverine's Revenge preview

We try out this upcoming action game that stars the popular Marvel comics superhero Wolverine.

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Marvel's X-Men comics are some of the most popular and successful comic book series of all time. These mutant superheroes have entertained audiences for decades in a variety of mediums, from the original comic books, to video and arcade games, on up to the blockbuster motion-picture X-Men, released in 2000. Just in time for this year's release of X-Men 2, Activision and Livesay Technologies have teamed up to produce X2: Wolverine's Revenge, a third-person 3D action game. As the title suggests, the primary character in the game is Wolverine, one of the most popular heroes from the X-Men team. Wolverine's athleticism, razor-sharp adamantium claws, supersensory perception, and heightened healing ability make him an ideal candidate for a computer game hero, and X2 will attempt take advantage of all these traits. We recently had an opportunity to play a preview version of the the PC game.

The story, written by Marvel author Larry Hama, takes Wolverine back to his roots by bringing him into contact with Weapon X, the secret Canadian military program that created Wolverine and others to be the world's deadliest soldiers. A dormant virus called Shiva has been activated in Wolverine's system. He has only 48 hours to live, so he must fight his way back into the original Weapon X facility in search of a cure. As the game progresses, Wolverine comes across some familiar villains, including Sabretooth (another product of the Weapon X program), Wendigo, Magneto, and Lady Deathstrike.

As Wolverine, you'll have an array of attacks and maneuvers at your disposal. Tapping the punch button or kick button a few times unleashes some simple maneuvers that can stun or kill some of the basic enemies in the game, like soldiers. You'll also be able to perform flips and rolls to dodge out of the way of attacks, or block by pushing your controller away from the enemy, just like in an arcade-style fighting game. If you can stun an enemy with a series of kicks or punches, you'll be able to kill that enemy with some flashy finishing moves, or even pick the opponent up and toss him or her at other enemies to bowl them over.

The stealth attacks can be particularly gruesome.
The stealth attacks can be particularly gruesome.

More interesting than these basic moves are Wolverine's stealth attacks. Using a stealth button to skulk about, you can sneak up on an opponent and kill him or her without alerting other nearby enemies. Depending on the position of the opponent, Wolverine can unleash a variety of different instant-kill moves, like snapping the enemy's neck or using his claws to stab the enemy after pinning him or her against the wall. Our hero also has a particularly vicious stealth attack that can be used while sneaking up on a guard lying on the ground. In one instance, Wolverine approached a guard who was repairing something on the underside of a truck, pulled the hapless guard out from under the vehicle using one hand, and then punctured the guard's neck with his claws, pinning his head to the ground. These attacks are quite gruesome, even with only a moderate amount of blood spraying about and no over-the-top gore or dismemberment.

Wolverine can even unleash special attacks when facing multiple enemies. These attacks are called strikes, and they're activated when enemies are arrayed in a certain way around Wolverine. If you can maneuver them into the right positions, pressing the action button results in an automatic combination attack that hits multiple enemies and inflicts a lot more damage than regular attacks. You'll start off the game with only a few strikes, but as you make more stealth kills throughout the game, you'll unlock more-powerful strikes that you can use on multiple enemies.

X2: Wolverine's Revenge also seems to make good use of Wolverine's innate skills, such as fast healing and supersensory perception. By retracting your claws, you can activate Wolverine's healing ability, which will very slowly replenish your health bar. There are some health packs in the levels, but if you've cleared a particularly difficult room and no health packs are available, the healing ability comes in handy. Wolverine's enhanced senses can be activated with the press of a button, casting the world in an orange haze. The presence of enemies lurking around a corner is noted by a green smoke wafting into Wolverine's view, simulating his ability to smell trouble. You'll also be able to use this ability to detect traps like land mines and laser trip wires.

I smell trouble.
I smell trouble.

Graphically, Wolverine's Revenge doesn't seem too flashy. At this point, the game's character models seem like they could stand to have better animation, and the environments we've seen so far seem a bit sparse and lacking in interactive elements. However, the game does feature voice acting from professionals like Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from the original Star Wars) as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart (reprising his role in the X-Men movies) as Professor Xavier.

And at this point, the game's default control scheme doesn't seem to work all that well with a mouse and keyboard. Controlling the camera using the mouse seems somewhat imprecise, and it also seems that there aren't enough buttons even on the most button-laden mice to adequately manage your array of attacks and special abilities. The ideal controller for the PC version of X2: Wolverine's Revenge is probably a gamepad. Even with the help of a gamepad, players may find that facing multiple enemies can be difficult, particularly since Wolverine can move only forward or backward. Wolverine can't actually strafe, so to change direction, he needs to stop and turn. This may prove awkward for some players, but the ability to roll and dodge to the side may help alleviate this issue.

X2: Wolverine's Revenge has the potential to be a fun action game for fans of the X-Men and fans of third-person action games. The game will be divided into six different "acts," each of which consists of a few levels, so it should hopefully offer players a good amount of gameplay. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to save a game within a mission in the early version we played. Hopefully Activision and Livesay will include this important feature before the game's release later this spring.

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