by Patrick Steinmann
previewed on X360
In theory, comic and action video games work out quite nicely. Or rather, they are built along the same lines – lots of action and minimal story. However, few (if any) comic-based games have really convinced gamers – the Spider Man games jump to mind immediately.
Of course, there is always time for a first. This time it’s Sega who is attempting to bring comics to consoles. Last year, Sega announced they had bought the rights to the Iron Man character, and were planning a video game to coincide with the upcoming movie. Information is still scarce on this title, but the stuff that is out there promises lots of fun in the works.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Iron Man franchise, here is a short biography. Iron Man is the moniker of Anthony “Tony” Stark; multi-million dollar industrialist and playboy. His name stems from the metal exoskeleton he has designed himself. He always wears it when he goes off to fight communists or mere criminals and, every now and then, people who want to have a go at his company: Stark International, an arms and technology conglomerate.
In superhero terms, Stark is more Spiderman than Superman, in the way his powers come from his suit. Stark built the first version of it in Afghanistan, while he was captured by rebels, because he needed a way of escaping them. Beyond the basic stuff (you know, enormous strength, the ability to fly, a socking great laser beam, that sort of thing), it usually also houses assorted weaponry and lots of doodads to help him with the mission at hand. Flamethrowers, mini guns, force field emitters, stealth technology – you name it, he has it on his suit. So there is lots of potential for really cool and fun weapons for Iron Man to use.
However, Sega has said that Iron Man’s main weapons will be two varieties of repulsor rays, shot either from his palms or his chest, the latter being more powerful but sapping more of Stark’s energy. Interestingly, the gameplay video shows the palm-launched rays homing in on their targets (though these might have been rockets). Beyond that, we have yet to see more than rocket boosters (for flying, which looked like great fun) and, possibly, a form of stealth.
Of course, Iron Man’s other skills can be combined; like flying up into the air, hovering, and catching a SAM in mid-air, only to fling it back at the launcher. A developer mentioned that this type of interaction/exploitation with the surroundings and enemies will feature on a broader scale in the full game. According to Sega, Stark’s suit will be customizable, though we don’t know if the changes will be merely cosmetic or more substantial.
Expect the usual “you against about a million” when it comes to the missions. In the available video showing gameplay footage, we saw Iron Man flying above a valley, battling numerous tanks, SAM stations, and infantry troops. All no match for Iron Man’s varied skills (heck, he punched a tank to destruction…). The mission goals will vary, and probably won’t be straight-forward, often requiring precursory actions, like destroying a power plant before taking out the actual mission goal, a high-powered weapon otherwise to powerful for Iron Man. We also expect other mission types, protecting something against attacks for example.
The maps measure a square mile, which you can traverse on foot or at two different speeds of flight. Sega has mentioned that the maps will change as the story unfolds, though we don’t yet to which extent. Interesting is that (at least in the demoed level), Iron Man couldn’t fly at the height of his choice, but was forced to stay low, and therefore within the range of enemy weapons, because patrolling MIG jets would shoot him down if he strayed too high.
Plot-wise, we heard that the events in the movie will definitely have some sort of influence. The same stands true for the game’s villains, though chances are Marvel fans will also be treated to a few of the company’s other villains, along with Stark’s secretary, Pepper Potts, and his friend Jim Rhodes.
All in all, Iron Man looks very promising. Lots of action, paired with cool superhero skills, might well match up to be a great title.