X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged is the Best Superhero Game That No One Talks About

X-Men Origins Wolverine Uncaged: The Best Superhero Game No One Talks About Anymore

Superheroes and video games have a history that spans all the way back to the Atari 2600. There have been many superhero games over the last 50 years that captured the hearts of people all over, from the co-op action of X-Men Legends to the acrobatic web-swinging of Spider-Man’s many installments, or even the allure of Maximum Carnage’s blood-red SNES cartridge. Games make people feel powerful, and who better fits the bill of being powerful than superheroes? 

Many gaming enthusiasts point to Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum as a landmark innovation in regards to superhero video games. Its combo-focused 3D beat-em-up style gameplay was tightly designed, its visual presentation rivaled many other big-budget games at the time, and its story was a gripping and refreshing take on the caped crusader’s crime-fighting escapades.

But Batman: Arkham Asylum wasn’t the only big superhero video game to release in 2009. Three months prior to the release of Arkham Asylum, Activision released X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition, to coincide with 20th Century Fox’s film release of the similarly named X-Men Origins: Wolverine (the “Uncaged Edition” subtitle is applied specifically to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of the game). Developed by Raven Software, X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged received somewhat mixed reviews from players and critics, currently sitting in the mid-70s on review aggregate site Metacritic.

Raven Software is a studio with a history of creating first-person shooters like Heretic and Singularity, and is more commonly known today for their role in assisting in the development of many games in the Call of Duty series. X-Men Origins: Wolverine stands out as an intriguing game not only in Raven’s catalog of titles but an interesting example of a licensed movie tie-in game that in many ways is regarded more highly than the film from which it was adapted from.

Like Batman: Arkham Asylum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged (referred to as ‘Wolverine’ for the remainder of the article) is a third-person action game, but where Arkham Asylum primarily went for a beat-em-up approach, Wolverine went for a more fast-paced hack and slash style. Players go through the 10-12 hour game ripping and tearing through endless waves of enemies and bosses, unlocking new combos and special moves, and exploring linear levels that are inspired by but not directly taken from the film. Sounds like pretty standard stuff so far.

What immediately stands out about Wolverine from its opening CG cutscene is the violent influence that comes with an M-rating. Wolverine, true to the character, is a bloody game. Logan’s claws are able to separate all matter of limbs from bodies and often when fighting in groups, blood will spiral out in a grotesque display. Not only that, but Logan takes a lot of punishment throughout the game. As you play, Logan’s torso and face will rip apart revealing muscle and exposed bones that stay around for a short while before healing back up. Take too much damage and you might even lose your shirt for the remainder of the mission.

This level of violence might come as a surprise to those who saw the film or perhaps played other non-uncaged versions of the game, due to the fact that the film had a PG-13 rating and the other versions of the game received a T-rating, heavily limiting the amount of viscera that could be shown on screen. Filmgoers would have to wait until 2017’s Logan to witness Wolverine spill blood in live-action seeing as it was the first film in the X-Men live-action films to receive an R-rating. Depending on who you ask, this is one major reason people will give the upper hand to the video game adaptation over the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film. The film also currently sits at a 40 on Metacritic so there may be other factors at play in regards to public opinion on the film.

Raven was smart in designing the combat system in Wolverine because it is simple enough to pick up and enjoy, while also being deep enough that it never gets dull even after cutting down your 500th foe. Throughout the game you unlock various combos that mix heavy and light claw attacks, grab attacks, an extremely helpful lunge move that allows you to close the distance on far away combatants, a counter, as well as a number of special abilities like the deadly Claw Spin which unleashes a tornado of claw swipes. Sometimes enemies will require the odd counter or lunge in order to effectively take them down, but for the most part, the player puts together a toolbox of moves and abilities, and they get to choose how to best make use of those tools in each fight. 

And as was mentioned above, the combat never really gets boring. There are a lot of enemies the game throws at the player on normal difficulty, and for all intents and purposes, it really should get boring after a while, but the fights never draw themselves out too long. Most foes with the exception of bosses can be taken out relatively quickly and then you move on to a climbing and platforming section or a room that has a small puzzle to solve. The pacing is pretty solid throughout the entirety of the experience.

There are also some special extras that are added into the game for fans of the comics as well. During loading screens, facts and trivia from different X-Men comics are displayed sharing information and background on certain characters in the game. But even more exciting are alternate costumes that are unlocked by finding Wolverine action figures in the levels and fighting that version of Wolverine in a mini-boss fight. The costumes serve as a nice reward for beating these battles, and seeing the classic yellow and blue outfit get torn to shreds and soaked in blood is definitely a sight to behold.

The level design and narrative in Wolverine is also interesting to note because while it shares the same name as the film, the game loosely follows the same plot as the film. You will see some familiar scenes like Kayla telling Logan a story about the moon or Logan’s fight with Duke, but oftentimes these events happen under different circumstances or are placed in completely new locations. The game takes scenarios from the film and expands on them. There are multiple levels that show more of Stryker’s mission in Africa from the beginning of the film, Logan’s escape from the Weapon X facility is much longer, and there are even all-new levels such as one that takes place in a Sentinel production facility full of robots that culminates in a massive scale boss fight with a Sentinel. Because of these differences in narrative and level design, Wolverine ends up being a nice companion piece to the film, rather than a lesser imitation or an outright replacement.

Now, while Wolverine is certainly a blast to play, (seriously check it out if anything you have read to this point sounds cool to you) we do have to mention a couple areas where the game comes up short. The game is over 10 years old, and it definitely shows in regards to the framerate and the massive amount of screen tearing that appears while playing. The game will slow down quite a bit when a lot is happening on screen and the jagged edges that are formed from the screen tearing (particularly in outdoor environments) are very distracting. Enemy AI, while fun to dispatch of, has the tendency to be quite dumb and just stand around, patiently awaiting their doom. Levels have a lot of reused textures throughout the environments making the individual rooms and hallways stand out less and less the more you move through a level. Normally most of these issues are the result of a studio not having enough budget, not having enough time or both. 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged is a game that seems primed for a remaster, though one will likely never come. The technical issues are the only real things holding the game back. There is such a strong base here that with more time and budget could expand into a game franchise that could be as strong as Marvel’s Spider-Man or Rocksteady’s Arkham games. And it seems like the team at Raven was hoping to do some more with the franchise based on the awesome ending cutscene cliffhanger. Who knows if the team will be able to return to this franchise in the future, but the likelihood of Activision allowing Raven to step away from Call of Duty seems slim.  In summary, play X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged. If you are a fan of the character Wolverine or are just looking for a violent action game, there’s fun to be had even ten years after its initial release. 

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