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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.6    CPU: G4 @ 733 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

X2: Wolverine’s Revenge
December 5, 2003 | Ken Newquist

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Years ago, the clawed, fast-healing mutant Wolverine underwent a brutal transformation that laced his bones with unbreakable adamantium. He was on the verge of becoming an unstoppable killing machine called Weapon X when he broke free of his governmental controllers and fled.

He lost his memory of that time, and spent innumerable years trying to recover it. He finally did so in last spring's film X-Men 2. In Wolverine's Revenge, he learns something else: that the men who gave him his reinforced skeleton also attempted to control him by infecting him with the "Shiva" virus. His healing factor has kept it in check ever since, but as the game opens he has learned that his body is finally losing its long battle. He has 48 hours to live and his only hope of survival is to return to the Weapon X facility and find the antiviral agent.

Game play
Wolverine's Revenge was originally released as a console and PC game at the time of X2. Now, just as the movie DVD is set to come out, it's available on the Mac. The game is a fusion of a traditional third-person adventure game and a button-mashing fighting game. Players control Logan, navigating him through various threats and hacking his way through waves of opponents.

The game's console heritage slices through its smooth exterior almost as soon as the game loads. The default configuration uses a keyboard and mouse, but it's all but impossible to use if you don't have three arms. A quick pass through the instructions reveals why: the game is designed to be played on a game pad.

Normally you can make do with a keyboard, but Wolverine's Revenge is a fighting game hybrid. Like Mortal Combat and its kin, the game requires the execution of special moves in order to trigger Wolverine's exceptional powers. Despite tinkering with the game for two nights, I couldn't find a keyboard and mouse configuration that would let me pull off the combos.

It was clear I'd need either a 5-button mouse or a game pad. I decided on the latter and bought a Logitech Dual Action game pad, which the game promptly ignored. I ended up searching for a utility that would let me map keyboard commands to the game pad, found USB Overdrive, and a few hours later I had a setup I liked.

With a proper controller in hand I begin slashing my way through the game's early levels. The fighting controls are simplistic -- players can punch or kick, throwing a few different combinations as they do so. If they hit the right combination while next to an opponent, one of Wolverine's "strike" moves goes off, and he immediately runs through a script of pre-programmed (yet still impressive) mayhem. It's possible to wipe out a room of goons with one of these moves, and while players don't actually control Wolverine while he's "striking", it's still a pleasure to watch.

Wolverine's claws can be extended or withdrawn at will -- extending them does extra damage, withdrawing them triggers his mutant power and allows him to heal. In addition to his standard wandering-claws-of-death mode, Wolverine has "stealthy" and "sense" modes. The first allows him to move quietly, hugging walls and surprise guards. The second heightens his animal senses, permitting him to "see" the thermal footprints of his prey, catch their scent (which appears as a green stream on the screen), and detect which way they are facing.

It sounds like everything you'd want in a Wolverine game, and it is, but the execution just isn't there. To start with, Wolverine's primary foes are AI grunts that seem to be missing most of their digital forebrains. They typically take one of three actions: stupidly stand and wait for Wolverine to attack, make a suicidal charge, or run for the nearest alarm. Their simplistic and repetitive tactics don't make them much of a challenge unless they happen to be immediately next to an alarm.

The game is divided into six acts, with several levels per act. Confronting Wolverine at the end of each act are the bosses, who include among their ranks the brutal killer Sabertooth, the feral Wendigo and the master of magnetism, Magneto. These fights aren't quite as impressive as they could be -- for example, fighting Sabertooth is less about mastering the right combination of buttons, and more about getting behind him and activating Wolverine's "strike" move. That's frustrating for folks who were expecting to use their brains -- or at least fast reflexes -- to beat their opponents.

The most annoying aspect of Wolverine's Revenge is its inability to save between missions. Many of its missions -- particularly the stealth based ones -- involve a trial-and-error approach to problem solving. It can easily take two to three dozen tries before finally figuring out how to pass a level, and each failure means starting over from scratch. The ability to save at will would have made completing these levels much easier, and the game far more enjoyable.


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