The first Iron Man game was an only moderately successful release that was hampered by a precarious lack of genuine ambition. It was the kind of movie adaptation that many gamers instantly avoid; workmanlike, efficient and forgettable. Fans of mindless action titles warmed to it somewhat, but it was much more suited to a weekend-long rental blast than a full-priced purchase, and quite a few fans of the film weren’t happy that the license wasn’t exploited to the extent that it deserved. Iron Man 2 is a much more impressive proposition, and very much like Iron Man 2 the film, it is far from perfect but treads water entertainingly enough to please fans both of mindless action games and of the Iron Man franchise.
The best thing about Iron Man 2 (the videogame) is that it doesn’t follow the movie’s plot to the note. It’s a completely fresh story that has been penned by Matt Fraction, the author of the much-admired animated film The Invincible Iron Man, who worked alongside SEGA’s creative director Kyle Brink. It’s extremely good humoured, and very importantly, Tony’s Stark’s dialogue has an entirely faithful ring to it. And because the plot is told visually and with a sharp sense of pacing, don’t be surprised if you’re left wondering if this screenplay perhaps began its life as a potential basis for an Iron Man 2 movie that never happened.
Fans of the films are going to be extremely pleased to see prominent characters used throughout the story, including James Rhodes, Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff. Samuel L Jackson and Don Cheadle are the only members of the A-list cast to lend their actual voices to the project, but surprisingly enough, it doesn’t end up detracting from the authenticity of the overall experience. And incidentally, the actor who emulates Robert Downey Jnr’s performance as Tony Stark here is a truly sharp and nuanced mimic, and will fool more than a few of the game’s younger audience.
The core gameplay is similar to that of the first game, but the controls (so frustratingly problematic in that title) have been immeasurably tightened. Combat is now much more coherent, and the nifty enemy lock-on system (another erratic aspect of the first game) is basically faultless and didn’t once sketch-out on us, even as we switched in and out of melee combat continuously. Some of the plot is delivered via competently directed cutscenes, but the bulk of it comes to you whilst you’re knee-deep in the action, and this actually does add to the excitement of it all. Unlike in the first game, you always feel involved.
A nice gesture in the direction of fans of the Iron Man comic books comes in the form of suit customisation. Tony Stark always tinkered with his Iron Man suit as the comic stories progressed, and here you are able to do exactly that. War Machine is also a playable character, and younger gamers should be encouraged to use him instead of Iron Man where possible, as his weaponry is much more powerful and boasts a far sharper lock-on system. Although Iron Man 2 isn’t quite in the same league as the superior but similarly unambitious Dark Void from earlier this year, fans of Iron Man 2 the movie (and especially the Iron Man comics) should definitely consider checking this out.
Watch the Iron Man 2 trailer here…