Blame Spider-Man 3, blame Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, blame Superman Returns, blame X-Men: The Official Game if you like, but I'm beginning to dread the arrival of the game of the movie of the comic-book on my desk. The simple fact is that most games based on super-heroes are pretty much rotten, and the ones based on movie adaptations are frequently the worst. Even when I love the movie, there's something soulless, uninspired and totally lacking in ambition about the majority of the game offshoots, often because the developers seem to have felt that taking the scrolling beat-em-up and adding a scattering of super-powers is enough. The results are usually depressing.
I had hoped Iron Man would be different, even if Riyad's preview gave me some reason to doubt. Well, it is. It might not be entirely successful (to say the least) but at least Sega's adaptation tries to escape the usual formula. Instead of a scrolling beat-em-up or a poorly thought out open-world adventure, we get a game that reminds me in turns of Battlefield, Ace Combat 6 and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. In theory that sounds great, but don't get too excited. While Iron Man's shiny red and gold armour isn't riddled with the usual malfunctions, it's still beset with numerous flaws.
Some of these are apparent right from the start. After the first cut-scene we kick into arms tycoon Tony Stark's escape from a middle-Eastern terrorist compound in his prototype metal suit. It's a rotten level that rapidly exposes the worst aspects of the game: fiddly controls, a ropey and unintuitive targeting system, woeful enemy AI and repetitive death-blow animations. To make things worse, you're tethered to the ground and surrounded by canyon walls for the duration. You can understand why some of the game's various issues proved difficult to solve - with hovering, flying, close-combat, evasive manoeuvres and three different weapons systems to control, there was bound to be a bit of trouble getting it all mapped onto a joypad. All the same, Sega's solutions have made the game very difficult to get to grips with. For the first two hours you'll struggle with the basics of flying and hovering. Several hours after that, you'll still find it hard to keep fast-moving targets in your sights. Those looking for a dumbed-down, casual game won't like this one bit.