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You've also got to love the game's grisly slow-mo effect, used every time Wolvie dispatches the last of another wave of enemies, allowing you to witness their destruction in all its blood-spraying clarity. It's a shame that Wolverine's skin is a little plastic looking, and I encountered some fearsome spots of slowdown in the PS3 version reviewed, but when so many superhero games look like HD ports of a PS2 version, at least Raven bought it's A game to bear on this one.
There's also a little more depth and strategy than you'd find in some examples of this genre. Like God of War, Devil May Cry or Onimusha, Wolverine uses an experience system, whereby slashing enough goons into bits levels our hero up. On levelling up you can spend points on health or combat abilities, and as the game goes on it introduces new special attacks, enabling Wolverine to carve up huge swathes of foes in a circle of bloodshed, or drill his way through particularly tough opponents, provided he has notched up enough ‘rage' to do so.
Meanwhile the lunge ability, introduced at the outset, becomes key the more the game moves on. Press the top-right bumper on your controller and our hero focuses on an enemy. Click top left and he leaps right at them, and you can combine his initial pounce with a selection of other blows to do as much damage in as little time as possible. Lunging is vital when tackling large or spread out packs of enemies, enabling you to move fast, avoid suppressive fire and deal with the pesky ninja-style forces or rocket-launching fiends you'll encounter more frequently as time goes on. Finally, a system of Mutagens allows you to customise Wolverine to your own preferences or for different situations, putting damage-resistance over offensive power, or boosting Wolverine's existing ability to learn from and then deal more damage to specific enemies as he encounters them.
Sadly, all this great stuff is let down by the fact that the whole experience wears thin within a scant few hours of play.
It all comes down to pacing, scale and variety. I think that, say, God of War 2 or Devil May Cry 4 succeed because they know how to combine periods of heavy combat, quieter moments and big, in-your face blasts of epic spectacle into one long stream of action. They structure their waves of enemies so that, even though you're effectively doing the same thing over and over again, you're always facing new challenges and you rarely get a chance to get too bored. Wolverine doesn't quite manage this. Sure, it has some great big moments. True, there are whole sections that are paced with real expertise. All the same, the more you play, the more the game feels repetitive and increasingly lacking in ideas.
I think Raven knew that variety was needed, because it has cleverly interleaved two storylines - one based loosely on events in the film, the other on a military mission in Africa three years before - so that they can flick between them as the game goes on. There are differences between the two. The levels in the present timeline focussing on straight combat with the odd twist of stealth, while the levels in the past timeline take the occasional detour into Tomb Raider territory, with crumbling temples to explore, traps to avoid and simple puzzles to solve. We even get two distinct groups of enemies to fight.
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