The animations thing, meanwhile, is just inexcusable. Press B when near an enemy trooper, tank, missile launcher or even helicopter and Iron Man grapples with it, enabling you – by hammering the B button – to wreck it in a single go. However, only one animation has been canned for each type of enemy. By the end of the game, you’re going to be pretty sick of that shot of Iron Man tearing the top off a tank.
The second level isn’t much better. You’re out in the city trying out your suit and beating up on drones when the new, peace-loving Stark Industries is attacked by one of your old clients. Defeating troops, tanks and drones is a pretty tiresome affair and the helicopter gunship that passes as a boss is stupidly anticlimactic. By this point, I’d pretty much written Iron Man off.
However, by level three something clicks into place. Instead of a small map you get a large desert battlefield with several enemy installations guarding caches of Stark weapons. There are more defensive emplacements to destroy and tanks to battle, and the missions begin to take on a more dynamic feel. In these large spaces the game begins to find its feet: the scale of the destruction and the focus on flight seems to make sense, and there’s even a tactical element in terms of prioritising targets and working your way through the defences. The following levels, with assaults on enemy strongholds and a formidable flying fortress run along similar lines. Suddenly Iron Man doesn’t feel like a complete disaster, after all.
What’s more, the initially underwhelming graphics also show signs of improvement. In the desert and urban environments of the first two levels you’re struck by the lack of detail in everything else but the suit – which looks almost as fantastic as it does in the movie. Where’s the traffic in the city? Where have the population got to? In the larger battlefields there’s still not a whole lot in the way of scenic grandeur, but with so many tanks and helicopters to tear apart and plenty of destructive potential in your armour, it makes a fine blank canvas on which to paint great blossoms of fire and shattered metal.
Flying at speed over hills, under bridges and through deep gorges can be exhilarating, and the more the missions make you work the map, travelling rapidly to stop missiles or catch a fleeing convoy, the more enjoyable the game gets. It’s a shame that the engine doesn’t acquit itself quite so well in the cut-scenes – Robert Downey Jnr is robotic, Gwyneth Paltrow has never looked so unattractive – but in-game it does a decent job.