But the sad fact is that Iron Man still fails to deliver a really solid game. First, it seems to have no sensible way of gauging how many enemy units to throw at you at any one time. In some missions this isn’t a problem – by picking off missile and gun emplacements and downing helicopters at your leisure, you can keep on top of the opposing forces and soften up your main objectives. In others, however, it’s disastrous, particularly when timed objectives are involved. Because you can’t waste valuable seconds taking out the SAM launchers, fighter jets or helicopter gunships as you go, you face a constant barrage of missiles that threaten to grind you down before you can destroy the next target. Being careful about your approach can help here, but that’s not always possible. The result is that, while you can usually complete the main objectives in a mission you’ll often fail the optional ‘hero’ objective because there’s no way you can stop all three missiles or destroy the sky fortress before it crashes into a city. You’ll be too busy sucking up the constant barrage from your foes.
Worse, Iron Man has a tendency to throw in suped-up boss encounters at the very end of a level. You work your way through your objectives, playing things safe and smart, only to run into some git who can blast you out of commission with only a couple of shots. Our hero can be downed three times before going out for the count, but as the suit ‘reboots’ where you went down, this can still leave you right in the danger area. In any game this would be annoying, but in a game with no mid-mission checkpoints it’s infuriating. Do your really want to tackle the same ten minutes of gameplay five times over just because you can’t defeat the boss at the end? No? Well stick to Easy mode on this one, then, or you’ll find yourself climbing up the walls.
If you’re really stuck there is one way to get an advantage. Between each mission you can buy upgrades for your suit, boosting your energy levels, defensive and offensive systems and manoeuvrability using dollars earned in combat. You’ll earn some dollars with each victory, but probably not enough to make a huge difference. The secret becomes, therefore, repeating missions so that you can grind for a while and level up your suit. Was this ever an acceptable way to counter an excessive difficulty level? Not really. Is it OK in this day and age? No. No. Nope.
The more the game goes on, the more repetitive the basic tank-busting/chopper-grappling gameplay gets, the more irritating the boss battles and optional objectives become, and the less inclined you are to overlook the twitchy controls and tired death-blow animations. In fact, it becomes more and more apparent that, beyond the basic concept, the development team didn’t really have any great ideas about how to take things much further. This even becomes apparent in the provision of additional game modes. There’s no online multiplayer, even though the gameplay clearly lends itself to it, and nothing else bar a series of ‘one man army’ challenges where you can acquire famous Iron Man suits from comic-book history by defeating a set number of enemies on battlefields drawn from the story campaign. Basically, you get more of the stuff you’ve already lost interest in, leaving you wondering whether the development team had similar feelings as the release date began to loom near.
In short, we have another game of the movie of the comic-book that falls short. It might not do so for the usual reasons – join-the-dots concepts, brain-dead gameplay and technical incompetence – but it does so all the same. Iron Man is both too complex for the casual audience that laps up movie adaptations and too lacking in polish and depth for the more hardcore gamer who might enjoy the open battlefield style of gameplay. As a result, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would buy it and go away feeling pleased. Don’t get stuck with this lump of old iron – keep your wallet in your pocket until something more engaging comes along.
Technically competent and the action has its moments. Sadly, poor controls and some duff design decisions keep another super-hero from getting off the ground.
(The movie, on the other hand is great – ed.)