Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Summer of Platinum # 2

Enter the Wolverine

Wolverine was first introduced to the world in 1974 via a cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk # 180, with his first full appearance coming an issue later.  Wolverine was a spit fire character, short and stocky, that was sent by the Canadian government to kill the Hulk.  Since that time the character has grown wildly away from his original inception (the claws were originally supposed to be JUST part of his gloves) and has become the default, go-to-character to symbolize Marvel Comics’ X-Men franchise.  Wolverine was brought into the X-Men fold in 1975, a year after his introduction, as part of an attempt to inject new blood and new life into the pretty much dead X-Men comic with Giant-Size X-Men # 1.  If I remember correctly, up to that point, the X-Men had been all but cancelled and had been little more than a showcase book that was reprinting the earlier issues drawn by Jack Kirby and written by Stan Lee.  GSXM put four of the original X-Men (Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Angel) in extreme danger, and left Cyclops and Professor X to form a new team of X-Men to rescue them.  The team was made up of international characters, of which the Canadian of the group was Wolverine.  The goal of the issue and the re-launch was successful and the X-Men took off again.

Several years later, in 1982, Wolverine would get his own series as his popularity grew and grew.  This series was written by Chris Claremont who had taken over the writing of the X-Men title (which was eventually redubbed The Uncanny X-Men) in 1975, and illustrated by some hot shot illustrator named Frank Miller.  Miller and Claremont’s mini-series (of which was the basis for the new 

Wolverine film coming out this summer) escalated Wolverine’s popularity even further.  Wolverine would eventually begin appearing in titles he wasn’t normally related to in order to push the books into a better sales strata.  He appeared multiple times in the Punisher War Journal, a handful of times in the Amazing Spider-Man, amongst other titles, much to the distaste of long-term fans that didn’t care for the character, or would grow to dislike the character because he was appearing everywhere.  During the 1990s, Wolverine’s mysterious past kept digging up to bite him in the ass, though the publishers at the time wouldn’t get into too much detail about what happened.  In the early 2000s, ORIGIN was released, written by Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins and Bill Jemas, and illustrated by Andy Kubert.  ORIGIN dealt with Wolverine’s youth and the moment his powers kicked in and some of his history in the late 1800s.  This comic series served as a basis for a good deal of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, which the video game is based on.

I first met Wolverine in 1985 in the mini-series Kitty Pryde and Wolverine.  Instantly he was my favorite character I had ever been introduced to; it was also my first comic.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wolverine continued to be my favorite character (with a slight nod and tip of the hat to Spider-Man) and through him, the entire world of the X-Men.  I adored and consumed everything Marvel published with that giant X on the cover.  When the first X-Men film came out I was delighted and overjoyed by Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character, and am very glad he’s continued to keep with the role despite the bloated whale that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

It isn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination.  I enjoy it, but that’s because I’m very biased when it comes to anything X-Related.  The film attempted to cram too much X-Men mythology into a ninety minute film (as did its predecessor, X-Men: The Last Stand) and it suffered because of it.  The game is a different creature altogether, however.  While it shares a lot of the same plot as the film, the game was originally intended to be a stand-alone effort with no connection to the film, and it was somewhat late in the development of the game that it was brought into the fold; right along with character models based on the actors from the film and voice acting by Hugh Jackman and Live Shreiber.  The game has significant plot differences from the film as well as one massive epic fight sequence (entirely playable) against a Sentinel, which still has yet to be seen on the movie screen.  These differences between the movie and the game give the game a whole lot more oomph than the film has, as well as thinning out the bloated feel of it.

The Best There Is

Not quite in the realm of video games, but he’s getting much closer.  Wolverine’s history in video games is pretty short and usually little more than a half-assed effort just to capitalize on the Wolverine name and the X-Men brand.  This game is a step in the right direction, and it’s the first game created to give players the “ultimate” Wolverine experience.  There’s the healing factor (it’s pretty hard to die in the game, unless you really fuck up), there’s the heightened senses (which just change the color of things on the screen, you don’t actually hear better or smell anything, which is probably a good thing on that smelling better part); and then there’s the claws.  Those beyond-razor-sharp claws made out of Adamantium, that fictional metal from the Marvel Universe that’s unbreakable.  Mix that with the tenacity of Wolverine and a whole lot of hacking and slashing, and you’re literally covered in blood and limbs are flying constantly.

But it’s not quite the best comic book based video game out there.  Marvel’s video games don’t seem to be taken all that seriously by the main Marvel company, and are given lighter efforts than a lot of other video games.  Video games that are made solely to be video games first and foremost are always the best sort of games out there.  Licensed games can often be fun, but seem to always lack ingenuity, attention to detail, and all the other bells and whistles that make video games great.  Wolverine isn’t very different.  It’s a step in the right direction, sure; but when you compare it to say a Metal Gear Solid, it pales horribly.  Then there’s DC’s current efforts.  DC has suffered from the same problems that Marvel has with video games for almost the same amount of time until Batman: Arkham Asylum was released in 2009.  This was the first time I can remember that any licensed property was taken just as seriously as an original property was and given the best efforts the dev team could come up with.  Arkham Asylum can and has gone head to head with many of my favorite games and franchises for my attention and has won on numerous occasions.  As has its sequel, Batman: Arkham City.  I can tell that Marvel doesn’t take its video game properties seriously when you play a game like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which I thought was a very amazing effort once again by Capcom, and you beat it, and your given second-string art for the endings instead of getting some of the guys that have been making Marvel look extremely pretty over the last decade or so.  Guys like Bryan Hitch, or Steve McNiven, or Mike Deodato Jr, or even Joe Quesada himself.  It’s all very sub-par art, the kind you used to see on Marvel’s lesser tier books back in the 80s and 90s.  Marvel’s got a long way to go in the game development department, but seeing as how the Mouse owns them now, and the Mouse just shut down LucasArts to license out all the Star Wars games, I doubt this will happen any time soon.

The combat engine of Wolverine is very similar to the combat of the Action RPGs that Activision published for Marvel on the last generation and this generation of consoles (X-Men: Legends, X-Men: Legends II, Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2) with a little bit of God of War thrown into the mix.  It’s not an original design by any means, but it is most certainly a fitting one.  Mashing the buttons along in this game doesn’t seem all that out of place for a character like Wolverine; especially if you take his berserker rage into consideration.  You can gain some special abilities, but they’re not very useful most of the time in the game as the basic attacks and the lunge attacks are more than sufficient to dispose all the bland and un-inspired enemies.  The most difficult areas of the game, especially when the combat comes into play, are the boss fights.  The fights against Sabretooth, the Blob, Gambit, and that thing they call Deadpool but isn’t at all Deadpool.

Despite that somewhat recycled control mechanics of the game, it does have a unique feel to it.  Which is pretty important when there are other games of this same genre that simply outclass it across the board.  This isn’t God of War or Devil May Cry by any stretch of the imagination, but with the addition of Wolverine and is unique set of abilities it does tend to stand out.  Wolverine’s healing factor alone makes the game a bit unique as he tends to take damage from all points and can be rendered little more than a bloody metal skeleton at times.  It’s actually fascinating to finish disposing of the badguys in any given area, try to get the camera as close as you possibly can to the character to see the damage and exposed innards of the character, and then watch him heal.  The wounds close shut, the flesh regrows, and it’s pretty effin’ cool to see.  Even after all these years since the game’s release, I still get a kick out of watching it.  Then there’s also the somewhat unique experience the game offers by being set in the gigantic Marvel Universe – even if it is just an extended version of the X-Men movie version of the Marvel Universe.  If Marvel was smart about their video games they could expand on the already existing Marvel Universe from the comics by creating games that are comparable in scope.  Wolverine is just the tip of the iceberg.  When you battle the Sentinel, you get a small glimpse of how massive this Universe really is.

But then there’s the Unreal Engine 3.  This is my least favorite graphics engine in video games today.  The only dev teams that I’ve seen handle this engine without any fault are Epic Games – which is expected ‘cause they created the engine – in their Gears of War franchise, Rocksteady with their efforts in the two Batman games, and BioWare with the Mass Effect series of games.  This engine is plagued with glitches that go from poor drawback, to irritating pop-in effects.  Often times in this game, and a whole lot of others, you’ll see a multi-colored blob show up on screen and the details will slowly pop-in after a few seconds.  And unfortunately, Wolverine is one of the worst offenders.  Horrible pop-in on an all-too-frequent basis, and sometimes enemies will appear on the screen just standing their long before they’re supposed to spawn in the game.  The Leviathan creature is the worst at this.  Despite all this, the game has one of the coolest openings I’ve seen this generation.  The Team X helicopter is blown out of the sky, and Wolverine plummets to the ground, but he pops his claws just in time to land claw-first on a badguy and creates a lovely impact crater for his efforts.  It’s ridiculously neat.

Of course, as with all these action adventure type games, you can level Wolverine up and learn new moves, and make him more lethal.  It’s interesting and fun, but for some reason I think it’s unnecessary due to the game being about Wolverine.  This game is centered around one of the most badass and ruthless characters in the Marvel Universe.  Levelling him up is superfluous and instead, what the game should’ve done, in my opinion, is just become more challenging and difficult because that’s what you do to a character like Wolverine: you put him through hell.  He’s relatively unkillable, he’s almost indestructible, and he very well could live forever if left alone.  You make his life hell, levelling him up in a game like this makes the game easier, not more difficult.  If you level Wolverine up to the max, nothing stands a chance, and there’s no challenge in the game anymore.  When doing a game centered on a licensed character, you revolve the entire game around that character by challenging him.  This is what Rocksteady did with Batman in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and this is even what Beenox did with Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.  One of the cool features of the game, though, is playing it out of context.  The game flashes back and forth between pre- and post-Weapon X Wolverine events.  You get the bone claws and you get the Adamantium claws.  It’s interesting visual, and pretty fun, but there’s no design difference between the two, which is unfortunate.  Also in this game, as expected, are the collectables you can find, and even some Easter Eggs thrown in for good measure.  You can collect “action figures” which unlock various costumes for Wolverine, his old brown and tan one, his black and yellow one, and his X-Force black and grey with red eyes looks are in the game.  You can find other additives as well that extend gameplay functions, and then there’s the dog tags.  The dog tags you can find on random corpses of soldiers decorated and hidden throughout the game, and there’s ninety-five of them total.  And it’s these pesky little additives that have stood in my way of obtaining that platinum trophy.

The Devil’s Brigade

My first attempt at gathering up all these annoyances came just shortly after I collected every other trophy in the game.  I don’t know why I do this, but I always put these collection trophies on the back burner while I try to get all the others, and it always comes back to bite me in the ass.  I did it with Wolverine and I did it with Assassin’s Creed II; and I’m sure there are others floating out there as well.  I can’t remember what game it was, but there was one I played that had a collectible trophy similar to this one and I did it all by myself.  No guides, no help; nothing.  So of course that stoked my little ego too much and I thought I could do it with every game.  Then came this game, and no matter how hard I tried, or how many times I went looking for them – thank you chapter select – I just couldn’t find them.  I played through the game three or four times this way from beginning to end looking for these bastards, with and without using the heightened senses vision, and found nothing.

My second attempt, which was another three or four playthroughs of the game, I printed off a guide from and checked them all off as I went, and somehow still managed to not find them all.  I believe that this guide I printed off was copied from what I’m about to talk about next because it was missing one or two.

My last attempt came a year or so ago when I finally said, “Fuck it,” and bought the official strategy guide from BradyGames.  I do not buy BradyGames strategy guides on principle alone.  Nor Prima for that matter.  It has to be a really pretty hardcover book with some nice pages of artwork for me to buy these bastard books because they absolutely suck.  They’re written horribly, the information they give is often wrong or, as in the case with this particular game, it’s missing a lot of it.  The game only lists ninety-two or ninety-three of the dog tags.  I followed the guide line by line, page by page, picking them up, and checking them off as I went.  I didn’t miss a single one that the guide showed me, but when I checked my stats at the end of the game ‘cause the trophy didn’t bing; I was missing two or three.  I think it was two.  Then I went back and counted.  Yep, missing information.  And this isn’t something new with this company (or Prima) but because these two are the only publishers of these books, gamers are being duped and cheated out of their money on a regular basis.  I only ever suggest books by Piggyback Interactive.  While distributed by Prima in the United States, this publisher is independent of Prima and their bullshit tactics when it comes to guides.  Piggyback are in the same vein as the now defunct Versus Books in that they take care not to spoil anything plot wise to the player, and they cover everything that will be included in the game at launch.  They also have awesome extras, such as the beastiary in the Resident Evil 5 guide; interviews with the creators of the games; game histories; and all sorts of other cool stuff.  The collector’s editions of their books come in wonderful hardcovers and more pages of neat stuff.  Prima and BradyGames are butt.  Needless to say, after that last attempt I was about ready to give up on collecting these dog tags, until I decided to do this little project.

Current Status

Sometimes you just don’t need to waste money on guides at all, and I wouldn’t if I weren’t a collector of Piggyback’s guides.  The Internet is a wonderful and immediately accessible database of information, and that includes video game information.  And gamers, despite all the bad press we get from how some of us behave out in the real world, or in online competitive games such as Halo or Call of Duty, we love to help one another in the overall theme of things.  Not too long ago I discovered, a game site dedicated to PlayStation news as well as listing every trophy imaginable for every game published on disc, on the PlayStation Network, or even in Japan.  Then there are the forums for this place, which can include massive trophy guides for games, i.e., strategy guides that center around on getting trophies for games.  I found this place first ‘cause I was trying to find what a few games hidden trophies were so I could get them faster, since then it’s been a valuable resource for trophies that are nothing but a pain in my ass to get.  They also have a sister site called that does the same thing for Xbox games.  So I found a hopefully very reliable guide to help me get these bastard dog tags.  I’m at forty out of ninety-five so far, and I’ve not missed a single one.  I should be finally able to platinum X-Men Origins: Wolverine after all this time.

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