Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, DS, PSP
Genre Blockbuster movie game sequel
MtAMinutes to Action 2
Keep Playing? Yes, but barely
Buy from Amazon

You may have seen our recent article covering a conference call presented by Iron Man 2 developer: Sega San Francisco.  The First Hour was invited to take part in a small pre-release Q&A with two of the people involved with the production of the game.  I sat in on the call and submitted a few questions. It was a good conversation and lots of aspects of the game were touched on, so if you’d like some more insight into what went into making this game what it is, please check it out here

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I recently sat down with a copy of Iron Man 2.  To state the obvious, Iron Man 2 is the sequel to Iron Man. Both games were released to coincide with the movies of the same name. As most people know, releasing a game on a movies timeline can be... problematic.  It often leads to rushed development schedules and lots of cut corners in the final product.  Despite this situation, the first game was commercially successful. However, it struggled to win over most critics.  With an aggregate score of 45 on Metacritic, that’s probably an understatement.  However, I was one of the people who enjoyed the first game (while recognizing it’s many flaws), which is why I was chosen/volunteered to review the sequel.  

Much like Greg’s recent review of Saboteur, this game is the final release of a studio before it gets shut down.  Sega San Fancisco, formerly Secret Level Games will close shortly after the release of Iron Man 2.  This does not bode well for the 3 other gamers besides me crossing their fingers for a Golden Axe: Beast Rider sequel.

I went into this first hour with an open mind and reasonable expectations.  Having enjoyed the first game, more of the same with increased graphical performance, control tweaks and mission diversity would be a good start.  Let’s see if they were able to squeeze any of that into the first 60 minutes of Iron Man 2.

Our copy of Iron Man 2 for the Xbox 360 was provided to us by the publisher.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold) 
00 – I pop the disc in the tray and boot it up. After pressing start, I create a new game

01 – I’m given 2 choices; Options, or Campaign, I choose Campaign and set the difficulty to the default which is “Normal”. You also have a choice of Easy or Hard.

02 – As I watch a loading screen based on the power cell in Iron Man's suit, I’m told that “In flight your suit can keep you aligned with the ground. Turn auto-level on or off in the pause menu.”  A cutscene starts with Iron Man flying towards a large building with a smoldering hole in the wall. We see large airborne mechs converging on the scene and Tony’s voice crackles across the commlink. He says the attack on the facility was a ruse and that the data spine is the true target. He asks Jarvis to ring up “Roady”. Jarvis warns that EMP weaponry is being charged but it’s too late.  It goes off and Iron Man takes a digger into the ground.  Tony should really think about some shielding in that suit of his.  The EMP to Iron Man makes Kryptonite to Superman look like pumpkin pie.

03 – Ok, a new cutscene starts now. Text on the bottom of the screen indicates that this one takes place “3 hours earlier”. We see Tony giving a speech about being Iron Man.  He’s waxing philosophical about what it means to be a Super Hero.  Apparently it means being a cocky smartass. Tony drops a few gems about a corporation called Roxxon and some Russian plans to develop an army of Iron Man drones.  I’m guessing this will be a villain in the upcoming sequence.

Iron man 2 Explosion

04 – The cutscene ends with Iron Man suiting up and flying out of the building. Jump back to the “present” and  we see Iron Man laying on the ground. We hear him arguing with Jarvis about how long the suit takes to boot up.  Jarvis makes a crack about being sophisticated.

05 – As the cutscene ends, the game checkpoints. I’m given a mission onscreen to “Activate the Auxiliary Shield Generator” and I now have control. Controls are explained and are standard third person action fare.  Left stick to move, and right to look and turn.  Both triggers fire pulse cannons from the palms of Iron Man’s hands. Pressing “Y” makes you hover/ascend and pressing “A” makes you descend. Iron Man has a life indicator similar to that of many modern games. The shield will regen with time, but if the underlying armor takes damage, it will not.

06 – As I’m taught how to control Iron Man, I’m moving through a building, running through doors and levitating through broken ceilings and floors. The EMP has disabled security doors which have to be hacked.  You do this by simply mashing the B button at a terminal in front of each door.  Tony seems to think it humorous that he’s forced to hack his own doors. Checkpoint reached. 

07 – I enter a large room filled with some smaller mech enemies. I’m taught to use right bumper to engage the sighting computer which is essentially auto aim that jumps to the next enemy as the first falls.  I quickly dispatch several using this technique. As more mechs attack, I’m told to tap “X” to engage in melee combat. I finish off the next few with punches and kicks. The game explains a block breaker technique but I don’t understand how to do it. Pressing left or right on the D-Pad will switch weapons assigned to left and right trigger. That’s kind of klunky as I have to take my thumb off the movement stick to switch weapons which means I get hit pretty much every time I switch weapons.

08 – I continue through the building and am told to hold right and left trigger to charge the unibeam chest cannon. I also have the option to use missiles and a shoulder shotgun by switching weapons.

09 – I’m now told to “Get to the DataSpine Core”.

Iron man 2 Tank Kick

10 – I float and run around the room for what seems like an eternity because I can’t find the door out.  Seems like I should be standing right on top of it based on the minimap/radar.  I look up and see nothing.  Finally after running everywhere, I see there’s a hallway up above the room with no access to it for anyone who can’t fly.  Perhaps a stairway fell down and was vaporized?  Not seeing it made me feel stupid. I don’t like it when games make me feel stupid.

11 – So I levitate up to the hallway and run down it. Cutscene. We hear Tonys voice on the comm again. He says that in order to assure the protection of the data archive, he’s chosen to blow it up. Achievement Unlocked: 3G “Shake it Off”.

12 – The cutscene now shows War Machine flying in from off camera.  Tony tells him to hold off the baddies while he blows the place to hell.  War Machine tells Jarvis to initiate a progress bar, both for the attempted upload theft and for the initiation of the self destruct. Basically, I have to make sure the self destruct sequence completes before the upload does.  Apparently the bad guys are trying to upload some seriously secret data for Tony to blow up the entire facility to protect it.

13 – Now you take control of War Machine and find out what the bad guys are trying to steal. They are attempting to get a backup copy of the Jarvis program. Not good. As War Machine, I get training in actual flight combat. I’m told to double tap left bumper to initiate flight and to pull back on the left stick to stop.  As I do this, several helicopters and small robotic drones start approaching. War Machines weaponry is different than Iron Man’s.  Instead of palm pulse cannons and a single rocket launcher, War Machine has shoulder mounted gatling guns and burst-fire missile launchers.  They each have a limited amount of firepower before having to reload.  The gatling gun is pretty powerful but has a very limited range.

14 – As I slowly dispatch wave upon wave of helicopters, drones and flying mechs, I’m told that once per mission I can engage my suits mega weapon. It will make me temporarily invulnerable and boost the strength of my arsenal for a limited time.

15 – Once every enemy is dead, the tower blows up and War Machine flies off in a mini cutscene.  The mission is over and I’m given a score for the level. The total equates to how much I have to spend between levels. Achievement Unlocked: 10G “Access Denied”.

Iron man 2 war Machine Aircraft Carrier

16 – We see Iron Man and War Machine make a flying entrance in the open back of a cargo plane.  Pepper Potts is there waiting.  They discuss the theft of Jarvis. Apparently the previous mission was only a partial success. They surmise that the only ones positioned to take advantage of such a theft would be a Russian General named Valentin Shaderov aided by Roxxon Corp.  Apparently Valentin runs the Russian Tesla facility and apparently every action game MUST include some form of Tesla technology.

Let’s get em!

18 – Now it goes to the pre-mission power up portion. The background looks to be “labby” with lots of technological looking stuff.  My options for alteration include Suit Customization, Inventing, Fabrication, and Research. It works like this. You do research, which allows you to invent things, which then you can use those things in fabrications allowing you to make customizations.  It’s a big chain that you need to wrap your head around to utilize. I could probably spend 20-30 minutes looking at options and tinkering, but that would make for a boring 60 minutes. So I’ll do some research quick, invent some concussive rounds (first and cheapest option) and then customize my suit with them. Done. Next Mission.

21 – Ok, so we’re back on the airplane. Iron Man communicates with Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (nicely voiced by Samuel L. Jackson).  We make arrangements to do a stealth incursion into Russia to try to take out the facility where they’re running the rogue Iron Man program, which is why they stole Jarvis.

20 – Turns out the Tesla facility has fallen into separatist control and that’s why S.H.I.E.L.D. is going in.  We decide to team up.

22 – Iron Man’s mission is to escort the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopters to the tesla facility.  It’s basically a babysitting mission flying down a canyon killing everything before it kills the helicopters. It’s mostly tanks on the ground, copters in the air, and gun turrets along the canyon walls. If you get too far ahead, or too far behind, the mission ends.  Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. care if I run ahead and kill everything before they get there? Isn’t that the point? Oh, well.  I’ll do it the way they want me to.

25 – Checkpoint reached. We’re now near the end of the canyon. Radar detects a large ground vehicle never seen before. They call it an “Armiger”. It’s basically a large spiderlike mech pretty much exactly like you’ve seen in a dozen other games.  The ones that first come to mind are Halo 3, Resistance fall of Man, and Fracture.  Fortunately,  I’ve fought these before even if Iron Man hasn’t.

Iron man 2 war Machine Rockets

27 – One of the helicopter pilots I’m escorting gets the bright idea to try to help Iron Man. Apparently no one told this genius that I’m the badass protecting him and not the other way around. His helicopter goes down in flames demonstrating just how nasty this little crab enemy is. Lets do this.

28 – Fury reprimands the pilots and says to “Let Iron Man go in hot”.  I’m told to push “B” to deflect incoming missiles. To defeat the Armiger, I use a combination of circle strafing flight, pulse canons, rockets, and reflected missiles.  To finish it off, I have to go in to melee range and rip the top off which triggers an animation where Iron Man flies THROUGH it’s body causing it to explode and crumple on itself.  Nice.

29 – Upon defeating the Armiger, the mission text says to “Resume S.H.I.E.L.D. strike force escort”.

30 – So it’s back to the canyon shooting tanks, helicopters and gun turrets.

31 – In this section, we get a new enemy. They are large flying mechs with massive missile batteries for arms.  They do a lot of damage to the helicopters so you have to take them out quickly. Otherwise, the pilots start making statements about me not doing my job.

32 – Upon reaching the end of the canyon, I can see a tunnel entrance. It’s surrounded by dozens of gun emplacements and lots of helicopters.  I take them out the same as the last ones. During the fighting, I experience my first case of missile spam. This is something that happened in the first game as well. I was hoping it was fixed. Basically, there are so many missiles coming at you that you’re constantly having your actions interrupted to the point where you pretty much can’t do anything but fall to the ground. It happens repeatedly until you thin out the missile launchers. I suppose you could hide and shoot from behind cover, but when have you ever seen Iron Man do that, huh?

Iron man 2 war Machine up Close Battle

34 – Once everything is dead, you fly into the tunnel and the level is done. 

35 – Now as I exit the tunnel, we see swarms of tanks and helicopters approaching.

36 – The onscreen mission indicator tells me to “Locate the entrance to the command center”. A waypoint appears on my minimap and I head that direction taking out flying mechs on the way.  When I get there, I blow something up and the waypoint changes. Apparently it was a shield generator and now I can head to the entrance.

37 – Lots of enemies in the way and I’m just blindly following a waypoint beacon meleeing the crap out of anything in the way. Once I get where I’m going, I can’t enter the door. An onscreen note says to locate a power source for the doors to disable it. 

38 – Five yellow markers appear on my map. I proceed to fight more guys while I go to each and blow up a small power junction at each location.

39 – Now I can enter the doors. Inside are several waves of mechs, which I proceed to melee to death.

Iron man 2 Tony Stark Giant Mech

40 – In the next set of rooms, I have to disable some more electronics, then access the command terminal by mashing “B”.

41 – Once I’ve done that, I’m told to go enter the top of the battle cruiser and open the deployment doors.  I go back the way I came and fly up top. I’m starting to get the hang of the flight controls and you can actually move around the level pretty quickly with some careful flying.  When I get up there, I’m faced with some Iron Man style drones that need to be melee’d to move past.  The controls seem a little vague (mash ‘x’) and I’m bouncing around between them wildly, not sure how it’s happening. Perhaps I’m not properly inputting the direction and it’s just picking one randomly?  They’re really messing me up.

42 – Ok, so I finally finish them. I run into the next room and open the doors.  I have to mini-game the doors by wiggling the left stick.  Now, another Armiger comes into the scene and I have to exit and destroy it. The battle is pretty much the same as the last one I took out.  This time I do a little more melee because it’s more fun than circle strafing with pulse cannons and seems to be more effective.  I’m Iron Man, that’s how I roll. Apparently, that’s also how Iron Man dies. In my fervor to beat the Armiger into a pulp, I failed to notice that my armor had taken a pretty heavy toll throughout the level. Unlike the first game that simply rebooted you after dying the first time, this one actually reloads you back to the last checkpoint.

44 – OK, so I beat it this time.

45 – So now I fly down to another entrance. The doors close behind me and more mechs rush me. I take them out and run down a hall.  More Iron Man drones come at me. More melee in response.  Once they’re down, I have to access a control panel.  Or not. Guess I have to shoot it. Weird. More guys come at me.

46 – Flying indoors is kind of quirky, bouncing off walls and hitting things, the game tries to guess what you wanted to do which leads to some pretty jerky camera movement. So I get to the energy generator and blow it up. 

Iron man 2 Scarlett Johansson Natalie Rushman Romanoff Black Widow

47 – And that’s the level. Achievement Unlocked 15G “Deportation” Suit Unlocked 10G “Mark II”

48 – Back in Tony’s lab, I have more options for upgrades. And now I have a lot more points to spend. But it will take me some time to decide what to upgrade so I look through some of the possibilities but just end up choosing the next mission. Onward and upward!

51 –  The next mission starts with a cutscene.  We get to see Tony and Rhodes doing some research. Turns out the Armigers are remotely controlled and it’s a good idea to take out the base that controls them. We also discover that a corporate competitor is building a suit for the Russian General Valentin. It’s called the…….Crimson Dynamo…DUN, DUN, DUN!

52 – Another cutscene now shows a scientist and General Valentin arguing about the possibility of a spy.  Valentin doesn’t believe it. Then the scientist tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the way. Valentine orders him to prep the dynamo.

53 – Loading. Now we see some helicopters flying in and some armor being built. We see scientists trying to flee and being gunned down.  Iron Man flies in and Jarvis tells us that the presence of a large tesla power source means we’re in the right place. Iron Man flies in through a vent and enters the base. We’re now under ground.

Iron man 2 Tony Stark Nick Fury Samuel l Jackson

54 – The General welcomes Iron Man and says the confrontation was inevitable. He then unleashes a welcoming committee of mechs.  Melee + Pulse cannon = good. The camera is all over the place with the auto aim. I’m getting punched like crazy but it’s hard to tell if I’m getting hurt. I’m told to take out the tesla reactor. Naturally. If playing video games has taught me anything, it’s that tesla reactors are meant to be destroyed.

55 – I go through a door and I’m told to shoot the tesla reactor stabilizers.  There’s one in each corner of the room and mechs all over the place.

56 – I’ve taken out 2 stabilizers and I realize this is a really nice looking set piece. There’s electricity everywhere and the mech battle is very impressive.  In my ogling of the level, I lose track of my health and put another death on the tally.

57 – I load up at the last checkpoint and come back in strong, easily taking out all 4 stabilizers. When I do, Achievement unlocks 15G “Pulling the Plug”.

59 – The ensuing explosion triggers a Return of the Jedi style escape sequence. Much like the Millennium Falcon is escaping the exploding Death Star, so I am escaping the exploding power station. I’m flying at high speed through rapidly exploding tunnels and hallways. Everything is blowing up just as I pass by. It would be pretty impressive were it not for my horrible flight skills in this tight space.  I’m bouncing off everything like a plinko disc. I realize intense cinematic sequences like this are something you want to have early in the game to impress, but it would be far more rewarding later in the game when the player has the skills to really pull it off. Based on how badly I’m flying and the fact that I still make it out in one piece, I’m guessing it’s nearly impossible to fail to escape.  And that nicely wraps up 60 minutes.

Iron man 2 Tony Stark Suit

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 2

Minutes to Control: 5 

What I liked: Iron Man of course. He’s a great hero and growing up reading a lot of the Iron Man comics, I’m a natural demographic for a game like this.  Like they said in the developer conference call, Iron Man is a “very gameable” character. With his suit, his attitude and the upgrade factor inherent to the universe, it’s almost born to be a video game.  The introduction of War Machine is a welcome addition. There’s not a simpler way to add versatility to a game than to double the number of playable characters.  They play just similarly enough that one should be able to switch back and forth with minimal disorientation, but different enough that they offer a variation in how one goes about tackling the level.

What I didn't like: They say the controls have been improved, however, it may be more accurate to say they have been changed and simplified.  That’s well and good for some things, like not having to hold a button to hover, but it also means less manual control and more auto everything.  As long as the game correctly assumes your intended action, it works ok, but when it doesn’t guess right, the gameplay and camera can get a bit spastic.  Also, the first real mission, the escorting of the helicopters was almost painful in its’ generic throwaway nature.  Who actually likes babysitting missions where you can’t go more than 50 meters away from who you’re protecting and they are moving super slow?  This type of mission is one of my personal pet peeves.  No game should ever have another one. Ever.

Gameplay: The gameplay is very similar to the first game, a basic third person action/flight simulator with a greater emphasis on melee.  That works out well, particularly since melee is potentially the most effective tactic vs. quite a few opponents.  Once you get the flight controls down, you can move quickly from enemy to enemy, punching their lights out. My only complaint at this point is that the melee appears to be pretty dumbed down, with very little versatility in button usage for the different combos.

Fun Factor: This is heavily dependent on your love of Iron Man.  If you just want a great game that nails the fun factor, this one doesn’t quite do the trick.  Early on, the levels and enemies come off as generic and Iron Man’s full potential isn’t likely to come into play for the first few hours.  If, however, you want to play around as Iron Man and explore the universe of the comics and movie, this might scratch the itch.

Graphics and Sound: The cutscenes don’t look great.  Don Cheadle looks like a zombie and Pepper Potts demonstrates none of the quirky cuteness she is famous for.  The sounds are fine. Although, strangely, the conversation is only on the center channel in 5.1 during the cutscenes and only in the stereo channels during the gameplay.  I noticed this because I was holding my microphone up to my speakers during the conversations so I could listen to it again as I wrote this.  The voice acting however is top notch (except for Pepper).  Note: It’s NOT Robert Downey Jr. voicing Tony this time around. Although, the guy they use does a good job and when he’s in the suit, he sounds surprisingly like Downey Jr.

Story: Not surprisingly, the story is right out of a comic book, figuratively speaking. Tesla reactors, rogue Russian Generals, evil corporations. This is standard Iron Man (and video game) stuff but it does the trick. I don’t think any Iron Man fans are expecting Tolstoy.

Overall: Iron Man 2 doesn’t get off to the best start. Generic missions and level design bog down what could be a solid gaming engine.  However, the final 20 minutes of the hour really pick up the pace nicely.  I’m interested to see what some of the upgrades do that I didn’t have time to mess with in the first 60 minutes. A strong boost in devastation could really increase the potential pleasure of the gameplay. It would also help by drawing attention to the highly destructible environments.

Would I keep playing?  This is honestly a tough call. I actually WILL continue playing because I am also writing a full review for this game since the game was sent to us by the publisher. However, were that not the case, I would be on the fence.  If I weren’t a fan of Iron Man, I’d be done right now. But since I heart the franchise and since the last 20 minutes started to pick up, I’d probably give it at least another hour to either grab me or push me away. Also, I don’t know if this is cheating on a first hour review, but I kept playing just a bit past the first hour and the first boss you come to, Crimson Dynamo is actually a pretty fun fight. Based on all those factors, I’d call this a narrow, “Yes, I would keep playing” even with having to write the review.