It’s all well and good to discuss what we want from future Marvel games, but how about the games that have gotten it right?
5 – X-Men Legends (2004)
The ‘X-Men Legends’ series (which became the ‘Marvel Ultimate Alliance’ series) had a lot of flaws. Cookie cutter characters, cloned move sets and increasingly watered down RPG mechanics stopped the franchise from becoming anything other than a cash making excuse to use a bunch of Marvel characters in the one game. But at the very beginning, with the first X-Men Legends, we saw a lot of cool ideas. Instead of giving you 30 characters, you only had about 12. Instead of letting you choose to play as anyone, you had set characters for each level. This meant the story was always focused, with some great character based stages. Returning to Weapon X HQ as Wolverine was a fantastic exploration of comic lore and then having the second player show up as Cyclops meant you not only had some great Wolvie/Cyclops banter but you actually had players assuming the roles of their favourite characters in a really familiar way. There were also some really cool puzzle and level navigation ideas, like choosing whether to use Nightcrawler to teleport teammates through walls, Rogue or Storm to fly people across, make a bridge as Iceman… These were the mechanics that had me the most excited as a 16 year old X-Fan, an opportunity to not just play a single X-Man but as the whole team, working together. Unfortunately all of this was abandoned for future titles but I still hold out hope we might see someone pick up the franchise and actually try to push the envelope.
4 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
For any true Marvel fan, the film ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ will forever be a bad dream. But who would have guessed it’s tie-in would be a half decent game? There are some fantastic gameplay ideas at play here. The real time regenerative healing system let you watch Wolvie get torn to shreds and then grow back muscle and organs right before your eyes. Sure it meant you spent most of game playing without a shirt but with Hugh Jackmans ripped bod recreated in digital form, I’m sure for many people that was a plus. However the real star of the game, as it so often is, was the excessive violence. After seeing the cuddly, friendly film Wolverine for so long, it was great to have a messy, dirty Wolverine who was truly the best at what he did, and what he did usually involved disembowelment. Limbs flying, guts falling, bodies ripped in half… It was nice to be reminded exactly what a guy with ‘cut through anything claws’ would actually do in a fight. Unfortunately, the game was really held back by it’s links to the awful movie. Not even an adamantium bullet will help us forget the atrocity that was laser eye, sword arm Deadpool. It would be pretty great to see another non-film Wolverine game from these guys but I’m not holding my breath.
3 – Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005)
Any good Hulk game needs to have a healthy dose of destruction and any game based on destruction, needs to be fun. If the name didn’t give it away, that’s what ‘Hulk: Ultimate Destruction’ was all about. There were so many boxes this game ticked for a Hulk game… Destructible environments, from cars and robots to entire skyscrapers meant there were no shortage of things to smash. The game did it’s utmost to make you feel like the Hulk, with excellent combat moves, leaping great heights and skyscraper running. You could even weaponise objects… Cop car boxing gloves anyone? Also, a great story with well acted characters also helped give the game a level of comic based authenticity that’s rare in comic games. But the real star of this game was the silliness. Countless mini-games like ‘Civilian Bowling’ or gliding through the air with an inflatable gorilla is why I kept going back to this title. And when you got bored of all that, just picking civilians up and hurtling them into the ocean kept the fun alive. I just wish Radical Entertainment had kept going with this series instead of making the far less entertaining ‘Prototype’ games.
2 – The Punisher (2005)
This game was a rare gem for a number of reasons. The story was written by Garth Ennis, arguably one of the best writers to ever tackle the character. The Punisher was played by Tom Jane, an actor who not only ‘gets’ the character but gives him all the menace and respect he deserves. Most importantly though, I feel like this is one of the only interpretations of the character, outside of the comics, that manages to look beyond the whole ‘murder’ thing. A lot of people go wrong with Punisher by either trying to make him sympathetic (which is flawed, since he’s a sociopath killer) or by making him just a senseless murderer. He’s a hard character to bring to life and this game did it beautifully. He’s no hero but he is a soldier. Sure there was a lot of killing but it was never ‘pointless’. You had to think about each and every kill, about what weapon you were using and what would give you the most points. What other game will reward you for killing a guy with a live rhino? Also the interactive interrogation sequences really helped the pacing, with the game never feeling like an on the rails murder simulator (like most modern 3rd person shooters end up being) And if the great story (complete with Black Widow and Iron Man cameos) wasn’t enough, the scoring system was fun and addictive and kept you coming back for more. I have no doubt that the controls and mayhem of this game is what inspired the developers at THQ with their control system for ‘Saints Row’. I would love a sequel but until that happens, I’ll just keep playing with my Punisher inspired character in Saints Row 3.
1 – Spider-Man 2: The Game (2004)
If a good superhero game is all about making you feel powerful, then ‘Spider-Man 2: The Game’ excelled. To this day, no Spider-Man game has gotten the swinging mechanic as right as this game. I spent countless hours just swinging around, with the Danny Elfman Spider-Man theme blaring and to Treyarchs eternal credit, I felt like Spider-Man. The sensation that came from leaping off a tall building, feeling the ground rushing up at you, then shooting off a web line at the last second is still one of the most exhilarating feelings I’ve experienced in a video game. The game also presented a strong, fun story that perfectly accompanied what was a pretty excellent film. The pacing of missions like Black Cat heists was great and seeing what a film universe Mysterio could be like was enough to get any fan jumping up and down in their Spider-Man onesie. We’ve had almost one Spider-Man game every year since this title (with another due out in a couple of months) but none have come close to giving the sense of freedom we got from Spider-Man 2. Activision has a lot of power over the video game future of Spider-Man and with that power comes great