Playing X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a very odd experience. It's a game based on a 12-rated summer Blockbuster, but it's more violent than any other game released this year. The violence actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it (although we're still amazed it's actually happened), but the game's high quality is really quite surprising. While Wolverine doesn't come out on top when compared to the best in the hack 'n' slash genre, it most certainly is a big step forward for movie licensed games in general.
We haven't seen the movie yet, but the game presumably follows its plot to some degree. We won't spoil too much of what goes on, but there's a twin storyline at play here, covering Logan's (played by Hugh Jackman) capture and escape from the Weapon X Facility (where he gets his Adamantium covered bones) and Team X's mission in Africa (of which Logan is a part of). There's plenty of spoiler material here if you're planning on watching the movie, but also far more content, dwarfing the multi-million blockbuster's meagre running-time.
If we started the game not really knowing what to expect, the opening sequence does a great job of setting the tone. After a helicopter you and the team are travelling in is shot down, Logan is sent into a freefall to the jungle environment below. You're in complete control here, eventually slamming with great force into an unsuspecting soldier - who understandably is squashed into a Wolverine-sized crater. It's a brilliant set-piece that gets you in the right frame of mind from the off.
From here on in it's ultra violent melee combat almost all the way through, with just a little bit of adventure-like puzzling and platforming thrown in from time to time. The puzzles and platforming are extremely light on difficulty, book-ending lengthy bouts of full-body mutilation. Thanks to what the game calls Feral Vision you're never really going to get stuck either; a simple flick over to that vision mode reveals more or less exactly where you need to go and what objects can be interacted with.
Back to the combat then, as this is what you're going to buy an 18-rated Wolverine game for. It's fast, blood-soaked and really gory. We're used to seeing splashes of red all over the screen in action games, but here Logan will tear off limbs, decapitate soldiers, hold people's heads in helicopter blades, smash enemies onto spikes and generally rip them to shreds. Initially the combat system feels quite light in terms of depth, but as with any good hack 'n' slash you'll acquire new moves as you progress, opening up devastating combos and finishers.
There's also a fair amount of defensive play required if you're going to succeed. Counters are handled as you might expect, with a block timed just as an enemy is about to strike giving you a window to hit them back without reply - later enemies even try to counter Logan's attacks. The dodge and dash moves also come in extremely handy, getting you out of tight spots and making it relatively easy to evade charging monstrosities.