Raven Software is back making action-RPG’s again. While they don’t produce as many action RPG titles as other developers in their league, they are the best at what they do. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, their latest creation, is considered to be one of the greatest movie-games to date!

A near-perfect blend of action, narrative, and downtime/puzzles really make this game stand out amongst titles like Too Human, Fallout 3, and The Watcher. The storyline featured in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a hybrid of the plot found in the movie and that plot is exclusive to the console release. As the title implies, the game revolves around Wolverine’s origins, and the founding of the X-Men, which gives you a good insight of how it all started.

The gameplay doesn’t progress the story linearly, rather the chapters jump between Wolverine’s past and present accordingly, complete with pre-rendered cutscenes. Many of Wolverine’s experiences during present-day gameplay relate to things that happened in the past, most notably his mission in Africa.

Other locations include the Alkali Lake Compound (reminscient of the comic), the Weapon X Laboratory, among other prominent Wolverine-related settings. Jumping back and forth between the past and present timelines is integral not only to the story, but the gameplay as well.

As an action-RPG, anything earned in one section of the game carries on to the next, whether it takes place in the past or present. This lets Wolverine use his repertoire of moves consistently, and it’s one hell of an arsenal.

The nature of combat is very reminiscent of God of War and X-Men Legends, being comprised of Light and Heavy attacks, along with a Grab command. Like most action-RPGs, the combos are strung together by mixing various button presses that lead to amazing aerial strikes and even for some nasty grappling finishers.

What makes Wolverine different is the fluidity of the combat: he can flip over enemies, counter a number of cheap blows, tackle them into an uppercut, and lunge at them with a fury of slashes, which are spectacularly very gruesome – you can do all of these without much effort being put into memorization of the controls.

Everything just sort of clicks contextually since the control scheme is very minimal. Special kills, such as environmental ones, are easy to pull off thanks to this system; all that has to be done is for an enemy to be thrown into the lethal object, as Wolverine takes care of the rest.

The health system in X-Men Origins is akin to many modern shooters, as there are two regenerating health bars: one for his skin, and one for his vitals. As Wolverine takes damage his vitals continuous to be more exposed. Letting him rest will allow his skin to regenerate, which in turn lets his vital points heal as well.

Full usage of Wolverine’s skills is necessary both for survival and to gain experience. The combat is usually challenging, but there are situations which require little or no effort to beat, such as “cliff-sides” scenes where enemies can simply be thrown off the face of the earth.

At times, the action can get nail-bitingly intense, as quite a few sequences will leave Wolverine struggling to regenerate his wounds in order to protect his vitals. Enemy types are varied, but each fall into some sort of category.

There’s a high degree of personalization to be found in the game: Wolverine can become more resilient while sacrificing attack power, or he can be customized to use stronger special attacks instead of relying on being able to take more damage.

Unfortunately, there is little in the way for gameplay expansion in terms of replayability. Needless to say, the game is twenty or so hours long, a rarity for a modern game. While “Hard” difficulty is a hidden feature, the game is too long to justify a second playthrough.

There are also bonus challenges that can be unlocked by finding figurines throughout the chapters. These unlockables provide a slew of additional costumes for Wolverine. However, these changes aren’t reflected in the pre-rendered cutscenes, and the costumes look quite similar to each other.

Graphically, the game is outstanding, aside from the occasional muddy texture. Running on the Unreal Engine, the PS3 version sits comfortably at home with little to no graphical anomalies whatsoever, although the pre-rendered cutscenes are a bit compressed-looking. Wolverine’s skin peels as he takes damage, eventually revealing his adamantium skeleton, which is an extremely cool touch.

As for the special effects, the blood and gore in this game is outstanding in which the slow-motion camera does a good job of capturing the cinematic experience of heads flying off everywhere. The animation is excellent, especially the part when Wolverine counterattacks an enemy or executes them while they scream for their lives.

Wolverine tends to make the inhabitants in the game scream a lot, but that’s not all you’ll hear throughout his cut-throat adventures. The audio effects are relatively solid and are pretty convincing to say the least. However, the main highlights of the game’s audio component are in the spoken dialogues.

The voice acting is good for an action game where the actors lend their talent for all the main characters. Wolverine’s one-liners add some spice to the combat, and make it feel somewhat interesting when demolishing hordes and hordes of enemies, but it’s quite humorous that he never seems to blurt anything about getting hurt.

Anyway, the music is well done and that’s because it is performed by the same composer that made the great scores for Underworld, Far Cry Instincts, and Rainbow Six Vegas. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fantastic game that really shows what Raven Software can do with this genre.

The developer has demonstrated that they have moved up from the mediocre Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends titles and have created the best Wolverine game to date! The combat system is good and the music is well done thanks to the same composer that made the great scores for Underworld, Far Cry Instincts, and Rainbow Six Vegas.

With its surprising length, this is not your typical smash-button beat-them-up that you can just plow through enemies level after level; X-Men Origins give you a sense of identity that you can relate to your character. The game maintains its fast-paced action complemented by some nice RPG elements. Like the movie, it’s definitely a blockbuster experience.