Comic writer Warren Ellis' book Come in Alone gripes about Marvel being more interested in merchandising than making great comics anymore. Whether you agree or disagree with him, tepid cash-ins like this do their superheroes' reputations no favours.
The first level is a car wreck. Iron Man's movements are jerky, particularly when he walks over rough terrain. The generic Middle-Eastern bad guys just vanish when you blast them and the entire environment is plastered in blurry low-res textures. Someone should have told developer Secret Level that first impressions count, even if it is just a training mission.
The game does pick up a little once you gain the ability to fly. The control system feels very much like EA's Superman Returns game, although it lacks many of the subtleties, such as being able to interact with the environment.
Cruising around at high altitude, you'll be less likely to notice how bad all the environments look up close. Instead, you're treated to a fairly impressive vista that stretches on for miles. It's one of only two occasions where the game looks half-decent, the other being the crisp and detailed model of Iron Man.
Bizarrely, it's almost like seeing a next-gen character in an old-gen shooter. It comes in seven different varieties, too with seven unlockable Iron Man costumes based on different eras of the Marvel comics. It's a satisfying addition for long-time fans, but unfortunately there's no actual difference in the way they play.
The only way to enhance Iron Man's abilities is by completing the sub-missions and earning money to acquire upgrades. While these bonus objectives do add a little replay value to the game, some are just far too difficult to finish on the first playthrough
The implication is that you should revisit them later on once you're better equipped, but the gameplay is so bland only mega-Achievement whores will be likely to make the effort.
Secret Level has missed the mark badly here. It has taken a genuinely enigmatic character and discarded almost everything that made him interesting. Outside of the cinematics, Tony Stark does nothing but incinerate thousands of enemies. This might be more bearable if the gameplay was challenging or fun, but the over-generous auto-aim and the fact it's impossible to avoid being hit sends any element of skill hurtling out the window.
Evading missiles, meanwhile, can be done by pressing the A button at the right time, and this is really the only part of the game that requires thought.
Which isn't to say it's unplayable. The extreme simplicity means you can lose a couple of hours to it, the controls are responsive and the camera follows the action well enough. And while the story is pretty thin, the presence of the movie's cast (Terrence Howard, Robert Downey Jr) also adds a touch of quality that's often missing from movie adaptations.
But ultimately Iron Man falls flat as an arcade shooter because it's sacrificed the need for any kind of dexterity or quick-thinking. It fails even more as a franchise game, because the character has so much more to offer than a bunch of big explosions and an enormous body count.
For all its promise, this is another entirely superfluous superhero game.
We'd rather do some ironing, man
- Decent control system
- Easy enough to spend time on
- Lacks big-budget feel of the movie
- Boring game design
- Very little skill required