Iron Man Demo Review

By Mike on 8:23 pm

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"Merchandising! We put the picture's name on everything!" I never did get that Spaceballs The Flamethrower. Movies tend not to do as well as they used to in the cinema so lets sell some junk to fill in the bucks. What's selling big today? Why games of course! The problem is that a hit movie is often very difficult to adapt to a video game. We first saw that with ET way back in the 80s. Little did we know that was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then we've had a whole host of bad movie based games and just as many bad game based movies. You'd think Hollywood would learn that games and movies don't mix, unless you're LucasArts of course who was smart enough to move into the series' expanded universe early on.

So what about Iron Man. This weeks hit movie has been released as a game, as all hit action movies are inclined to do. I haven't seen the movie yet and I never read a lot of comics as a kid so I admit I'm not familiar with the Iron Man lore and canon. Lets just say that IGN didn't like the game too much, giving it a 3.8 out of 10. However, if you're reading this, you probably want to know what I think. I didn't read the full IGN article so here's my own objective opinion of the demo. 

The Iron Man game was developed by Sega, the once venerable game company that created games such as Golden Ax, Phantasy Star, and Sonic the Hedgehog. I was a bit of a Genesis fanboy back in the day but I feel kind of dirty playing Sega's lackluster newer titles.  First of all, Iron Man is very short lived, even for a demo. I thought the Echochrome one was short. It's a third-person shooter. The single trial mission has seven weapons caches to destroy. This sounds familiar... Oh yes, there was a level like this in Jedi Academy where you have to dodge Boba Fett, who also is pretty much a flying suit of armour. Interestingly, the demo ended before I even destroyed all the caches, even though it's not timed. That was odd. The demo does not teach you how to play so your pretty much on your own. Fortunately, idea of the game is pretty simple. You shoot stuff. You have two weapons at your disposal, a very slow firing machine gun and a laser cannon of some sort. You basically run around and fire at targets. Blue labeled targets are enemies while orange targets are your goals. You face gun turrets, helicopters, rocket launches, tanks, and enemy soldiers. 
Your goal is to shoot and destroy crates of weapons. This does seem relatively simply except that the controls are very wonky. Iron Man can either fly, hover, or walk. Flying and hovering is a bit of a challenge. First of all, the flight controls are backwards. Anybody who has ever flown a plane or even an arcade flight simulator knows that pulling back on the stick makes you go up and pushing forward makes you go down. Sega doesn't seem to know that though. You can invert the Y-axis in controller settings. You also have to hold L1 to fly which is kind of dumb where a mode toggle would have been easier. Hovering is clumsy, controlled by the left trigger but it's not pressure sensitive. Iron Man doesn't know how to hover in place. There is also an inflight dodge feature by pressing X, but that's also clumsy and doesn't seem to do much. In flight, there's also no way to control his speed. Walking is often the best way to play. I tried it on Easy mode to start so I could get the hang of game play. Though it was set to easy, Iron Man felt too invincible even for that mode. You never really feel in danger. I might try it on the harder difficulties but I see little reason in doing so. The gameplay is pretty much a mindless diversion with no real sense on what you're doing on where you're supposed to go. 

Moving onto the technical side. The graphics are dated looking, about on par with a 2005 game. Your Xbox 360 or PS3 isn't exactly going to break a sweat playing it, or at least you'd think so. I noticed some frame rate issues during action scenes. This seems to exist in both the 360 and PS3 versions according to other reviews. Given that there are more advanced games like this that run smooth as butter, I'd chop that up to sloppy coding. This is after all a demo based on the full version and not a pre-release so I expect the same issues to be in the full game. The draw distance also isn't that good and the graphics are blurry. I don't know if it's just that these games don't support 720p but they should since all PS3 games do. My monitor does a good job upscaling other titles to 1440x900 so I know my hardware isn't causing the blurries.
In the audio department, Robert Downy Jr returns to reprise his role of Iron Man from the movie. Voice acting is ok but once again, the sound isn't what you'd expect from a seventh generation game in 2008. 

Not much more I can really say about the demo. It clocks in at just under 950mb to download. Even though it's free, I'd pass and you should run away from the $60(!) retail version. I have to agree with IGN on this.  Like ET 25 years before it, this game is a sloppy mess cooked up in a short amount of time for the sole purpose of capitalizing off the movie. Thus is the fate of most movie based games. Given some thought, I think an Iron Man game might work well but this game just falls flat. 

What Works:
-Movie's actors reprise voice roles.
-Has potential should a non-movie base sequel be made. 

What Doesn't Work:
-Blurry, dated graphics. Frame rate issues.
-Wonky controls and bad controller layout
-Gameplay a touch on the mindless side
-Unimpressive audio
-Demo too short

Score: 3 out of 10

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