On May 2, Iron Man Video Game, the latest Marvel comic book property to be swept up by Hollywood from the dark and dusty shelves of comic book stores, will be making its way onto the silver screen. Like the majority of other Marvel movies before it, this one also happens to have a videogame tie in. SEGA of America recently released a demo of the game, which is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace (one will shortly follow on the PlayStation Network) so that you can get a taste of the action before release day.
A taste is definitely all you’ll be getting, as the demo is quite short but allows you to perform pretty much all of the functions that the developers have empowered our iron clad hero with. The level consists of Iron Man (or Tony Stark for all you non-true believers out there) returning to the military encampment in Afghanistan, where he was previously held captive. Before the level begins, you are shown an options screen where upgrades for your armor will be available in the final game. With this being a demo, the selection was pretty bare. Some of the slots where unlockable upgrades can be placed include thrusters, weapons, and strength. SEGA has also revealed that it will be possible to unlock other variants of armor in the game that are straight out of the comic book.
Once the demo starts up, you get to see that fantastic looking Mark III armor that Stark is wearing, which is very nicely rendered and radiates gloriously in the hot desert sun; however, graphically, the suit is really the only thing that shines. The desert canyon we traversed looked pretty bland, and the enemy vehicles were nothing really special, but then again, you will travel to other environments in the game, such as a nuclear base in Russia, and a Maggia flying fortress (the Maggia are an international crime syndicate within the Marvel universe). Anyways, the objective for the demo is to navigate to various areas of the base and take out a series of weapons caches in any order you choose, with a whole army breathing down your neck just to make things more interesting.
This requires you to jet across the sky, and as with most superhero games, when that includes moving in the air and on the ground, things can get a little tricky. The transition from running to flying is a bit jarring, and controlling Iron Man’s direction (via left thumb stick) is pretty sensitive, so it may take a minute or two to adjust. Pressing the left trigger will allow you to rise upwards, and gently holding it down will cause you to hover. When it comes to flying, the left bumper is used to propel yourself forward, with the A button providing a boost, which can also be used for aerial maneuvers to avoid missiles. But if you’re feeling a little gutsy and want to play catch with an attack chopper, hitting the B button at the right time will initiate a grapple, allowing you to toss the projectile back towards the enemy. The grapple function can also be used to tear apart nearby vehicles on the ground or in the air.
Aiming and looking is coordinated with the right thumb stick, and whichever target your place the reticule over will become locked on when firing, but it doesn’t feel too restrictive, as you can select a new target by freely aiming at another. As for Iron Man’s weapons themselves, the right trigger is used for your Repulser, and the Y button for missiles. Holding down the Right Bumper will also charge a deadly laser that bursts out form Stark’s chest. An interesting mechanic is that if you want to give a little more juice to any of these functions, be it weaponry, jet engines, or life support, you can reroute your system’s power to one of those areas by pressing the corresponding direction on the D pad. After we played human can opener with a few more tanks, and took out the rest of the weapons caches, a giant vehicle emerged that was sporting more guns than an NRA convention, but alas the demo ended just as Iron Man was preparing to fight the behemoth.
So our short time with Iron Man was enjoyable to some degree, but there were a few issues. The in flight controls take a little bit to get used to and can be pretty twitchy, and while the game carries a similar feel to a flight combat game, the Mark III suit doesn’t fly anywhere near as smoothly as an F-18 fighter. Again, the demo didn’t really offer a very exciting section of the game, as blowing up crates can only be so much fun. Hopefully, SEGA is holding off on those exciting enemies and boss fight for when you purchase the final version of the game. Iron Man is also facing some tough competition upon its release, as it debuts the same week as Grand Theft Auto IV, but then again, nearly all Marvel videogames seem to sell well, despite major flaws. We’ll have a full review of Iron Man shortly after the game, and film, is available for public consumption on May 2.