One thousand three hundred and fifty five people: murdered. Okay, some of them were unfeeling killer robots, but even after eliminating every piece of scrap metal from the virtual cemetery, you're left with a considerable number of motionless bodies by the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Or at least things that, when reassembled, vaguely resemble bodies.
Wolverine is a game that exudes excess and revels in recklessness. The design mirrors that of its protagonist, an unhinged brute who lops off limbs, tears apart helicopters and frequently howls at the camera. Oh, and he apparently has a lot of fun, too. Like God of War and its ilk, Wolverine is at its best when it feels like all limitations have been dissolved, along with any possibility of you succumbing to a mere army of opponents. Even distance becomes an ex-factor, with an always satisfying lunge maneuver planting you in someone's chest before they can do something futile -- like shooting you.
While the developers at Raven Software can truthfully claim to have produced a movie tie-in that isn't a total disaster, they might as well mention their gymnastic superiority over a bowl of cereal in the same breath. It sounds like I'm moving the goal post, but check this out: Wolverine is competently made and entertaining enough to stand on its own. The smell of a rushed, licensed title lingers at times -- there are a couple of odd bugs and the graphics aren't likely to impress -- but there's a fun, varied combat system that does more justice to the character than the movie could ever hope to. The fact that Raven even managed to construct a somewhat coherent plot out of the half-digested blocks vomited out by the film's script is, well, a bit of a Marvel.
A lot of Wolverine's setup makes perfect sense for a video game: the never-ending supply of foes (the army's chasing him!), the guiding smell-o-vision (animal instincts!) and, of course, the regenerative flesh and bones that, quite gruesomely, grow back in real time. If there's any drawback, it's that Wolverine's savagery makes the game quite front-loaded. You can exploit nearly all of his powerful abilities right away, leaving precious few carrots to chase throughout the rest of the adventure. The enemies may change as you go from the jungle to a military installation, but it's not essential that your tactics keep pace.
Pacing -- an overlooked element that God of War excels at -- is uneven, with almost every level going on for just a bit longer than it should. If you see or fight something cool, you can be certain that it'll come back at least three more times (I'm looking at you, unexplained African lava golem). There's nothing wrong with the thrilling set pieces Raven has concocted, save for the lopsided way they've been spread throughout the game. It feels downright peculiar when the game throws three boss fights (including an MDK-esque scrap with a Sentinel) at you in a row right after two hours of slogging through a secret base, a forest and then a different secret base.
Still, if you can get past the wonky pacing and are willing to experiment with Wolverine's numerous killing techniques, there's a good action game -- and yes, a good licensed game -- in it for you. Think of it this way: I absolutely don't regret murdering one thousand three hundred and fifty five people ... give or take a few robots.
Editors' Note: The "Uncaged Edition," reviewed here, is the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was developed by Raven Software. It should be distinguished from the Wii and PS2 versions (developed by Amaze Entertainment) and the PSP and DS versions (developed by Griptonite Games) of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.