In 2008, Sega released Iron Man for the next generation consoles. It suffered from some of the worst controls for a superhero game. Much like if R360 suddenly shifted a non-stop left, Iron Man had you wondering which way was up and which way was down. To put it simply, the controls alone made the game unbearable.
Fast forward two years and Sega comes back with the movie inspired Iron Man 2 and the first thought that comes to mind is, "Can she fly?"
Dog will hunt
Thankfully for Sega, and the Iron Man video game franchise, the sequel to the uncontrollable first is much better when it comes to control mechanics. You have a more 'button' driven mechanism that allows you to take off and land, while your thumbs are free to move the iron tin can anyway you want. It's almost if they woke up after the first and said, "Oh, yeah! That's how it works." It works the way you thought it might work in the first and how you think it should work in the second.
Folks, the flying mechanics were such a huge deal for me. For a company that prided itself on Afterburner, Space Harrier and R360, they should certainly know how to get it done. They got it done here.
Sticking with neat things, the weapon system inside of Iron Man 2 is complex, yet fun and simple. You can choose to develop inventions that add weapons, powers and armor to your suit. You gain points by completing missions in fashion and you spend points to gain those extra add-ons. It's a simple way of doing things with complex items.
What's also cool about this game is that you get to switch back and forth between Iron Man and War Machine. It keeps the strategy and the battles interesting. I know there are a huge amount of War Machine fanatics out there, so this should quench their thirst just a smidge.
With all of these things intact, simply controls and plenty of options (and great flying), here's where things get ugly.
The initial gameplay is severely lacking in entertainment. The first two missions are both boring and painful at the same time. The first mission has Stark Industries data tower being attacked by robots and sentries. You take control of War Machine and fend off these lackluster robots. Of course, you would think this would be the one time that the game is kind of gently guiding you into the controls and whatnot. It can't possibly keep going like this, right? Wrong.
The next level has you escorting S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopters through a dangerous valley to help battle the bad guys. Should you accidentally fall too far in front of the choppers, the mission ends. If you let the choppers get damaged to the point of exploding, the mission is over. There isn't any sort of flexibility between success and failure; it's either one or the other. They don't give you a sane amount of time to return to the choppers and they don't forgive you for losing a chopper. What makes this even more frustrating is that should you defeat the mini-boss waiting for you halfway through the mission, and then the mission fails, guess what you have to do again? That's right, the game makes you take out the mini-boss again. That is highly unacceptable for a game, as you should be able to start again after the mini-boss is defeated.
Just a rotten way to set a checkpoint and one that repeats itself throughout the game.
Now, while the moments leading up to the mini-boss and boss battles are positively unexciting, the actual boss fights are interesting. When you see the big bosses on the back of the Iron Man 2 cover they are actually like that. The fights are fantastic, but the overall missions just don't hold up to that standard. That's what makes Iron Man 2 so darn poor and disappointing. Three-fourths of the game is unexciting, while the fights really do the title justice.
Turtle wax works wonders
The overall presentation of the game is good. You get some big environments to successfully fly around in (much like the first game). The graphics aren't as good as they could be, but that could be due to the 360 bringing the development of the title down a notch (an argument for another day). They are good overall, with healthy models of both suits. Not too many details in the models, but enough to consider it a next generation graphical standard.
Again, the environments in Iron Man 2 are huge, but not overly detailed. I think some of the locations are a bit bland and uninspired, while others really look pretty. Much like the character models, the graphics here are good, but not great. I do appreciate the depth of them, though.
I think the addition of Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson help out the story a bit. I like it when actors sign on to do the work they did in the theater. It helps make the story and the game more believable. Games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Oblivion thrived on good voice-overs. It's vital for developers to get their gamers 'into' the games and good acting (and acting people can relate to movies) always is a big helper.
Shifting gears, just slightly, let's talk about fun, value and longevity.
The fun in this game is sucked out by the lackluster missions that the game provides. I think that if they had taken a more comic book route or even gone directly for the movie plot it might have worked out better. Iron Man is a great character with many different directions to go and it just seemed like there wasn't much effort to make this more than just a game that came with a movie title. There are nearly a dozen Marvel inspired games out there that ended up being good. The Hulk adaption by Sega was one of those games. I'm just not sure where the fun exists in pointless missions.
As for the longevity of the title, it really doesn't have much. I would have loved a co-op addition to this game where one person could be Iron Man and the other War Machine. That would have been a tremendous addition to this game. Or about having an online game of suit versus suit? There are plenty of suits to go around to make a 2-16 player game. Think of the environment possibilities in an online game. It would be outrageously interesting. None of these things existed in Iron Man 2 and for that there isn't much replay value in it.