• When I was a comic-collecting kid, you were either in the DC camp or the Marvel camp. DC comics seemed to have all the angst-ridden heroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman whereas Marvel had all the freaks, the genetically warped like Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, the accidental heroes like The Fantastic Four and Daredevil.

    Iron Man seemed to fit into the latter category, with erstwhile engineer extraordinaire, multi-billionaire and weapons expert Tony Stark taking on the super-hero mantle after a freak accident left him critically injured and captured by terrorists. In a bid for freedom, Stark engineered a heavily armoured battle suit and escaped his captors. Realising that Stark Industries built the weapons that his captors used in aggression, Stark decided to re-engineer the suit into a sophisticated set of battle armour. Thus, Iron Man was born.

    The game obviously follows the plot of the summer blockbuster movie quite closely, with you taking on the role of Tony Stark right from the beginning. The game shows off some quite nifty cutscenes with some uncanny likenesses of the cast (though I’m sure I remember Gwyneth Paltrow being less than impressed with her slack-jawed pneumatic-boobed likeness). These cut scenes help to drive the action along quite nicely.

    The first set of armour you get to control is pretty basic, with the mysterious Dr Yinsen (also captured with Stark by the Ten Rings terrorist organisation) offering advice as well as slowly bringing the suit’s weaponry and defence systems online.

    The first introductory level is a smash-fest and really all you need to do to stay alive is use the suit’s basic weapons (a flame thrower and some missiles) to destroy the enemy.

    Iron Man

    As the game progresses, Stark’s power armour becomes more sophisticated until you’re playing in the recognisable red and gold Iron Man suit. Here’s where the game starts to get a little more interesting.

    Flight mode allows you to hover, ascend and descend as well as level off for a more powerful burst of speed. You can also kick in your afterburners for a limited time to give you even more of a speed boost.

    The flight controls felt a little odd, and I couldn’t put my finger on why I ended up ploughing Iron Man’s metallic nose into the dirt more often than not. Instinctively I was using the wrong vertical controls – in virtually any flight game worth its salt you pull back on the analogue stick to ascend, and push forward to descend – unfortunately Iron Man’s basic control setup is flipped so once you’ve adjusted to this you’ll stop kissing tarmac.

    Iron Man’s suit is controllable and quite nippy but as an offensive weapon it’s even more devastating. Iron Man doesn’t mind getting up close and personal with tanks and choppers, unleashing a rather satisfying and devastating set of melee attacks, tearing the turrets off tanks and busting choppers in half. There are also powerful ranged weapons, naturally. Missiles and a massive electromagnetic pulse will also put paid to the enemy. During interludes between levels you can also tinker with the suit’s systems, buying ever more powerful additions to the suit’s armoury and propulsion systems.

    Rather neatly this extends in-game to a systems control option, where you can re-route power around critical systems. So if you’re taking too much damage, put more power into life support. If you’re not kicking arse hard enough you can put more power to your weaponry, a nice touch I thought.

    This customisation extends beyond the movie’s scope and also allows you to use some of the Comic Series’ suit designs. Though largely a cosmetic change, some suits do tweak certain systems to allow you to focus on a particular strength (such as a more kick-ass melee attack with the HulkBuster suit etc).

    Sadly, the game falls into the trap of sticking almost too rigidly to the film’s plot, which immediately puts it into the “popcorn for the thumbs, bubblegum for the eyes” category of film licences. The action is ridiculously repetitive and relentless button mashing will see you through virtually all of the first few levels.

    Things do get trickier later on with each of the end-of-level bosses ramping up the difficulty level a touch, but again you’re almost too powerful – even the mega-tanks and choppers the game throws at you at the end of each chapter can be easily defeated.

    It’s a shame that the action swiftly descends into a chore because the production values of the game are quite high and in addition to the cut-scenes being rather good, the voice acting (even Stark’s slightly camp and whiny metallic quips) is spot on and the music and sound effects suit the mood wonderfully (though I was sorely missing Black Sabbath’s Iron Man tune to set the mood that the film trailer did so well).

    It’s difficult to say what could’ve improved the game aside from perhaps branching off with more slight deviations from the movie plot to bulk the thing up a bit. Problematically, once you’ve played for a few hours you feel like you’ve seen everything the game has to offer, and with the actual game length itself being less than 8 hours of play, you’ll wonder whether it warrants the price tag.

    In essence, if you absolutely loved the film to bits and absolutely must have an Iron Man game to go with it, then Sega have done as good a job as they can of producing a playable version of the movie. It’s just disappointing that they didn’t get to do more with the source material, and perhaps wrap all that spit and polish and top notch presentation round a more engaging core game.

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