When the Insomniac Games logo came up, followed by the Marvel logo, viewers of the PlayStation State of Play presentation expected to see the next Spider-Man game. That would come later, as it turned out. However, the first time these two logos popped up one after the other, it was for a game starring the surly mutant badass Wolverine.
It's been years since Wolverine has been the frontman for a major video game and it's great to see him back in a new adventure. With Insomniac Games at the helm, there's little doubt that it will live up to the Canucklehead's great legacy. Still, we at Shacknews have a few items on our wish list for Marvel's Wolverine.
I can count the number of good X-Men games on maybe one hand. The number of good Wolverine games is even fewer than that, but the best of those titles released in 2009. It was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of the extremely rare cases where the movie tie-in game was superior to the source material. Activision and Raven Software knew exactly what they wanted their game to be. They made it a single-player brawler that wanted to convey what it meant to be Wolverine. More than that, they knew that in order to feel like Wolverine, the violence level had to be over the top.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was one of the rare Marvel video games to carry an M rating. That's because in order to truly be Logan, players had to be able to dismember their enemies in a violent fury using the hero's signature adamantium claws. For Insomniac's title to hold a candle to that experience, the developer needs to embrace Wolverine's berserker rage. Logan is at his absolute strongest when he loses all of his inhibitions and allows himself to be driven by pure savagery. Any Wolverine title would feel less than authentic if there wasn't a way for Logan to get completely lost in blood lust.
Once Wolverine goes into his berserker rage, there should be bloodshed to match. While Wolverine can be a PG-13 (or T, in ESRB terms) property, his stories are at their best when they don't hold back on violence. So, yes, allow Logan to dismember minor foes, give him killer finishers, don't hold back on those Tarantino-style blood geysers. This isn't Batman. Wolverine has no qualms about killing his enemies and doing what must be done.
In other words, Insomniac's biggest challenge is basically taking the tone of the Spider-Man games and the Ratchet series and going in the opposite direction. Insomniac will have to get truly violent for the first time since the Resistance series 15 years ago.
More linear design
Part of what has made Insomniac's take on Spider-Man so great has been the intricate re-creation of Manhattan. (And for Miles Morales a few years later, the reconstruction of Harlem.) The friendly neighborhood hero's backstory and power set made him uniquely suited for an open world game. Wolverine's does not. Logan is geared more towards single missions, where he can take down dozens of goons across single rooms and hallways.
Spidey is built for finesse, where he can oversee a whole room filled with baddies and allow for players to clear those areas in creative ways. Wolverine is not. Logan is a brute who prefers the direct approach. The Arkham-style combat still has a place in a Wolverine game, but it should happen in small-town bars, secluded lab facilities, or hidden military silos. Wolverine isn't there to dazzle anyone with theatrical takedowns. He's there to kick people's asses and an open world isn't really suited to that.
That's why my hope is that Marvel's Wolverine will follow a stage design philosophy closer to Ratchet & Clank, where there's room for exploration and backtracking, but also designed so that Wolverine can plow forward.
An imaginative death mechanic
Wolverine, on paper, is one of the most fascinating characters to approach in video games, because his mutant healing factor makes him virtually impossible to kill. Because of that, how do his games convey any sense of tension or suspense? If he takes enough hits, just run to the side and wait for that healing factor to kick in, right?
Death in a Wolverine game is a tricky idea to balance. Make him the nigh-unkillable juggernaut (no, not that one) and Insomniac runs the risk of making the game feel boring. However, dial the healing factor back too much and it no longer feels like Wolverine.
There's room for Insomniac to get creative with death in this game, one that brings a sense of consequence without compromising what makes Logan who he is. After all, not everyone has a Muramasa Blade handy.
Logan is one of the oldest characters in Marvel lore. He's been alive for over a hundred years, thanks to his mutant healing factor. There are multiple eras from Logan's past that players can explore, whether it's his origins with Weapon X, his service in World War II where he fought alongside Captain America, or his time as a samurai in Japan. There's a lot of life experience that has helped define who Logan is and players should get the opportunity to play through what helped shape this character.
Fortunately, if the Spider-Man games are any indication, Insomniac is all about missions and gameplay moments that are loyal to these characters. They wouldn't pitch a Wolverine game themselves if they had no intention of respecting the character and telling the stories that made him a household name.
And speaking of stories that made Wolverine a household name...
Wolverine vs. The Hulk
One of the most iconic battles in Marvel's history is Wolverine vs. The Incredible Hulk. In fact, Logan first debuted as an adversary of the Jade Giant. Wolverine was the irresistible force to Hulk's immovable object and their battles over the years have been legendary. We've seen them go at it in the comics, on television, and even in a direct-to-DVD animated movie. However, we have yet to see the two larger-than-life heroes go mano-a-mano in a video game outside of Capcom fighting games.
If Insomniac can nail down the hard-hitting combat associated with Logan, having him face off with the unstoppable rage monster that is the Hulk could be one of the new game's most memorable highlights. Have it be a multi-phase fight that spans the Yukon and has both characters destroy everything around them. Make it the massive event that it deserves to be, especially since it's one of the most iconic Marvel Comics moments that has yet to be adapted by Marvel Studios. Go nuts with it! Be creative! And do justice to these wonderful characters!
That's what we hope to see in Marvel's Wolverine. What do you hope to see out of the upcoming Insomniac action romp? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, 5 things we want to see in Marvel's Wolverine
On the other hand, that last doesn't work out for Wolvie in either comic format.