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Iron Man 2: In a Cave With a Box of Scraps

Company: Sega

What is the formula for a good comic book game? That's the question I asked Iron Man 2 development director Mike McHale during a phone conference hosted by Sega. The answer he gave was a good one. He emphasized the importance of authenticity, but argued against the "play the movie" template that is abused time and time again by licensed games. Iron Man wasn't an impressive game, but it sold well. The commercial success may have felt like a hollow victory, as the critical reception was largely cold. With Iron Man 2, the developers aren't simply replicating their previous efforts while applying a fresh coat of sequel paint. I was assured that steps have been taken to deliver a cleaner, deeper, and more user-friendly Iron Man experience.

Because of the interesting approach to storytelling, Iron Man 2 might avoid several of the pitfalls that are native to most licensed games. For starters, the game does not strictly follow the film from which it gets its name. There's a reason behind this: the developers wanted to make a game, not an adaptation. The goal is to make players feel at home in the Iron Man universe -- it's also to let players become Tony Stark. The developers are still tight-lipped with regards to the story, but here's a bit of information I can share. First off, they've brought Marvel's Matt Fraction (The Invincible Iron Man) onboard. If you're into comic books, you realize that this is a very good thing. Secondly, the Crimson Dynamo (a classic Iron Man villain who will not be featured in the film) will make an appearance. Additionally, Tony Stark's faithful A.I. butler Jarvis (as opposed to the very human Jarvis from the comics) will be a much more of a presence this time around.

If you haven't already seen the trailer for Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2, you may or may not be surprised at the fact that it's time for Tony Stark's best friend James Rhodes to get a suit of his own. That's right: War Machine finally makes his debut on the silver screen, and he's actually a playable character in the game. It's been confirmed that Don Cheadle (replacing Terrance Howard as Rhodey in the film) will record War Machine's lines for the game. Producer Dean Martinetti is quick to point out that the two brothers in robotic arms play very differently. Iron Man's energy weapons are quite different from War Machine's munitions-based arsenal. We're curious to see just how these two characters will stack up against the game's heavily-touted destructibility factor.

Martinetti describes the research and customization labs by restating one of the team's primary goals: "You want to be Tony Stark. You want to see what he sees, and you want to do what he does." In this first-person mode, you'll be able to mix, match, and customize a number of things, from suits and weaponry to melee abilities. The number of possible permutations is going to be impressive, I'm told.

If you were flustered at how clunky the original game's controls were, rest assured that flight was at the top of the developers' "to-fix" list. According to McHale and Martinetti, nearly everything (controls, difficulty, etc.) has received such an overhaul that one could call the whole system "re-booted." Transitioning from the air to the ground has been described as seamless, and I'm interested to see for myself.

Some of the claims that have been made are very, very bold. For example, Iron Man 2's bosses have been touted as "some of the biggest in gaming." I haven't gotten my hands on the game yet, but if these promises are fulfilled, we could be looking at another of those exceedingly rare great licensed games. We'll be back with a full review of Iron Man 2 in early May.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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