XBLA’s Most Wanted: Iron Man 3
Games tied to movies have a history of being terrible. They often have rushed development cycles, and most are so tightly linked to the movie that it’s impossible for the developer to have any sort of real freedom during their creation. Sure, sometimes we get an instant classic, and once or twice we’ve been blessed with a genre changer like Spider-Man 2. But let’s be honest, it’s a rare thing when one actually lives up to player expectations. Developers like High Moon Studios can’t even take their amazing work on the Transformers: Cybertron games and translate that into a good movie title.
Given all this it’s not surprising that publishers are looking for ways to continue to cash in without breaking their development budget. We’ve seen attempts to bring games to Xbox LIVE Arcade, most with poor results. Games like R.I.P.D. and The Expendables 2 are ho-hum on their best day. But smart movie studios have gone mobile. Android and iOS developing giant Gameloft, who were initially known for their console clones N.O.V.A. (Halo) and Modern Combat (Call of Duty), have struck gaming gold with movie tie-ins. By breaking down gameplay to core ingredients they’ve seen success with both Despicable Me 2: Minion Rush and Iron Man 3: The Official Game. Both may be “just” endless runners, yet somehow both are also en..dless fun. And we think Iron Man 3 could be just as fun on the 360.
What should change:
Optional Kinect – Anyone who’s actually played Iron Man 3 knows why this is on the list. It’s great to use the touchpad to control movement and firing, but what if you could do the same with your hands? Imagine reaching out with your right hand and seeing Iron Man emit a repulsor blast. Or throwing both arms to the side to emit a uni-beam shot from his chest? The endless runner format is great at fulfilling superhero fantasies, but having the opportunity to optionally play with Kinect could immerse players further. It could be yet another solid game to throw into Kinect-haters faces.
Comic armors – We get it. This is the movie universe, not the comics. But as cool as the movie armors truly are we still miss out on some of Tony Stark’s most iconic suits. Being able to suit up in comic armors would bring the best of both worlds. Not being able to fly the comic-based Extremis armor against Extremis soldiers seems a missed opportunity. Likewise we’d love to take the Mark I Space Armor out fro a drive in the space station level. There are so many other gems here: Thorbuster, Bleeding Edge, Model 40 (Marvel NOW!), and Stealth are just a few of many that could drive the game for the months and years to come.
What should stay the same:
I am Iron Man – The whole reason Iron Man 3 is successful is that it makes you really feel like Iron Man. It’s fast, it’s lethal, and any player can find at least two suits of armor to fit their tastes. In recent months Gameloft has also added new stages and updated existing ones to add variety to what could have been a going-stale game. Old stages have been updated with the endless runner standard of occasional left path, right path choices. New stages take us to outer space and New York. New armors complete the ensemble of House Party Protocol armors, and a new, fan-based design was even added with the most recent update.
Progression patterns – Iron Man 3 is a freemium game. It’s free to play, but if you want to fast track armor unlocks you’ll pay real world money to do so. Yet with all of that you never feel as though your wallet is being squeezed dry just to get that one coveted armor you want. Instead there’s a healthy mix of wanting to pay a little and play a lot. You can selectively and strategically use real-world currency to buy ISO-8, the game’s more powerful currency. With it you then unlock or upgrade here and there a bit, saving the easy-to-earn Stark Credits (the weaker currency) for the run of the mill upgrades. There’s a time and a place for microtransactions, and Iron Man 3 seems to have found that balance.
Why it would succeed:
We all know there’s a certain stigmatism towards movie games. We usually only buy in when we need more of the story, and in those rare instances, because the game captures us. Iron Man 3: The Official Game is one of those gems that proves to be not only a strong movie tie-in, but also a great game in its own right. Releasing it with a freemium model on Xbox consoles would be the perfect console entry for Gameloft. People love Iron Man, and there are are plenty of mobile gamers that will tell you they love Iron Man 3. It’s time console players had a chance to suit up and fight super-baddies inside the world’s most advanced suits of armor, eButler included.