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Hands-on with Iron Man 2

As awesome as Robert Downey Jr's turn as billionaire engineer/d-bag-turned-superhero Tony Stark was in the 2008 Iron Man movie, the videogame adaptation of his exploits was the pits, putting the armored warrior into a series of mundane missions, complete with janky controls and other annoyances. With the film sequel on the horizon, Sega's second attempt at transforming this compelling hero into a worthwhile gaming icon is just weeks away, and we had a chance to test out the demo and find out more about the game at the recent C2E2 pop culture convention in Chicago.

Before even playing the demo, we knew that Iron Man 2 had some likely advantages over its predecessor. Not only can you play as the titular hero in the game, but you can also take on the role of War Machine, whose arsenal of more traditional ammo-based weapons (as opposed to Iron Man's energy projectiles) gives him a different feel in combat. Each character is available throughout the single campaign, though the hero you select will change up the cutscenes and dialogue a bit. Another encouraging sign: Sega enlisted the talents of Invincible Iron Man scribe Matt Fraction to spice up the writing and keep the game true to its comic origins.

While we didn't get a chance to take in much dialogue or narrative on the noisy show floor, the 15-minute demo provided a few scenarios that demonstrated how Iron Man 2 has improved on the original's design, but not always in ways that dramatically change the overall experience. The demo started off in an indoor factory -- a nice change of pace from the almost-always-outdoors campaign of the first game -- where we had to battle back a couple waves of enemy robots before wrecking a control panel to proceed to the next room. After taking down several additional robots, we found ourselves blasting four generator stabilizers before busting out into a wide-open canyon populated by industrial buildings.

Once outside, we had to face the expected array of armored helicopters and tanks, before accessing a data terminal and triggering a boss fight against a four-legged, mechanized beast armed with multiple rocket turrets. Handily defeating it with our repulsor beams and a rechargeable rocket attack, we rescued Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson, who's much less attractive in the game) and proceeded to protect her from enemy attacks while she manned a nearby turret.

Iron Man 2's control scheme is no doubt an improvement -- popping in the original game afterwards proved that point immediately -- with weapons mapped to the triggers, hover controls (ascend/descend) alongside melee and grab/block commands on the face buttons, and continuous flight just a double-tap of the left shoulder button away. It's a complex scheme, though, and it was still easy to get confused amidst the chaos of blasting numerous foes, but that may lessen over time. Thankfully, a target-lock feature (right shoulder button) makes it easier to keep track of opponents, though it also led to some unfortunate camera angles along the way.

While we still have plenty left to see -- including reportedly robust character customization options and multiple armor configurations, like the mobile Mark V "suitcase suit" and unlockable comic suits -- the little taste we got didn't inspire a lot of confidence in us that Iron Man 2 is going to be the dream comic game many may be hoping for. Building a great Iron Man game means making routine acts like blasting identical robots and hacking data terminals exciting and unique to the character, and what we played in the demo didn't really deliver on that need. We're still pretty optimistic that the end result will be an improvement over the first Iron Man game, but will it be interesting enough to command our attention in the already-packed month of May? Feel free to surprise us, Stark.

Apr 20, 2010

Freelance writer for GamesRadar and several other gaming and tech publications, including Official Xbox Magazine, Nintendo Power, Mac|Life, @Gamer, and PlayStation: The Official Magazine. Visit my work blog at