Iron Man 2 – review

Gameloft take the reins from Paramount in this movie-to-game sequel, Iron Man 2…

Updated with iPad impressions after the rating.

It’s hard to imagine an AppStore without Gameloft, they’ve given us so many games, some good and some not so good. If there’s one thing the always bring to the table though it’s polish. Be it great graphics or a solid control system, and over many genres from racers, platformers and first person shooters, they seldom disappoint. It’s no wonder then that they are being approached by movie studios as the go to guys for mobile spin-off games. Their best of these to date is Terminator Salvation, and more recently Avatar, which didn’t fair as well… While Terminator stayed true to it’s 3rd person action all the way through, Avatar tried to bring more platforming into the mix and in doing so became somewhat of a Jack of all trades and a master of none, and it’s here where their latest movie tie-in Iron Man 2 falls.

Much like Avatar, the game is presented in 3rd person and in fact wouldn’t surprise me if it used the exact same game engine. You control Iron Man using the now expected left sided  thumb-stick, with camera look controlled by dragging anywhere on screen, while attacks and flight controls lie on the right. Depending on your style of play thee are both melée and weapon based attacks, and can also be combined for special attacks. Generally though you can play most of the game holding down the primary weapon button. Flight is controlled in two ways, first you must get into hover mode, and press and drag mechanic allows you to lift off the ground and happy hover at a chosen altitude, from here you can survey the area and even rain down attacks. To fly though, simple hold down the same button and you’ll lean forward into your flight position and automatically propel forwards. Surprisingly the control stick and not tilt controls is used for flight movement, however it works very well and makes the controls more consistent keeping it all as touch based. Unlike other flight games I found I was soaring round the levels in no time.

Most missions are open 3d levels but your hand is held via brightly labelled checkpoints which highlight where to go next… though if you do feel like it you can simply fly around the level a bit…  Roam too far though and you’ll hit the play field boundaries and be asked to turn back. This hand-holding was a big problem for both Avatar and Brothers in Arms 2, and it irks me to see it here. Gameloft need to decide once and for all who they are aiming these games at, as they are generally too easy for the hardcore, even the fantastic NOVA.

Levels consist mainly of sub missions, kill all enemies in a certain area and move on, you’ll be tasked to find something, and usually destroy it, such as bombs to diffuse or doors to open. Mini games come into effect in some tasks, for disabling bombs you must enter a simple sliding tile puzzle game and later you must light the correct beacon to a particular colour in order to open a door. The sliding puzzles get tedious after a while, especially in the opening levels, and the tasks are hardly brain benders. These don’t really gel well with the game, instead breaking the flow of the action, and I think were an unnecessary addition.

Occasionally you will come across a few on rails levels which play much like the original game. Whether under the sea or in the sky, you control Iron Man’s position on screen but not where you fly. Your weapons automatically lock onto the enemies though, so it’s a simple enough task of just shooting away.

Speaking of enemies, they come in various shapes and sizes. Generally though you’ll be fighting drones most of the time, either the insect like variety or the humanoids. They don’t feature much intelligence, for the most part swarming towards you guns blazing. But, they can be pretty deadly at times, particularly the crab like ones that, if shot at from afar, will teleport in a flash behind you. The missile firing humanoid drones are the ones to look out for though, while they can be picked off easily enough, their weapons will drain your health bar pretty quickly. If you haven’t reached a checkpoint in a while you may want to flee the scene to regenerate.

At the end of most levels you’ll encounter a boss of some kind, more so towards the end of the game. While they offer a welcome change of pace, they are somewhat of a disappointment challenge wise. The battles are just too easy and over too quickly. Gameloft had the opportunity here to add some great multi-layered boss encounters, merging Metroid Prime style battles with God of War style quicktime events. And while some of this creeps into the final boss encounter, it’s all too little too late!

Graphically it looks pretty good for the most part. Iron Man and War Machine are well rendered and look the part. Other enemies less so, with some low-resolution textures and models on some bosses. The environments suffer from low res textures when viewed up close, but from afar look impressive at times. On a 3GS the game ran with zero slowdown, and a good frame-rate overall.

The game’s sound is definitely a stronger point of the overall presentation. Gameloft’s best voice acting to date actually sounds pretty much like the real actors… though the writing is a little lacklustre in it’s delivery. The story no-doubt reflects the movie, although with a little artistic license, but we won’t go into spoilers here. The in game music is rock inspired to match the game’s theme and even the Black Sabbath theme plays in the background when navigating menus.

Iron man 2 is a fun game, but it’s far too easy. You’ll breeze through it’s 9 levels in just over two hours, and even then it will feel more like a theme park thrill ride than an intense action game.


Iron Man 2 is out now:

US for $6.99. Get it from Iron Man 2

UK for £3.99. Get it from Iron Man 2

iPad addendum:
This HD version is marginally better than the iPhone edition. Gameloft obviously built this in tandem, unlike some of their older games that have been porter to iPad. The resolution of Iron Man himself looks great, and while much of the environments are sparse, they feel bigger in scope on the larger screen. Oddly the controls feel better too, especially when played on the lap. Shooter and missile locks feel more natural. Essentially though it’s exactly the same game bar a visual upgrade, so the review score above still stands. It’s the gameplay that let’s it down.
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