Sega's Iron Man: The Movie video game was not a well-reviewed piece of interactive entertainment. When someone from Sega show you the sequel, they admit this. In theory it should be easy to explain how Iron Man 2 is better.
I saw Iron Man 2: The Video Game in New York yesterday at a showcase of upcoming Sega games. The man at the Xbox 360 controller explaining how the new game would surpass the original was Kyle Brink, a man who used to make flight simulator games, then Sims games and then became the creative director for Iron Man 2, the game. No, he explained, he was not the creative director for the first one.
Iron Man 2 is being developed by Sega's Secret Level, the same studio behind the first game. The game looks good in demos. The controllable Iron Man is an impressive specimen, a flying suit of armour that walks, hover, flies, punches and shoots through military bases, blowing up lots of enemy robots.
In the new game, players can choose to tackle a mission as Iron Man or the other major character from the movie, War Machine. They can outfit the armour, specifying one of the few close combat fighting styles associated with a given suit of armour, selecting certain armaments. Brink went with a Muay Thai fighting style a laser and some other weapons. He left his homing rockets at home base, something he regretted later during the mission he was showing.
Outfitting your character before battle and deciding whether to go with a good area-attack fighting style for clearing enemy clusters or a focus-attack scheme for pounding single massive enemies is new. It's the kind of upgrade expected in a sequel. But it's not what guarantees a game series can climb up from infamy.
Why should gamers burned by the last game have faith that the new one could be good?
Brink offered the following reasons for Iron Man gaming fans to raise their hopes:
A Non-Movie Story: Brink said that one of his first requests to Iron Man publisher Marvel Comics was to not have to tell the movie's story. He said that decision was okayed almost immediately by new gaming-savvy management at Marvel. "They don't want me making their movies," Brink said, "And I don't want them making my games."
Better Flying And Hovering: Brink said that the team on the first Iron Man game mistakenly clung to a control scheme that focus testers didn't like. "They got married to a control scheme... and rode that horse into the ground," he said. He rejected the idea of holding a controller trigger halfway to hover. In the sequel, a tap of a button puts Iron Man in a hover and then all the buttons of the controller are freed for what amounts to steady moveable-turret-style shooting. A double-tap send Iron Man flying, but, unlike in, say, Dark Void, flying isn't fatal. "It would be ridiculous for walls to be a threat to Iron Man," he said. Instead, Brink hopes that flying feels as comfortable as it would for someone who played a flight game, like the sims he used to make.
Better Destruction and Lighting: Brink said - and showed - that destruction should be a key element of an Iron Man game. Iron Man should be able to fly through buildings, break stuff, and see all of that look cool. Lighting is key and should be dynamic, Brink said, drawing a distinction from the static lighting that he said made the first game's environments look sterile.
Brink discussed a lot of features during what was no more than 10 minutes of playing the game. He showed ways for Iron Man to hack and control enemies. He talked about ways for Iron Man to perform combo-breaking moves during close-quarter combat. He demonstrated how Iron Man can swiftly move from one enemy his kicking to the next he is punching with leans of the control stick, a la, Brink's comparison, Batman: Arkham Asylum.
It's hard to imagine any one thing Brink or anyone else at Sega can say about the new Iron Man 2 game that would alleviate gamer scepticism about the sequel. Brink declined to field the softball that maybe hitting the movie-release deadline last time was the thing that hurt the development team. Every movie game has that problem, he said. It's what you do by deadline that makes the difference. He sounded confident. Gamers can test out the results on all consoles in April.