Can you believe it? Ten years have passed since Robert Downey Jr. first took on the role of Tony Stark and his superhero alias Iron Man in the film of the same name, which kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Nowadays he’s trying to stop the Mad Titan from getting his hands on those precious stones in Avengers: Infinity War. But that’s another story, because my focus here is on the Iron Man video game and the legacy it left behind. I’m looking back at 10 years of Iron Man!
Released on 2nd May, 2008, Iron Man was a third-person action adventure movie tie-in game – yeah one of those that generally doesn’t fare too well in the game world – and launched on the same day as the film itself. SEGA took on the role of publisher, with – the now ceasing to exist – Secret Level developing it for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, whilst Artificial Mind & Movement worked on the Wii, PC, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2 and PSP versions. Unfortunately for SEGA, Marvel and fans of the comic book fans, it wasn’t the fun filled film accompaniment they were hoping for and received negative feedback.
Iron Man took some of the key elements of the film, starting with the building of the Mark I suit by billionaire inventor Tony Stark in Afghanistan alongside fellow captive Yinsen and subsequent testing on the Ten Rings terrorist group, and leading up to the final showdown with Stark Industries co-worker Obadiah Stane, who’s masquerading as the villainous Iron Monger. Even a handful of the film’s cast were brought in for voiceovers, with Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), Terrence Howard (Lt. Col. James Rhodes) and Shaun Toub (Yinsen) reprising their roles. Their below par performances only highlighted the fact that this really was a quick cash-in on the Marvel hype and nothing more.
I remember playing it on Xbox 360 – the platform where it still holds a Metacritic score of 45 – and despite my love for superheroes, it bored me to death. Flying around a relatively open area in the Mark III Iron Man suit, firing missiles and then taking on a boss-type enemy was the approach for almost every level. And it didn’t matter whether the boss was a beefed up tank, or a super villain like Whiplash and Titanium Man (neither of whom were in the film), the repetitive gameplay grew monotonous in no time at all. You know something’s not right when you’re not enjoying controlling a flying suit of armour or firing highly concentrated laser blasts with the Unibeam tech. What didn’t help matters were the terribly bland environments as they looked as generic as can be; not to mention how graphically below average it felt, even for that time period.
In stark contrast, Iron Man (film) recouped more than double its budget at the box office and was very well-received. So much so that it turned into a successful trilogy that cemented Tony Stark as an integral part of the MCU and, of course, the Avengers. For some reason, Marvel didn’t give up on the video game world and delivered numerous offerings which barely brought about a positive response, including games based on Hulk, Thor and Captain America.
Even Iron Man 2 – loosely based on the film – got a release in 2010 on multiple platforms and despite being a marginal improvement at best, the developers at Sega Studios San Francisco (formerly Secret Level) ended up shutting up shop upon its release. That marked the end of Iron Man-centric titles on consoles, with the only other outing on the mobile platform in 2013, which was the free-to-play and micro-transaction heavy endless runner Iron Man 3. Seemingly, all the money in the world can’t buy Tony a decent game adaptation.
What does the future hold for Tony Stark and Iron Man? Much like in the movies recently, I feel he’ll better serve a purpose as part of a game rather than the main focal point. And this could become a reality on consoles like Xbox One if Square Enix gets moving along with their highly anticipated Avengers project. It’s apparently going to be full to the brim of Marvel characters, iconic locations and if the announcement trailer is anything to go by, then Iron Man will feature. Given that development teams behind it – Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal – have brought us Tomb Raider and Deus Ex games, exiting times are ahead for gamers. Here’s hoping we’ll hear more in the lead up to E3, because it’s been very quiet for over a year now and, let’s face it, the Avengers are hot property this year!
How did you find Iron Man back in the day and what is it about those darn movie tie-ins being bang average? What do you hope to see come to fruition in the gaming world for Tony Stark? Get in touch via the comments or on social media with all your thoughts.