- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at X-Men Origins, Wolverine - Uncaged Edition (from Activision and Raven Software, for Xbox 360, rated M for mature, $59.99).

Inspired by Twentieth Century Fox’s blockbuster and Logan’s, aka Wolverine’s, comic-book appearances, this third-person action game unleashes a ferocious mutant on home entertainment consoles.

A player controls the complex hero and discovers the character’s earlier life through comic scribe Mark (Death of Wolverine) Guggenheim’s convoluted back story.

What’s the story: From the game manual - The mutant Logan was a member of an elite military strike force known as Team X. He followed the orders of Col. William Striker until the day those orders went too far. Logan went back to a normal life until the death of his beloved Kayla at the hands of his half-brother, Victor “Sabertooth” Creed, shook him back to war. Revenge leads him to an experimental process that will coat his skeleton in an indestructible metal and put him on the path of unstoppable vengeance.

Play the role: After watching just the first 30 seconds of the introductory scene, the player will realize he owns a Wolverine more violent and visceral than anything seen in his multiple movie appearances.

With a character model just like Hugh Jackman (including his voice), our hero has all of Wolverine’s legendary powers, spearheaded by those razor-sharp claws.

Besides feral senses that offer glowing hints and hot spots and more than 100 moves, most amazing is his regenerative powers. As his body takes enormous damage, Logan’s flesh disintegrates and his adamantium skeleton is revealed. Muscle tissue and flesh then grow back, a very cool effect.

On his travels through African jungles, the Canadian Weapon X facilities and back streets of the United States, he will confront classic characters such as Creed, the Blob, Gambit, W.E.N.D.I.G.O. supersoldiers and Deadpool.

Get to the action: Button mashing easily delivers ground and air claw attacks from drills to cyclones. Collect mutagens to boost and release abilities, add and distribute skill points to enhance powers, and collect dog tags to gain experience and level up health and attacks.

The frenetic attacks feature targeting a foe and lunging large distances with claws extended into his chest, exploding into berserker rages with glowing red claws, performing back-flipping swipes, and jumping between vehicles to take out bad guys.

Memorable moments: Wolverine’s testosterone-fueled maneuvers are so compelling, bystanders broke out in spontaneous applause as they watched this meat-grinding machine in action.

There’s also a jaw-dropping encounter with the famed 20-story-tall, mutant-killing Sentinel.

Violent encounters: This hack-and-slash, slice-and-dice orgy of reckless brutality will exhaust the player as he wipes out more than 1,000 adversaries, including machete masters, machine-gun-wielding soldiers, genetically engineered elite commandos, missile-launching grenadiers, warriors who appear and disappear using a cloaking device, and a number of Weapon X rejects.

The excessive bloodletting demands that only those 17 and older participate.

Read all about it: I offer a trio of Marvel Publishing choices for the sequential-art connoisseur. For the slightly insane, pick up the six-issue run of Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk ($2.99 each) and see just how resilient Wolvie really is. For the purist, grab Barry Windsor Smith’s bloody “Weapon X” story arc ($16.99, trade paperback). For the casual fan, try “Wolverine: Evolution” ($14.99, trade paperback compiling Wolverine Nos. 50 to 55) and appreciate the ultimate Logan-versus-Sabertooth showdown drawn by Simone Bianchi.

Pixel-popping scale: 8 out of 10. The cut scenes go from lifelike to a watercolor murkiness, both just as justifiable considering the colorful source material. The actual interactivity uses a level of motion capture and programming that defines an uncomfortable realism, especially as fighters are impaled and decapitated and Logan’s skin and muscle tissue are shot, skewered and burned away.

Extras and unlockables: Find action figures and then beat a Logan doppelganger to unlock and wear costumes such as his classic yellow-and-blue spandex and his stylish X-Force duds.

What’s it worth: This is the Wolverine every mature X-Men comic-book fan on the planet has been waiting to see. Think a sequential-art miniseries with creators Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon on PCP come to life. Get ready to handle a wild animal in this exhilarating experience.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).

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