Marvel fans have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in mainstream entertainment recently, with the biggest stars in the Marvel universe enjoying their moment on the silver screen and in a plethora of video games. The next Marvel icon set for the big-time treatment is the illustrious Iron Man, who's set to be the centerpiece of an action blockbuster in spring 2008 and a video game from Sega at around the same time. Though it's still very early in development, we got a chance to get a quick peek at the game to see where it's heading.
If you're not familiar with Iron Man lore, here's the quick primer: billionaire industrialist (and debonair playboy) Tony Stark spends his millions on a suit of armor that essentially turns him into a human tank--only this tank can fly, blast repulsor rays, and toss around ICBM missiles like they were twigs in his backyard. In the game, you'll play as Iron Man, battling a host of enemies in a game whose story borrows both from the upcoming Iron Man movie (starring actors Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges), and more than 40 years of Marvel history.
The E3 demo of the game showed off Iron Man flying through a snowy mountain range while he battled enemy forces holed up in military encampments throughout the level. The different kinds of weapons Iron Man faced were of a fairly generic sort--standard tanks, SAMs (surface-to-air missiles), and anti-air guns, but they gave a good indication of the different kinds of abilities Iron Man will have in the game. His main weapons will be repulsor rays, shot either from his palms or from a node on his chest, as well as missiles that weren't shown in the demo. Repulsor rays shot from his chest are more powerful than those from his hands, but will drain more of Iron Man's energy (indicated by a vertical meter on the left-hand side of the screen).
Though the control scheme hasn't been finalized yet, the development team currently has Iron Man's "hover" and "fly" abilities separated on the controller. When hovering, Iron Man will be able to drift from side to side, and it will make it easier to fire his repulsor rays at objects. When flying, you'll be able to fly at normal speed and super-speed, the latter of which will presumably offer you less maneuverability as you streak through the sky. One of the interesting restrictions on the current level was that if Iron Man flew too high into the air, he would be blasted by missiles from enemy MiG jets flying overhead. They weren't enough to bring him down completely; instead, they just kept him close enough to the ground to be in enemy weapon range.
One of the coolest moves we saw in the game was Iron Man grabbing ahold of incoming missiles and redirecting them back at the launcher that shot them. It's indicative of the kind of power Iron Man will have on hand. The mountainous landscape seemed to indicate a fairly open approach to gameplay, though as developers pointed out, the battlefield will be constantly evolving with new challenges for Iron Man to face as he explores the levels.
Though Sega was non-committal on which Marvel villains or heroes would appear in the game, we did see some familiar names in the game, including Tony Stark's best friend Jim Rhodes, and Avengers butler Jarvis, both of whom will provide audio tips and inform Stark of new mission objectives as you go. Stark's sassy secretary Pepper Potts will also reportedly be a part of the video game as well. And while we're hoping for plenty of cameo appearances from Marvel luminaries, we're also hoping we get to see plenty of different armor configurations for Iron Man. Sega was tight-lipped on that as well, though it did note that Tony would be able to upgrade his armor as he goes. We're personally keeping our fingers crossed for the red-and-silver getup from Shellhead's West Coast Avengers days.
For Iron Man fans, the wait for the game (and the movie) seems interminably long, as both are scheduled for a spring 2008 release on a multitude of platforms. We'll be keeping our eyes on this game's progress over the coming months and bringing you all the latest information.