Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hero of the Week #1: Wolverine

WOLVERINE (Marvel)  
Real Name: James "Logan" Howlett
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #181 (November, 1974)
Group Affiliation: Secret Avengers, X-Men, X-Force
Gaming Credentials: Wolverine (1991); X-Men (1993); Wolverine: Adamantium Rage (1994); X-Men 2: Clone Wars (1995); Marvel Superheroes in War of the Gems (1996); Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000)X2: Wolverine's Revenge (2003); X-Men Legends (2004)X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #6

When I'm hanging around here blowing off steam, you might not know that I'm actually neglecting a much longer running blog called, Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. In a nutshell, that's the place where I indulge in the lows and highs of comics culture, featuring superhero fights like a big weird pseudo-sports league. Like a lot of great comics themselves; I like to think it's a lowbrow vehicle with highbrow ideals.

In an effort to reconcile the gap between the two blogs, I generally use my own references when linking to details of relevance. Fortunately for me, superheroes are inexorably linked with video games, and while it might seem slightly obtuse for the uninitiated, it's not really that much of a stretch to spotlight a superhero each week. Wolverine's a great example of that!

Wolverine has a long and sordid past in video games, but his most recent outings have all shown just how at home the character is in the gaming arena.

Early appearances famously hindered trademark attacks as the conventions of 8-bit gaming struggled to reconcile the capabilities of a claw slashing, brute sniffing, always healing mutant into the conventions of the time. While some suffered on a fundamental level that forced the usually agile hero into clumsy platforming, others succeeded at failing on more deliberate levels, like the various games that penalized players for popping a blob of white pixels representing his famous adamantium-laced claws.

The revolution of 3D gaming brought with it many challenges to be navigated in order to unlock the massive potential of the added plane. Through the last few generations we've seen in-game logics gradually let go of the boxed-in fundamentals that constrained early games, adapting the rules to represent a heightened state of hyper-realism.
The introduction of stealth elements, 360 directional environments, diverse enemy AI, adaptable visual displays, and designs that minimized the importance of life-and-death scenarios, all played directly in to the hands of a character like Wolverine.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, like the film it was based on, had it's creative issues as a result of contemporary influences ("IMO"), but it made the next vital step toward realising superheroes (and Wolverine in particular) in all their visceral glory.

The most prominent feature unique to Wolverine was the graphical impetus for ramping up the violence.

Despite being a custom-designed killing machine with knives sticking out of his hands; it's been a struggle to ever see that adequately represented in any satisfying form, let alone put in the hands of gamers. Raven Software's graphical impetus for ramping up levels of blood and violence might not have put forward an argument for superheroes as chin-rubbing philosophical cyphers, but it seems safe to say that it announced the guilty visceral extent the character and games are capable of reaching far better than the film.
Of course, as much as Origins pushed a version of realism to some success, that does nothing to discount the classic almost literal version of the character that will return in 2009's rereleased downloadable version of Marvel vs Capcom 2!

Despite being best known for their free-flowing superpowered melees in comics, developers have made regular efforts to capture the energy of superhero fisticuffs under the ceremonial restrictions of single-plane 2D fighters. Results have ranged from the average to downright mediocre, but unsurprisingly, the seasoned masters at Capcom found a way to make it work.
Vital to their success was the graphical fidelity and artistry that made this 2D fighter an enduring staple of the 3D era, defying contemporaries like Tekken and Virtua Fighter with it's bold and accurate representations of characters from the comics, and fluid, fever-pitched combat. Wolverine never once lopped an opponent's limb off, or suffered a career threatening impalement, but still felt beautifully accurate in his various movements before the inevitable berzerker barrage.

Over in the comics, the Wolvster's still wrapped up in all the universe-spanning guest-appearing action that made him infamous. Today, however, let the record show that our Hero of the Week isn't just a secret avenging X-man, but a gaming super-stud, as well.

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and general good time.

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