Retrospect: X2 Wolverine’s Revenge


  • Released: 2003
  • Platforms: Xbox, Ps2, Gamecube & PC
  • Developer: Genepool

After completing Star Trek: Invasion (psx), I was given the chance to work on a game based around one of my all-time favourite comic book superheroes; Wolverine. Not only was it Wolverine, but it was also to be for the Next Generation set of platforms; Xbox, PS2 & Gamecube. As if those two things weren’t a big enough draw, it was also to be developed by a company I help founder; GENEPOOL.

..did I mention that it was a Wolverine game?

Part Lenil Yu, Part Joe Mad

Early on in development, the Producer on Activision’s side had a selection of writers he thought would be good fit for the project. In the end, we landed with Larry Hama. Larry had been the writer on Wolverine for few years back in the day and, was responsible for writing one of my all time favourite logan stories; THE HUNTER IN DARKNESS. That was such a great story, and the way it ended sent shivers over my arms.

We had Larry fly out to our offices in the UK, showed him around our new place (we were waiting to move in at the time) and talked about the game, his past, writing, comics, life..pretty much everything. He’s such a fascinating person, easy going, very likeable and humble. He told us about how he spent one Christmas at Richard Donner’s (yes, the Director!)  having dinner. They didn’t have hired help to clean their dishes, instead they and their guests did them. The next thing, he’s washing dishes and passing them to Lenoardo DiCaprico! I thought damn, the Donner’s are even cooler to me now, and I frikkin’ love LETHAL WEAPON!!

Dave "Blinni", Larry Hama, Myself and Han (art director)

While Larry was visiting, I also thought it fitting for him to come and see my beloved Manchester United play. Luckily at the time, I had access to a few season tickets, so off we went. We had a great time and I ended up giving Larry my MUFC scarf, for the cold days in New York. He told me recently that he still has it, and it works a charm 🙂

It was such an honor, and incredibly cool to work with him, and even more so to just listen to all he had to say. When working upon the game, he took my very lame game dialogue and story and made it so much richer, meaningful and fitting of the character(s) he knew so well. He also helped out Storyboarding some of the major cutscenes too.

We’ve spoken several times since, such a scholar and a gentleman. I knew we’d found the right person when we started to get the early “Character Descriptoins” from him. Here’s Larry’s description of Wolverine:

A hairy fireplug with a swagger. A guy who’s whole wardrobe will roll up inside a sleeping bag and bungee to the sissy bar of his Harley. He’s short, built solid. The type of guy whose hair starts at his forehead and ends at his ankles. Doesn’t shave often, but flosses.

Another great addition to the Wolverine crew was Mark Hamil. To be honest, when I was first asked to consider Mark, I couldn’t really see him fitting the role of Wolverine. After I received a few audio sessions back, I was floored. He nailed him! The mannerisms, the range and emotion he put into the role was awesome. I will never doubt thee again Mr. Hamil!

Obviously when you’re working with a franchise you love already, it puts a lot of pressure on you to perform. Did we do that? Unfortunately, we missed the mark by some account, and a big reason behind that was that we didn’t embrace his abilities enough, if anything, we try to subdue them, to control them, and this removed a lot of what was cool about being Wolverine.

Peek-a-boo

People also wondered why we took a stealth approach with such a character, which I find interesting coming from people who should’ve seen this as a part of Logan’s makeup. He was part of the infamous Weapon X team, which was basically a badass shadow ops group of soldiers. They used their abilities to achieve goal and it wasn’t  always by blowing out the front door and maiming anyone in-sight (ok, Victor Creed was a different matter).

We attempted to give the player more open areas to explore, with choke points here and there, but with a new team, new tech and a lot of money riding on it, we had to make some sacrifices. A lot of the levels were turned into point A to B tasks and several, what I thought to be key features were removed due to time and other factors.

To my defense, I did fight for what I believed made Wolverine what he was. I was simply overruled; sometimes being the lead designer and, a founder of the company was just not enough. I mean, who, being a true Wolverine fan would make it so Logan COULDN’T HEAL when his claws were out? Not me, and it still seems ludicrous even now looking back on it all.

THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

Some of the features that were removed/cut due to time and implementation factors:

CLIMBING

This is another facet I thought was cool about Wolverine. He could climb surfaces using his claws, utilizing his features for alternate routes into areas, avoiding enemies, gaining vantage points and creating interesting level components.

Wolvie and his claws...

DOOR PIERCING STEALTH KILLS

I wanted Wolverine to be able to Stealth Kill guards on the other sides of doors. When in his stealth/mutant senses-mode, players could see smell moats and enemy heat outlines through walls. The idea was simple, get close enough to the door, press the ATTACK button for a context sensitive move where he’d skewer the enemy on the other side. It’s something Wolverine would do, plus it used both his senses and his claws in combination with each other.

HYPERTIME

As we had events in the game that require the passing of time; guards patrolling, vehicle routes etc. I wanted a way players didn’t have to wait for too long for an opening to reveal itself again. So, with this, the idea of hypertime was formed. This is also something that I think would be a great addition to current games.

The mechanic behind Hypertime was simple; if the player didn’t move for a period of time, time began to speed up, slowly at first, but then incredibly quickly. This allowed timed events to happen more frequently, and players could clearly see set paths, timed intervals, lights would streak by, sound speed up and enemies would blur as Wolverine watched like a predator from distance. As soon as the player touched the pad again, everything would revert back to normal time.

PLAYABLE FLASHBACKS

During game, Wolverine would have flashbacks about the past he couldn’t properly recollect. While these happened, players had the option to enter and play them. This allowed us to facilitate awesome stories from Wolverine’s past that may not have been connected to the current story; Logan’s time as a Samurai in Japan for instance!

EXTENDED LEAP

I wanted something that tied into Wolverine’s agility, and to tie into his iconic  “two arm outstretched” claw leap. Rather than doing a double jump, I liked the idea of allowing him to spring HIGHER out of a crouch/landing state; a springboard leap. So if players ran, jumped onto a box and press jump again as he was rising from the initial landing, he would propel himself even further and higher.

CHAIN KILLING

We did have multi-enemy kills, but I wanted to develop a more free-flowing system that was based off timing, rather than pressing one button to “kill many”. I know the version we shipped with was more “user friendly” and simple, but it didn’t make much sense that it took Wolverine a few attacks to take out a normal soldier, yet one button press and 4 of them were dead.

The version we dropped involved the player to instigate an action; Stun. Once an enemy was stunned, Wolverine would have an interaction with that character, and as the kill animation happened, if others guards got within range, another face button would be displayed over their head. If players pressed quick enough, Logan would flip off one enemy to another, performing increasingly masterful kills. This was pre-God of War, and would’ve been the first time such a thing had been done (to my knowledge).

Concept for Omega Red

GAME TRIVIA

  • The game was originally called Wolverine; WEAPON X. It’s named was changed to tie in with the release of the first XMEN movie.
  • The original game had Spiderman in it too, but was removed on the request of Activision
  • Omega Red was originally in the game and was also voiced by Mark Hamil
  • One of our employees was sent to the film’s set which was incredibly secretive

As I was playing Crysis 2 recently, I realised how close their combat suit was to our GHOSTMAKER – Mutant Hunters. They were an elite task force that wore Alien Symbiotic suits that enhanced their vision, speed, strength & senses. Their suits were also supposed to HEAL them when wounded but, would revert on their hosts and kill them if they took too much damage:

Ghostmaker's and their alien muscle suits.

What Would I Do Now?

I’d really play up Wolverine’s abilities, and try to build a game around them.

  • Degradable Body & Real Time Healing – show the damage on Logan’s body, so people realize what he is and how it rebuilds. I want to see grenades take half his face/arm, but see him get back up, smoldering to F’ somebody up! Also knowing he has this ability allows for a lot of creative level design where Logan could put himself through PAIN to go a quicker route, or perform an act of heroism.
  • More Uses for the Claws – Climbing, severing power lines, clinging to moving surfaces, sliding down smooth surfaces etc. Then let the player have fun finding out how they could use them in the levels, just like Logan would.
  • Allow More Player Creativity – Remove the linear element and open up the choices to the player via multiple routes and plenty of environmental elements that can be manipulated via their abilities. Let players take them head on or go stealthy.
  • Bring back Larry & Mark!
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About Haydn Dalton

Creative Lead 30 Years Developing Games

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