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SEGA Talks “Iron Man 2” Game

by  in Video Game Comment
SEGA Talks “Iron Man 2” Game
Iron Man and War Machine character designs

While the first “Iron Man” movie went on to become a blockbuster when it debuted in 2008, the video game of the same name didn’t quite reach the same level of success. Fun flying mechanics and great superhero moments (like catching missiles and throwing them back at enemies, or tearing helicopters in half) were overshadowed by complex controls, spikes in difficulty and somewhat repetitive level design. Issues aside, the game did go on to sell well, over a million copies between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions alone, and like the movie franchise, a sequel was pretty much assured.

For “Iron Man 2: The Video Game,” SEGA brought in writer Matt Fraction of Marvel’s “Invincible Iron Man” comics series to help craft a new storyline, and the developers made several enhancements to the gameplay, improving everything from the controls to the customization options. SEGA’s Michael McHale is the Development Director for “Iron Man 2,” and this week he talked to CBR News about what’s changed, and how the game is offering a different experience from the movie.

CBR: Whenever you make a sequel, you obviously want to improve on the things that didn’t work so well in the first game. On the flip side, though, what were the high points from the first game that you wanted to carry over to “Iron Man 2?”

MICHAEL MCHALE: The challenge of creating an Iron Man game that truly delivers on what the character can do is that you have to create a hybrid style of game – part shooter, part melee fighting with a little flight simulation action thrown into the mix. We didn’t want to take any of that away from the player, but we wanted to make it more accessible.

The best thing about the first game was the feeling of flying the Iron Man suit within large environments. For “Iron Man 2,” we wanted to make it easier to control, yet maintain that feeling of power and freedom when you fly through the world.

People really liked having the ability to customize the suit in the first game, so we took that feature and greatly expanded upon it in the new game.

Screenshots from “Iron Man 2” game

We know the story in the “Iron Man 2” game is different from the movie, and that writer Matt Fraction was involved in creating the story for this game. Can you share with us any specifics about the plot?

We created a new story for the game that exists within the film universe, yet is entirely new. We wanted to capture some of the existing themes from the film, so the story touches upon Tony’s brilliance and the idea that powerful technology can be used for harm or for good. In the past, Tony had certain weapons programs that were deemed to be too dangerous to continue. One of his old research projects comes back to haunt him in a big way.

Since you’re not beholden to the movie as far as story, have you added story elements or characters from the comics that aren’t in the movie?

We’re all big fans of the comics and wanted to include some of the great characters from Iron Man’s rich comic book history. The key was making sure they fit within the film universe. There are actually trhee different versions of the game, the 360/PS3, Wii/PSP and DS, and they all have some different characters included that are not in the film, such as Valentin Shatalov (who suits up as Crimson Dynamo), A.I.M., Roxxon, Mauler and Firepower.

From what we’ve seen and heard so far, the flight mechanics seem to be vastly improved from the first game. How exactly are they different?

The main problem people had with the controls for flight in the first game was the transition between ground/hover and flight. For “Iron Man 2,” we designed a new control scheme that stays consistent across all movement modes. When you are in flight mode, you essentially move the camera by steering the character, so you now steer in flight using the right stick, which is consistent with the other movement modes. You won’t be dive-bombing into the ground when you hover forward and then switch into flight mode!

You’ve also placed more of an emphasis on melee combat. What’s changed, and how will players be able to customize their fighting styles?

By providing some interior environments with tighter spaces, we force you to get up close and personal with your enemies, so melee combat is a more important part of the game. Iron Man and War Machine have three fighting styles that are unique for each character and two of the melee routines can be slotted into your suit at any given time. You can quickly switch between them during gameplay. All of the melee routines can be upgraded to unlock new moves.

Screenshots from “Iron Man 2” game

Speaking of War Machine, is he available as a playable character from the start of the game, and can you play through the entire campaign with him?

War Machine is available at the beginning of the game and you are given a choice between Iron Man and War Machine for most of the missions. In order to tell the story properly, we do have certain missions that require a specific character, but, essentially, you can play the entire campaign with War Machine if you choose to do so. You can always go back and replay missions with the other character and other unlockable suits.

How differently does War Machine play from Iron Man in the game?

Iron Man is a faster character with lighter armor and has access to more energy-based weapons. Iron Man has the unique ability to hack mechanical enemies and turn them against your foes. War Machine is the heavy ballistics guy. He uses brute force during his attacks and has his own unique weapons, such as the gatling gun. He is slower but more powerful. They are both very fun to play and offer a different experience.

How about co-op? Will players get to team up as Iron Man and War Machine either locally or online?

We discussed this at the beginning of the project but the concern was that we wouldn’t have enough time to balance and polish this feature in time for the movie release. The two characters do interact with each other during the game and the dialogue changes based on which character you have selected to use in the missions.

It seems like there will be a lot of flexibility in how a player approaches a level-ground vs. air combat, Iron Man vs. War Machine, etc. How difficult is it to balance the gameplay so that it’s satisfying no matter how a player decides to approach a given situation?

We offer the player a lot of choices in how they approach the missions, yet we give the player reasons for using all of the tools and tactics at his or her disposal. For example, it is more advantageous to be on the ground if your shields and ammo are running low; they recharge and reload faster because you aren’t using power to hover or fly. However, your movement is slower and you become an easier target for the enemies to hit, so you’ll want to take to the skies again.

Ultimo character design

We spent a lot of time play-testing the game and making sure the characters and weapons were properly balanced. Iron Man and War Machine each have their advantages and disadvantages so it really comes down to personal preference.

Finally, one of the coolest things about Iron Man is the collection of armors he has at his disposal. What can you tell us about the armors players will have access to and how they’ll be able to customize them?

We have a large number of armors that you can unlock in the game and you have a lot more customization options in “Iron Man 2.” When you complete missions, you earn a certain number of data points, depending on how successful you were. These data points can be used to research new technology, such as new ammo types and modules. After you have opened up new technology, you can fabricate new weapons using that technology, and then slot them into your suit. For example, I can take a missile launcher, add a module that improves my reload time, and add explosive ammo for higher damage.

We also tried to remove most restrictions in how you customize your suit, meaning you can load up the suit with several sets of the same weapon if you want. If you want to mount lasers on each shoulder of Iron Man, you can do that (which is awesome, by the way). If you want to load up War Machine with all missiles and rockets, you can do that too. It is up to you. Two weapons can be fired at the same time using the left and right triggers and you have a total of four weapon slots that can be accessed during the mission.

SEGA’s “Iron Man 2: The Video Game” will be arriving May 4, 2010 for the DS, PS3, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360.

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