|System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS|
|Dev: Liquid Entertainment|
|Release: May 3, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Let's face it, movie tie-in games never stand much of a chance of actually being good. Nonetheless, when I was told that the new Thor movie was getting not one, but three separate games by three separate developers across three separate consoles, I had some hope that one of them might be at least a semi-decent game.
Unfortunately, Thor: God of Thunder for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 is not that semi-decent game. It's pretty much what I expected from any other movie tie-in: a generic action game with a shiny coat of franchise paint. Unfortunately, Thor's coat of paint isn't even that shiny.
The story kicks off with a frost giant attack on Asgard. This makes Thor mad, so obviously he does what he does best: SMASH! Wait, no, that's the Hulk. Well, Thor beats the crap out of them anyway, and in the process gets tricked by Loki into releasing Mangog. For those of you who aren't Thor fans, Mangog is the sum total of the hatred of a million billion beings that were once killed by Odin, so the fact that he is released from his prison under Asgard is pretty much a bad thing.
I'm not a fan of the Thor comics, so I'm not all that interested in Thor's plot in the first place. But Thor: God of Thunder somehow manages to make it even more boring than it already is. Thor screws up, and then he has to try to fix it, and that's about it. Nothing else happens. There are a bunch of characters like Ulik, Ymir, and Surtur from the Thor comic that make appearances, but they are just roadblocks that Thor has to smash with his hammer, and their plot relevance is pretty much non-existent. I think the developers assumed anyone who was playing this game was going to be like "Oh awesome, remember that character from issue #64?" Somewhere in the middle they forgot they had to make the story accessible for the rest of us.
The gameplay system in Thor is a good idea gone wrong. Thor has access to a lot of moves. He can string hits together to create combos with powerful finishes, throw his hammer at foes at range, smash the ground to cause a quake, and call on the power of the lighting, thunder, and wind. He has a tech tree that you can spend "valor" on to learn new skills and abilities, and HP and MP bars for fueling his skills. He can counter enemy skills by dodging or reflecting them, and can dash, block, and jump really high in the air. There's even a rage meter that fills throughout the course of certain battles that, when full, can trigger an immense attack that alters the very terrain around you.
He also has a cool grapple system that lets him grab enemies and finish them off cinematically. However, unlike games like God of War that simply have you press the grapple button and finish an enemy off, Thor lets you choose what to do after you grapple. This allows you to string together brutal hammer strikes and thunderbolts. The bosses in the game are titan-sized beasts that Thor can climb upon, and they have multiple grapple points to work with. When grappling a boss, you can deal damage or leap to another grapple point at whim, making the boss fights incredibly dynamic. Even quick time events have their own choices that allow you to dismantle foes exactly the way you choose. Sounds fun right?
Well, there's one particular problem with this formula. None of that stuff I just mentioned matters one bit. You only need one thing to beat this game: the X button on an Xbox, and the square button on a PS3. Mash that button and you'll be just fine. You don't need to use other combos, or counters, or his god abilities, or ranged attacks, or any of that stuff. Every enemy, including most bosses, simply goes down as long as you keep mashing out attacks. Do you want to dash? Think again. Dashing leaves you wide open to enemy attacks. How about blocking? Nope. Blocking is slow and clunky, and it doesn't always respond. You might as well be using that time to smack your enemy some more. There is no depth to this system whatsoever. Even if you never upgrade Thor, you can still get through the game by mashing out attacks as quickly as possible.