Spring and Summer are slowly beginning to show their faces, and everyone knows what that means: The local picture-show house is about to be bombarded with superhero movies. Of course what that means for gamers is that they are about to be bombarded with the tie-in video games for those superhero flicks.
Published by SEGA and developed by Liquid Entertainment (Xbox 360, PS3) and Red Fly Studios (Wii), Thor's solo outing is a third-person brawler akin to God of War. While Kratos and Thor aren’t related, these games do paint a pretty clear picture of some deities with anger issues.
Matt Powers, the game's producer, was on-hand during the hands-on to walk players through the handful of demo levels, as well as provide a little explanation for the game’s setting. Powers’ main message regarding the game’s narrative was that it really has nothing to do with the movie’s story. This game stands on its own, but it also is meant to give players “another side of Thor.” Where the movie deals with the Norse God’s fall to Earth, the game has him stomping around on his home turf. This means that Thor is able to throw his mystical might around on other-wordly baddies that need a reminder of who wears the red cape around here. Keeping Thor in his element pits him and the player against foes that can actually pose a threat and therefore, can hopefully make for some good action.
Even though the game and the film have separate stories, dreamy Chris Hemsworth, who portrays Thor in the movie, lends his likeness and voice talents to the game also. Powers said that this link was important in acting as a bridge between the two experiences and “will make fans of the movie love the game and fans of the game love the movie.” The bits that I played didn’t really feature much in the way of voice-work, but the Hemsworth likeness is a solid translation of what people will see in the movie, making the character instantly recognizable to even the most casual of fans. Overall the game looked better than most movie tie-ins that tend to lack any graphical polish at all. Hopefully this continues throughout the entire game and not just in the portions I played.
As mentioned before, Thor: God of Thunder is a third-person brawler, God of War clone type of game, so what really matters is whether or not there’s any fun or mechanical depth to be found within the game's combat system. Unfortunately, this is where Thor’s hammer fails to hit its target. There were a variety of encounters playable, many of which featured a handful of grunt-style enemies followed by a larger, almost-boss type of foe. With a maxed out Thor (the game features a leveling up system as it progresses) at my disposal, there just didn’t appear to be much finesse or a ton a depth to the fighting. Controlling the mighty one and his blonde flowing locks felt stiff and a little clumsy while maneuvering on the ground. Aerial attacks were just as off, as Thor kind of floats there, waiting for you to smash some buttons. This tendency to float when I didn’t want him to created quite a disconnected feeling between what I was intending to do and what was actually happening on screen.
Thor has the standard basic attacks, a grapple attack and special God Powers, which include things like a lightning storm or earthquake tremor. But by Odin’s beard, I could never find a rhythm or feeling of fluidity when attempting to string together combos. The actions of punching, jumping, punching, landing, charging a power and then unleashing it all felt like separate, disjointed actions rather than one continuous display of fury.
However, it wasn’t all bad as the game does create a nice sense of the scale between Thor and the villains he dispatches. Even the throw-away fodder enemies towered over my little hammer-swinger. By the time the huge Frost Goliath showed up, an enemy so large that he uses the ice pieces of his fallen compatriots as armor, it was clear I wasn’t in Kansas anymore and that creatures like this do just exist in this universe. Fighting this monster consisted of pummeling him until it triggered a grapple opportunity that allowed me to scale the giant and decide where to start pounding. While it was nowhere close to something like Shadow of the Colossus, it’s a mechanic that could be fun as long as it isn’t used to death in the game.
If you’re excited about the movie or if you love the character, you’ll find a handful of things to like about Thor: God of Thunder. However, fans of the third-person brawler genre are going to notice that this god doesn’t shine as brightly as the other one I mentioned, and will notice the game’s faults almost immediately. Even though these first impressions mean I’m certainly not going to be rushing out to buy this game on day one, it did offer some fun moments and could be good for a quick play-through as a rental or bargain game.
Hopefully when Thor: God of Thunder comes crashing onto the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii on May 3rd, he’ll bring the thunder instead of just a drizzle.