PSN Review – Kick-Ass

May 24, 2010Written by Kishen Patel

The movie adaptation of the comic book series, Kick-Ass, released with a surprisingly critically-acclaimed response, besting review scores of even this month’s blockbuster, Iron Man 2. While comic book movies usually are hit-or-miss, sadly the same cannot be said for video-game adaptations for movies. That said, does this PSN downloadable movie tie-in live up to its arbitrary name?

Kick-Ass, for the PlayStation Network, at its core is a beat-em-up that pits players against miniature swarms of enemies in the shoes of Bruce Wayne-esque Big Daddy, adorably vulgar Hit Girl, and of course the star of the show Kick-Ass. As sweet as the thought of playing as any one of the three protagonists sounds, the practicality of the concept is not as kick-ass as it sounds.

Like any classic beat-em-up, Kick-Ass does not have a narrative strong enough to serve as an incentive to play until the end. Players basically climb a hierarchy of villains featured in the feature-film and face them one-by-one. The game refreshes players’ memories with a mix of live-action cutscenes from the movie and real-time gameplay with voice-overs pulls from the film’s dialogue. The end result is an almost laughable experience leading into the actual gameplay.

Speaking of gameplay, Kick-Ass consists of an overhead view of the player controlled character attacking with heavy and light attacks. On top of the physical fighting ability, the player also has a special abilities meter on the right side of the character’s health for use to help face down some of the more persistent foes. When it comes to enemies, artificial intelligence leaves a lot to be desired but on top of this grievance is that enemies gradually become harder rather than more difficult. As the enemies later in the game grow in strength and numbers, the players will feel more frustration than challenge to the point where players almost have to luck out of a stage, especially in situation where checkpoints are few and far.

The biggest disappointment came when we learned each of the three characters follow the same exact path as the other. Players, and especially fans of the comic book heroes, would have undoubtedly appreciated specialized missions and bleak narratives tailored to the character. The only changes that result in playing as a different one of the three characters are the attacks and special abilities which admittedly are not enough incentive to change the characters.

Fortunately, there is the least bit of complexity in the title spawning from the upgrade system present throughout the game. As players battle the waves of enemies, experience is collected which gives a set amount of skill points each time the character levels up. Where the complexity comes into play is the strategy required for progressive success. The skill points are expendable on defense, attack, and the character’s special ability. The catch is that the skill points can be redistributed to the other attributes by simply removing points from one characteristic and spending it in the other. This essentially adds a strategic element to the action by allowing players to boost their defense, attack, or special ability at will when the need arises.

Ultimately, fans of the movie and comic book series alike will enjoy collecting the hidden Kick-Ass comic books throughout the levels which will unlock the entire first issue of the Kick-Ass comic along with actual scenes from the movie as players progress through the levels. But is this fan-service worth the $14.99 for the short downloadable title? Clocking in at only three to five hours for a single play-through of a lackluster experience is a bit underwhelming considering the size of the investment, especially with the wide selection of more competitively priced content available on the PlayStation Store as it is.

Overall, Kick-Ass could be a guilty pleasure for everyone if it weren’t for the frustrating and repetitive gameplay, weak incentives provided for replay-value, and of course the fifteen-dollar price point. Although downloadable content is confirmed for the future, we can only imagine it would be the edition of the missing protagonist, Red Mist, along with some possible new missions. All-in-all, Kick-Ass not only lacks the quality and quantity for the average gamer but even for fans of the Marvel franchise.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Three playable characters with two-player co-op

Repetitive gameplay

Annoying camera angles and views

2 out of 10