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When it comes to videogame transitions from Comics, few franchises have fared as well as Marvels mighty mutants the X-Men. From Konamis sublime arcade Beat em Up through Segas excellent 16-Bit plat formers and Capcoms masterful X-Men: Children of the Atom, the X-Men have chalked up more impressive games than almost the entire DC Comics roster combined. Granted there have been blips, most notably the NES game, but compare their performances to poor Superman and see the gulf in class.
Sadly, the most consistently dull X-Games have all come since Activision acquired the license from Capcom. 3 dreadfully dull and sluggish pseudo-3D fighters and a generic 3D adventure game designed to tie-in with X2 hitting cinemas doesnt really stack up to the precedent set by other developers who have acquired the license over the years. X-Men Legends was supposed to change that. Billed as an Action RPG, the game was to feature a host of playable characters including all the necessary classics, Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Beast, fan favourites like Nightcrawler, Colossus and Gambit as well as lesser knowns like Magma, the games main focal point.
We open as she is just normal Alison Crestmere, a teenage girl whose mutant power to control lava manifests one day in New York City, causing both the X-Men, students of Charles Xavier who use their mutant powers to try and create peace between humans and mutants, and the Brotherhood, followers of Magneto, who believe humans should bow before mutants. The X-Men rescue her and take her in as one of their own, teaching her how to use her powers and become an X-Man, fighting the forces of the Brotherhood and nefarious Government organisations who experiment on mutants.
If there is one place in which the game will score a lot of points with X-Fans is the amount of characters and nods to the comics it provides, and I havent read comics in years so there were probably some I missed. Even if you look past the playable roster, which also includes Emma Frost, Rogue, Psylocke, Jubilee, Iceman, Havok and even the Professor himself, theres villainous appearances from all the classic Brotherhood villains like Mystique, Avalanche, Blob and Pyro, although Sabretooth is under-used with not even a cut-scene between him and Wolverine, and of course the daddy of all X-Villains, Magneto (while this might seem like a spoiler, the fact his noggin takes prominent place on the cover kind of gives his presence away), not to mention an appearance from the more obscure Shadow King. In fact its something you have to applaud the game for, it covers basically every base in terms of character inclusion, and does so in a non-crammed fashion. It even develops plot elements to be carried on in the sequel! Usually there is some villain who should be there or something niggly about the story when it comes to licensed games, especially involving franchises as deep as X-Men, but I do feel Legends gets things pretty much spot on in this respect. There are some things that will annoy fans (Wolverine 70s is his original costume, but not the one he originally wore in the X-Men, also Gambit gets mentioned on a Retro Danger Room mission from a time he didnt exist), but on the whole I feel fans wont have too much to complain about, but those whove never touched a comic wont be lost either, everyone gets a proper introduction.
While the game proclaims itself an Action RPG, Tarted up Beat em Up is a better description in my eyes. The crux of the gameplay is based around beating up waves of enemies and taking on tougher boss characters every now and again, only with the ability to level up and each character having a fairly impressive selection of special attacks at their disposal, all of which can also be improved upon the gaining of XP (Experience Points) from defeating foes. The only other way any RPG style elements come into the game are in the form of the Between Beat em Up bits where you take control of Magma to explore the X-Mansion and talk to the various X-Men and learn about their history. While these parts are good fun, they arent really integral to the game, so its really more like a bonus. The Mansion also allows you to hone your battle skills in The Danger Room, the X-Mens advanced combat simulator. This is especially cool for fans as it allows you to relive some historical moments from X-Men, like the 2nd X-Men battling Sentinels in New York City or the Juggernaut attacking the Mansion in the early days, with the characters costumes changing accordingly (See above Wolverine 70s statement). Also available in the mansion is a fun little X-Men trivia game that helps gain XP, as well as the ability to few concept art and comic covers the player finds scattered about the stages.
The meat of the game is played from a Third-Person perspective, from a raised camera angle, and sees you take a team from 1-4 X-Men on a mission that almost always revolves around beating up guards and a boss, although there is usually some Adventure element like flicking switches or destroying generators thrown in to try convince the RPG gamers they arent just playing a Beat em Up with Bells N Whistles. You have 2 attack buttons, an Action Button and Jump assigned to the 4 Face buttons, with Black and White being utilised to activate Health/Mutant Power Boosts you pick up, however things get interesting when you hold down the R Trigger, at which point the face buttons now control your selected X-Mans Mutant Powers. For example, playing as Cyclops, A punches, but hold down R and press A and he shoots his enemy with a laser blast. Its a simple, effective system that is easy to get to grips with and quite practical. Until you go beyond 4 Special Attacks at which point you have to fiddle about with R and the D-Pad, which doesnt work out too well in the heat of battle.
As I mentioned, there can be upto 4 X-Men in your team at once, which means 1 of 2 things: You can get friends over to play Co-Op or play with 3 bots. Both have their pros and cons. While Multiplayer is a laugh, the whole stopping to level up aspect disrupts the flow, and on single player, your bots are of questionable AI, not in battle, but when it comes to walking about, where they will constantly get in your way and block doorways. You can switch X-Man at any time during gameplay by pressing a direction on the D-Pad, however if a character dies, you can only revive, or draft in a replacement, at some scattered Xtraction Points in the levels, which also act as save-points.
I have to say that while it could have used some polishing, in general the way the game works is solid, easy to get into and is generally sound. However, it is guilty of severe repetitiveness. While I know all Beat em Up style games get accused of this, Ive always managed to get past it, but Legends grated my nerves a bit. The standard enemies just arent exciting, Anti-Mutant soldiers for most of the game, Acolytes for the latter. While things get spiced up when a certain group of giant, mutant-hunting robots are despatched, the lack of standard combat moves, coupled with the fact the game is in far too much denial of what it is to embrace a true Beat em Up combat system means the game can grow rather tiresome at points. Another bizarre thing that caused me some grief was the pace the game went at. It just seemed so slow, something particularly noticeable when you arent fighting and have to run around.
However, the thing that ticked me off most about the game was the necessary inclusion of certain characters for certain missions. Some levels require Jean Grey or Iceman to be in your team. Not are made easier, I mean if they arent there, you are trailing back to the Xtraction Point to change your team. This is frustrating for numerous reasons. For a start, hands up who wants Iceman in their team for over half of the game? Yeah, thought so. Almost every stage requires him to make an ice-bridge to pass over. Not only does this become incredibly tedious, but there is the fact X-Men other than Iceman could easily provide an alternate solution. Nightcrawler could teleport the team over, Jean telekinetically lift them, hell Storm could make an ice bridge! But no, its Iceman or nothing.
Graphically the game is uneven. In game, things are mostly competent. The stages fairly nicely detailed, if overloaded with almost-invisible walls, which I thought went out of games with the Nintendo 64. The character models, while very small, to accommodate so many onscreen, look quite nice too. Not brilliant, but decent for a multi-platform title. Where things fall apart a bit is the Cut-Scenes. You see, for these, Activision have tried to employ Cel-Shaded characters only they havent done them very well, so not only do they look like something from Rakuga Kids on occasion, but also clash with the 3D backgrounds dreadfully. Not only that, but the male characters are drawn in a really horrible fashion, like their shoulders arent wide enough, and with really cumbersome and unmoving hands. Its quite distracting, especially seeing as cut-scenes are usually the best looking bits of games.
Sound-wise, the game actually succeeds to a degree. The music does a job, if never veering into the spectacular, though the games voice acting is almost a unanimous success. Patrick Steward reprises his role of Professor X from the movies, which is almost a necessity, given that nowadays when I think Professor X, I basically think of Patrick Stewart, however none of his movie compatriots, or even cartoon voice actors take on recurring roles. With that said everyone does a good job of capturing the character they represent well, and its a rarity that I say this but not one voice in the game annoyed or distracted me.
When it comes down to it, X-Men Legends is a solid enough little title, but I cant imagine it will live long in the memory, and really doubt Ill ever play it again. With that said I dont regret giving it a play-through, and I doubt any fan of the X-Men would. Its quite a step off their best video gaming performance (off the top of my head I can name 4 better, and thats not counting appearances in Marvel group games) but at the same time its leagues away from their worst, and Activisions most positive use of the license. It can be picked up for next-to-nothing these days, and at a low cost, it will keep X-Fans amused for a few days if nothing else.
Review also posted on Epinions.com
I must admit this is one of the better role playing games that I have enjoyed over recent times, it is full of ation, quite challenging with very smooth game play.
In this game you choose a team of four however you start playing as Wolverine with the task of saving a new member of the X-Men team Magma. Magneto and his henchmen provide the opposition whilst the X-Men are made up of all the usual suspects.
Most of the game is spent riunning around fighting your enemies and you have two basic attack buttons to use however these can be used in various ways the create some realley effective combination attacks.
The story behind the whole game is smoothly communicated and keeps thepace movng along nicely and it does not feel like it gets in the way of the action rather it complements it. I certainly found the fighting action fast moving however betwen missions there is time to sneak away and heal up before the next melee.
Part of the way through the game Magma is released and is then available to help with missions, there are also extra levels which enable you to tour the X-Men mansion as her, meeting other characters and going into the Danger room to practice skills.
One of the objectives of the game is to earn points which you can then use to purchase extra abilities and either strengthen your defence, attack, health or power. You will need to do this as you progress in the game and come across stronger enemies.
I did find this a fairly easy game to master but that does not mean that it is not challenging and certainly it is very entertaining to play. It is also quite a long game to play so you get a lot of gaming for your money.
The graphics are excellent and the backgrounds are quite detailed and the characters stand out well against them. The fighting is realistic and very smooth and this helps make the game a pleasure to play.
Definately a game to consider and one that I have really enjoyed playing.
The first 3D action-RPG based on the popular Marvel characters, the X-Men, X-Men Legends challenges players to master the attributes of their favorite X-Men by creating, customizing and controlling teams of four mutants in real time. Assuming the role ...