Raven Software
Activision
Action RPG
1-4
09.22.04

X-Men Legends


There have been many, many different incarnations of X-Men games in the past that vary from typical 2D side scrollers to crossover fighting games. X-Men Legends breaks new ground for the series by being the first game that features the X-Men in a Role Playing Game (though it would be more precise to call it an Action-RPG that takes place in 3rd person). Activision and Raven Software have done a nice job in bringing RPG elements into the X-Men universe, and Legends, though not perfect, should keep many-a Marvel fanboy happy. Here, Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants are up to no good, and it's up to you and your handpicked team of benevolent mutants to save the day! The game has a low learning curve, and just about anyone can pick up the game and get playing since it doesn't require an intimate knowledge of the X-Men series.

Gameplay

Don't let the fact that this game is an RPG fool you: X-Men Legends, on the surface, plays very much like a beat-em' up style adventure game. Throughout the game, you'll encounter a swarm of baddies, both run of the mill and Brotherhood of Mutants alike, who throw themselves upon you and practically beg for punishment. The game features a nice combo system, which is elaborate yet simplistic at the same time, where many combos can be achieved by using only two buttons; this makes it very accessible for novice players. The game also provides chances for you to practice the combos in the Danger Room (when you unlock the training mission for it).

It wouldn't be a X-Men game without mutant powers though, and all of the characters have their trademark abilities. There are even special combos that can be used between multiple characters to create devastating attacks against opponents, and the game will reward you more experience points for doing so. Throughout the game, situations will be brought upon the player where they will have to use their abilities to get around certain obstacles. For instance, early in the game, there's a ravine that needs crossing, and you'll need to take advantage of Ice-Man's freeze ability to create a bridge for your team to cross.

However, it would also be incorrect to say that the game is purely hack-and-slash: X-Men Legends gives the player the ability to customize their character any way they like. The building system uses the traditional experience point system, and players can upgrade the character's attack strength, mutant powers, defense, and other special abilities. For players who hate to be bothered with distributing attribute points, the game will do it for you automatically, should you chose the option. It should also be noted that X-Men who aren't on the playing field much are still receiving experience, though not as much as the ones who are getting their hits in. This is nice, since you don't have to swap in critical teammates who may only be a crutch at some point in the game. Each character is also capable of equipping certain powerups which will augment things like critical hit chance, hit point regeneration, and so on. These items can be found while adventuring, or can also be bought from Forge's shop with TechBits, the game's currency. The game tends to put greater emphasis on action more so than the role-playing, but it saves the player the headache of having to be very precise about upgrades.

The game allows you to have one or more X-Men (up to four) in your party, each controlled by AI behaviors, which you can set at your leisure for each party member. These control how aggressive or defensive your X-Men will be, and whether or not they'll use the party's items to heal if their health drops below a certain level. The scheme works well, allowing the player to not have to constantly micro-manage each character during play. Without much effort, the NPCs can be tailored to your precise pattern of attack. The player can switch between characters easily with the D-pad, which is handy when it comes time to use those special abilities. However, while teammates do what they're supposed to most of the time, there are certain cases where it can be rather aggravating. For instance, there was a time where my team stood near a cliff they needed to cross, and one of the team members meandered off the edge to their death for no reason. Thankfully, the game allows you to change your teammates, through Xtraction points, which are used for changing said members, and to save your games. The Xtraction points serve as plentiful checkpoints scattered throughout the game. There will be times (as mentioned before with the ice bridge) that changing your teammates may be necessary, and you can also use them to revive lost teammates, buy upgrades, and so on.

Most of the favorite X-Men you would expect to see are here: Wolverine (whom you start playing the game as), Storm, Cyclops, Ice-Man, Jean Grey, Beast, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Collossus, and Gambit. Various aspects of the X-Men universe are all blended together very nicely. In fact, quite early on in the game, the player can explore a good amount of the X-Mansion (which is huge!), and the expansive Subbasement, which contains the War Room, Cerebro's holding, and the Danger Room - something I thought I'd never see all blended together outside of the comic books. There are also small touches to the game which add to the experience, such as comic book covers (which are basically viewable as artwork in the main menu), and you can also answer X-Men trivia questions in the mansion to gain experience points for your characters.

In short, if you've played a game like Gauntlet or the more recent Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, you have a fair idea of what to expect here. This is the only place where the gameplay may become a little bit repetitive, since you find yourself spending a great deal of time running around when you're not bringing the pain to the bad guys.

The game doesn't feature system link or Xbox Live support, so you'll have your team right by your side (figurative and literally). The multiplayer game play isn't bad, and again, very similar to that of Dark Alliance. The only real issues are when a set of players have one person who's stuck behind a wall, or two players on opposite sides of the screen trying to go in separate directions. Other than that, it's what you'd expect it to be: a Brotherhood-bashing romp through various levels in the X-Men world...and it's fun to play together!

Graphics

The visuals as a whole are very well done. The environments are nicely rendered, and there really aren't any visual artifacts that get in the way of the game. Environment effects are also what you'd expect from the game: fire, snow, and other various particle effects suit the game's look and feel. Trash cans, fences, and other destructible objects will break in ways that they should. The game employs toon-shading for the character models to give them a comic-book feel. The effect works out well while playing in-game since the camera rests a bit of a distance above the characters at a three-quarters perspective. In cut-scenes though, the toon-shading doesn't allow character expressions to be seen, which tends to detract from the more dramatic dialogues, since the only complex emotion that can be conveyed is through voices. The game features some very-beautiful, albeit painfully short cinematics (painfully short, since you have to wade through in-game cut scenes much longer). Beyond these minor quirks, there is really little to complain about.

Sound

The sound in X-Men Legends is almost entirely on point. The games features a good set of combat sound effects, so you can enjoy a few classic one-liners from Wolverine, and there will be plenty of grunts and cries of pain from the baddies you'll plow down. The voice acting is also well done for the most part; Patrick Stewart does a superb job as Professor X, Mystique sounds just as I expected she would, and most others are also well suited for their roles. The only characters that need improvement are Cyclops and Beast. As far as the background music goes, it's mostly kept subtle, suited to the environment, and is heard usually when battling foes, while not really as much so when exploring the maps. This was a good call on the developer's part, since it can be annoying to hear the same track over and over again should the player get stuck trying to navigate their way through an area.

Replay Value

This may be the one aspect of the game that pales in comparison to the rest of it. Sadly the game doesn't offer much replayability due to the linear paths the game takes you through. The game does make it fair about changing up the team that you play on, since you can swap out any and all team members of your choosing (except for certain scenarios, such as stopping Juggernaut from his murder attempt on Professor X). However, even with the ability to swap out players, players may still find themselves "playing favorites" in the sense that they will continue to use the characters that they started with early on in the game, due to the difficulty of completing the missions with weaker heroes. Still, even the heroes who were once unused can definitely surpass their initially more-experienced counterparts after a certain time. Other than that, it's mostly just a romp to kill the bad guys, and pick up comic book covers, Danger Room discs, and Sketch Art pages for viewing in the collection.

Bottom Line:

Kudos to Activision and Raven Software for X-Men Legends! It's about time that someone brought the X-Men to life in a game that's fun to play! If you're a fan of the series in any way, you would be doing yourself a big favor by getting this game. The game has an engaging storyline, and being able to use the mutant powers of each X-Man on the waves of incoming bad guys is a blast. While it isn't necessarily perfect, anyone who finds entertainment in beat em' ups will have a grand old time with this game.

Related Links:

Official X-Men Legends Website

-Arthur Baczyk




8.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
8.5