Everyone knows who the X-Men are by now. From comic books, to videogames and movies Stan Lee has another million dollar franchise. The X-Men are legends in the comic book universe and have fought adversity since 1963. Does X-Men Legends have enough to become legends in the videogame universe as well?
X-Men Legends is the most anticipated X-Men game released simple because fans finally get some depth to the heroes comic book fans love. X-Men legends is labeled an RPG, but it plays off more like a dungeon crawl game like this year Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance 2. For the record I am a fan of the X-Men long before the movies came out and like everyone else I was excited about X-Men Legends release.
X-Men legends starts you off with their lead character Wolverine in ruptured street setting following the trail of the huge super villain Blob. While on your hunt you meet up with Wolverines X-Man rival Scott Summers, better know as Cyclops. The game really picks up once you have more than one character, and that's what X-Men Legends is all about. As you finish the mission you will start to get a grip on how the game plays, and it slowly becomes more fun. In a normal mission situation you have an X-Jet 'extraction zone' located on the maps by a giant glowing X. The extraction zone is where you can change your team members (with the maximum being 4), buy supplies, and save and load your game. Since you can't save whenever you like you will have to wait until you reach one to save and regroup. X-Men Legends does a good job of spacing the saves apart from each other which provides a little challenge.
Each mission plays off with a few objectives to carry out which many consist of getting to point A to B, and beat up as many baddies as you can along the way. The enemies in X-Men Legends don't regenerate, so once you finish them off that's it. You will also come across a few different situations besides beating up the baddies, but the game never makes the objectives impossible to accomplish. One point where Legends becomes a little tricky is when you need to use an certain X-Men's power to conquer a mini-obstacle. For example you will come over a number of broken bridges in your X-Men travels and if you didn't pick someone who can fill the gap you will be left with a divided team, or you might not be able to progress. Usually there is more than one way around the obstacles, but later on if you don't have the right party member you will have to backtrack to a drop zone to switch up your members. Always keep some characters on ice (hint) incase of those tragic downed bridges.
In total there are 15 playable X-Men which become available over the span of the game. Raven Soft made sure that X-Men Legends included enough chatters so X-Men fans could use some of their favorite super-heroes. Not to spoil the fun, but the first line-up of X-Men you get is the obvious Wolverine, team Leader Cyclops, naked Ice-Man, weather diva Storm, Jean Grey and Southern tough Rouge. Later you will get the rest of your crew which makes for a very impressive line-up of super-hero's and super-powers. Although they included most of the classic X-Men the story is focused around an older character who debuted in the New Mutants comic in 1983. Ailson Crestmere is the main character in X-Men Legends, and she is rescued by the X-Men. Ailson learns that she is also a mutant, and after some tribulations Ailson gets to be part of the team. Ailson then takes on the persona of Magma, a mutant who has the ability to control burning hot lava. Alison's character is pretty cool, and for a chance the focus is around a female super-hero and not the males. Of course hero's come complete with villain counterparts which I won't spoil. It's more surprising finding out the villains as you play through the game, and each main super-villain is set up as a boss. I already mentioned the huge blubbering Blob is in the game and I'll give you another easy one in Mystique. Besides those too you'll have to play the game to find out.
The super powers of each hero are respective of there comic-book counterparts and each character's powers can be customized and adjusted as you gain experience. Wolverine for example doesn't have his regenerating health until you put an experience point on that attribute. You can keep adding points until a characters powers are at the maximum, although with some powers you'll need to be at a certain experience level to activate them. Usually adding more points to one power like Cyclops Optical blast will increase its damage level, or it can increase the time limit a power lasts and the power it absorbs. A good example of this is the Rouge's flying ability or the amount of time she can be bullet proof. Each X-Men on average has three main powers, their X-Treme power, and a number of smaller foundation building options.
In X-Men Legends there is only one difficulty level which is on an average setting. If you want more of a challenge you can gauge the difficulty level by cutting back on the number of X-men you use and the amount you level the characters up. You could really make the game as difficult as you want formulating a real challenge by using only one or two characters. I almost didn't mention the hidden difficulty level... it's called horrible team AI, and the worst complaint I have against X-Men Legends. Half the time I wasn't fighting the villains, I was trying to keep my low IQ friends from getting squashed. Several times I just stared at the TV in amazement on the stupidity of my fellow X-Men, standing face to face with an enemy not even throwing a punch. Trust me at times they are more a hindrance then a help. Of course if you are playing the game with friends, you wont have these problems, but for the single gamer I know you'll find some rough edges.
The AI for the most part is pretty smart when talking about the enemies in the game. Soldiers will use a number of ranged and close combat attacks when necessary, they will also run away and find more troops when outnumbered by the odds. The boss battles are challenging which is nice and rightfully more aggressive then the average villain in the game. I was thoroughly impressed with the enemy AI, and compared to the friendly AI it's a leap. Let me get to the bad X-Men AI. First off the awareness level of the NPC's are way off, I could literary be getting attacked right beside three other X-Men and they would just stand there like nothing was going on. It happens so frequently that its more than a glitch, half the time I might as well be alone because they act like they are in another dimension. It doesn't stop there. It's unfortunate but your allied X-Men will also usually just stand around and take damage without using there superpowers to get out of a situation. Even if the characters focus energy is down they still should try and avoid being hit. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does you party usually gets whacked out. If that wasn't enough they friendly NPC's also have a hard time navigating and get stuck on walls and other obstacles from time to time. The problem isn't half as bad as the others but while I'm on the subject, it has to be said. I don't really understand the programming, but I assume the game was mostly tested in multiplayer. How could they have such great enemy AI and fall into a horrible mess with the computer controlled NPC X-Men? It's a mystery to me.
Overall the gameplay of X-Men Legends is closer to Diablo then Final Fantasy even with the title of RPG. X-Men Legends gameplay is based around running from obstacle to obstacle with a lot of fast pasted beat em' up action in-between. I would have rather had a different approach to an X-Men title, but since this is the best one out I can't complain.
Graphics & Sound
The visual style of X-Men Legends is borrowed from the pages of Marvel comics. The big lined cel-shaded characters and textures work very well and help build the nostalgic comic book atmosphere. Up close X-Men Legends isn't as pretty to view as it is from afar, but considering most of the game is played with a slanted top down angle this is easily forgiven. The frame rate rarely drops and the game can support a tone of characters in battle on the screen at once. The confrontations seem like little wars and can be awesome to see, I loved the power effects like Storms tornado or Jean's telepathic control. The animations of the X-Men look impressive and each character although limited in stances look classic in there most popular poses. The graphics are really done well for this style of game, but a little more detail would have made all the difference.
The graphical strong point would have to be in the level design. Although some levels are layed out in a basic cube, as you play the game you will come across some decently mapped out levels with stunning graphics. Considering the developers are working with the top down perspective, X-Men Legends surpasses all other dungeon-crawl type games. Plus the extra outside destructible walls surrounding most of the main walls is a great idea. The environments are truly almost 100% destructible which gives a high sense of power when crushing through rooms with claws blazing. Overall X-Men Legends is great looking game with a stylized approach, and for all you peeps with HDTV, X-Men Legends supports 720p.
The audio in X-Men legends plays off just as well as the visuals adding to the comic book ascetic. The effects have to be the high light right down to the classic "what's that bub!" one liners. The voices sound how you would expect them to sound and follow the formula laved down by movies and cartoons before. The did manage to get some Hollywood actors involved in the overdubs and it shows in the final product.
The sky is the limit when it comes to the possible amount of things you could do with the X-Men license. In X-Men: Legends we are faced with old gameplay basics shelled around some new ideas. X-Men: Legends innovates for the game genre and adds some interesting twists to character leveling.
The biggest innovation in X-Men: Legends is within its RPG element of character leveling. The best visual example of the dynamics would be within character strength. Characters that don't have much strength obviously won't do as much damage, but also might not be able to break apart certain items, smash through walls or eve lift different items. The game has put a weight number on everything in the game, so a chair will weigh more than a snowmobile. It's obvious, but an emphasis on an items weight hasn't been done on this scale. The stronger characters will be able to lift and destroy almost everything, except for the excessively large items which call for the uber strong. Don't worry you will be able to throw around cars like they are paper airplanes, it just takes a lil' bit of leveling.
Another innovation is the Danger Room game mode from the main menu. In the Danger Room you can select any environment from the game and battle it out multi-player or single. The innovative part about this normal versus mode is that you can use any of the characters, good or bad. So if you want to see if you can trample bunch mutants as a big purple sentinel, you can. It's a great idea, and letting players put teams of villains and heroes against each other is classic. The further you progress in the game, the more characters will be available. Make sure you check this mode out and it's a great little extra which you can spend even more time in then the main game.
The mojo category is what pushed X-Men over from being an average game, into a memorable game, into the best X-Men game ever. As fans will agree, it's just awesome controlling the X-Men characters in which everyone loves. It would be hard to find someone who doesn't love the sound of wolverine's claws tearing into his victims, or being in awe of Storms mastery of the weather. X-Men: Legends included everything X-Men fans wanted in the way of content and the danger room tops it off. X-Men: Legends gives us impressive game moments as the new X-Men and let's fans re-live classic moments taken straight out the comics. X-Men Legends mojo is out of control much like the Phoenix.
X-Men: Legends is by far the best X-Men game ever released, it gives fans a closer look into the super-heroes they love. The AI really has some flaws and overall the representation of Legends being an RPG is misleading. Aside from these flaws X-Men: Legends has loads of replayablilty, customization and super awesome cast of X-Men and villains. The action is fast paced, and it's great with friends over. It's not perfect, but there is an abundance to love with in X-Men: Legends.
Gameplay: 7, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 10. Final: 8
GOTY RUNNER-UP: MOST MOJO IN 2004
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy |
Oct. 7th 2004