The world is in trouble and the X-men must save it by dancing!!
X-Men Legends is a rare breed of game; it's a superhero game that is good. Iíve always liked superheroes and comics, but for some stupid reason most games that feature them suck. The X-Men haven't been immune to bad games either, with the notable exceptions of the X-men arcade game, the Capcom fighting games that feature the X-Men, and X-Men: Clone Wars for the Genesis (a title they could never use now). Otherwise, the market has been filled with shitty superhero games. Thankfully Raven Software, the creators of X-Men Legends, cared about their license.
The plot of X-Men Legends is a mix between the first film and almost every cartoon and game plot I've seen before, but it works for the purposes of the game. The story begins with the Brotherhood of Mutants out to get a new mutant named Alison. The plot then serves to bring the X-Men through a lot of familiar story points, but it does provide some great and satisfying twists along the way. The locations of the action take place both in and outdoors at some pretty cool looking locals. During the first outdoor area I was pretty disappointed, but the rest of the levels were much more impressive. In addition to the main plotline, you are given the chance to go on some flashback missions as well. These were some of my favorite points in the game, even if there were only a few of them. It was great playing classic moments in X-Men history and it was cool seeing the characters in their more traditional costumes from the different time periods depicted.
The difficulty is about were it should be, sometimes fairly easy and at other times challenging. The most difficult part of the game was item management. There are only so many health packs that can be carried and they are shared by the team. Sometimes there are so many extra health packs that they are strewn about a level, while at other times youíll be starving for just one. Character death isnít that big of a problem, which I liked. The most challenge with fighting came from boss battles that could be fairly difficult. The gigantic end battle had most of my X-men dead, but I was left with a satisfied feeling that I actually accomplished something as opposed to breezing right through the game.
The game-play is a mix between RPG and beat-um-up with more of an emphasis on the beat-um-up aspect. You control an X-Man while the computer controls three others. You can pick any of the X-Men out of the squad of four you want for skull crushing fun. At several "Xtraction" points scattered throughout the levels you can change out your team. Tradition RPG elements like collecting items, picking up cash, and leveling are all found here. There arenít any traditional RPG character types though, since most of the X-Men could be considered spell-casters and none of them can heal others. The X-Men powers are all fairly close to those found in the comics and they become more powerful as the game progresses. Character death is handled by paying for their resurrection, but at a price. Reviving fallen heroes uses up tech-bits that are collected during game play and they can be used as money for buying items, health, and energy. You'll find yourself using most of your loot reviving fallen X-Men though, since 99% of the items that can be purchased are actually dropped or found in-game. These items come in handy in the game and include things like traditional RPG stat boosters. Other items unlock extras like comic book covers and production sketches. The only items of the like that I enjoyed finding, however, were the danger room course discs that opened up more danger room scenarios to play around in.
Mission objectives are rather mundane and repetitive at times. In an early level my X-Men had to take out nearly every power transformer in the world in order to enter a research facility. Most of the missions are like this; destroy something or push a button and move on. There are other objectives that make the game a lot more fun so this isnít that big of a gripe in the long run. The only other complaint I have is the repetition of beating up the same standard characters over and over which gets old sometimes, but this happens in nearly every RPG or beat-um-up so it didn't bother me that much. Over time, the objectives and enemies became a little more varied and inventive.
X-Men: Legends features a great amount of playable mutants, topping out at 15. Aside from the most popular characters and core team members like Wolverine, Cyclops, Gambit, and Storm, characters like Emma Frost, Jubilee, and Psylocke join the ranks. I liked the variety of playable characters, although most of them are essentially the same. I loved not being locked into picking any particular set most of the time, but I did find myself using Wolverine a lot because of his self-healing powers. A few of the X-Men have to use their powers to alter the level like Cyclops using his eye beam to seal up haul breeches on a ship, which can lead to you having to go back and pick the appropriate team member for that mission. It added variety to several of the missions, but the only problem with this is that the feature is underutilized. You end up having Iceman or Magma making 10,000 bridges, instead of doing a lot of other, and possibly more creative, alternatives.
There are a ton of details that make this game closer to the comics and stress the way the X-Men work as a team. The team has the ability of triggering combos when their powers are used in conjunction. In addition to the mutant powers that are used in combination, there are several moves which aren't as obvious on first glance. A computer controlled Nightcrawler can actually save an X-man from death by porting the stricken X-men out of the way. The most widely known move from the comics, the fastball special, can be done by any hero with super strength to pick up and toss Wolverine, which is especially fun in multi-player. One underutilized power, and nearly useless if not cool looking, is the ability to use flying characters like Storm to pick up and drop off other X-Men. Likewise, Nightcrawler can pick up and teleport X-men for short distances.
X-Men Legends also supports four player co-op at any point in the game, which I applaud. It can be pretty fun teaming up with friends, but it also can be tough considering the team has a shared health supply and a limited range of movement. The big bonus to having humans on your side is that while the computer is fairly good at controlling the other X Men, it can have them do stupid things like just stand around at times.
The graphics are excellent with a mix of cell shading and regular 3D renders to give that comic book feel. The only time that the graphics didnít work for me was in many of the cut scenes that used in-game graphics. The characters sometimes look like they have enormous hands and communicate telepathically since their mouths don't move when they speak. Other wise, the levels and animations look great even in the thick of things. Sound is rather ordinary, but both it captures a lot of the impression of how the comic book ďsoundsĒ in my mind. The only sound problem I had was during the CGI cut-scenes. The vocal channel was incredibly low compared to the music and sound. I'm not sure if this was a surround mix problem or what. The voice acting is good at times and borders at awful at other times. I think itís awesome that Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor X, since he's doing it for fun as opposed to washed up actors like Lou Diamond Phillips who plays the role of Forge.
The game itself is rather long. I played it so much that I actually began to grow a little sick of it, before the story hit its stride. Since this game is more beat-um-up than RPG, this has to be the longest beat-um-up in history. I finally clocked in at 30 hours, but that's with the bonus missions and some time in the danger room. This also isnít counting the extra skirmish multi-player function available outside of the campaign. This skirmish mode is like your standard multi-player match with options such as an all out brawl and variations therein. This feature adds a bit more playtime to X-Men Legends once you beat it, which is always welcome.
If you like hot X-Men action, you are going to get plenty of it indeed. X-Men: Legends is a fun game, but doesnít break any new ground. There are a few minor bugs that should have been fixed before launched and I don't thing this game will appeal to many non-comic book fans, but if you're into the X-Men or a comic book fan in general, you'll certainly like X-Men Legends.