X-Men Review

Posted in Reviews,Xbox 360 by Michael Pica on the July 12th, 2006

[this is a repost of the original article posted on Xbox-Scene.]

The X-men movies have been doing well in the theaters and on DVD over the past few years. With the release of the third and final film into theaters comes the first video game based around the X-men movie franchise. While the game uses characters and locations from the films, as well as video game likenesses of the real life actors, the plot line is completely different. The game carries an alternate storyline that in some ways fits between the second and third films and in other ways replaces all three. Without giving anything away I’ll say that while the story’s ending provides closure they throw a small blurb in at the end with a “to be continued…” it’s unclear if the “continued” portion will be a second game based in the movie’s universe or if it was simply alluding to the third film. Despite the game’s logo being identical to that of the X-men 3 film the game doesn’t actually have 3 in the title; it’s simply “X-Men: The Official Game”. Similarly if you’re hoping this is a third X-Men Legends game you’re out of luck, this title has nothing to do with the X-Men Legends series.

TITLE: X-Men: The Official Game
PUBLISHER: Activision, Inc.
DATE RELEASED: 5/17/2006
HDTV Support: 720p
5.1 Surround Sound: Yes
GENRE: Action
PLATFORM: Xbox 360, Xbox, PC, PS2, Gamecube, GBA, NDS
ESRB: T (Teen): Language, Violence
Retail Price: $59.99 USD

X-men mostly plays like your run of the mill beat-em-up; though, it does have a few twists, thankfully. The game is essentially split up into 3 types of levels each type dedicated to one of 3 X-men characters; Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and The Iceman. Wolverine’s levels are straight forward; run around and mash on the X and Y buttons to beat people up, there are blocking and dodging maneuvers too but they’re pretty useless unless you’re fighting a difficult boss or re-playing the game on the “Superhero” (Hard) difficulty. I was pleased to see that Wolverine could heal, but apparently the developers thought it was such a handy game device they gave the other characters the ability to heal as well. Nightcrawler’s levels are more interesting with the ability to teleport, While the goals of Wolverine’s levels are typically “kill everyone and move forward” Nightcrawler’s levels have a good mix of brawling, and sneaking, they’re also the only levels that require you to use any real strategy (though not much). The Iceman’s levels all have him surfing on his own ice-shoot and he has the ability to shoot an “Ice Beam” (sort of a blue laser) and an “Ice Blast” (blue rockets). He can also block using an “Ice Shield” but much like Wolverines blocking and dodging maneuvers it’s pretty useless with the exception of two levels when played on the Superhero difficulty. Given the Iceman’s skill set in the game his levels, rather then play like a run of the mill brawler, play like a run of the mill shooter. For his levels you either fly around in circles shooting things, or you have a time limit to fly through a tunnel avoiding obstacles. Sometimes they’ll be tricky and give you a time limit to fly around in circles shooting things. Storm also makes a cameo in a couple of levels providing a “kill everything on the screen” lightning bolt that you can use to help you out. While each character uses a different control setup (each with their own options for tweaking the controller) the controls are pretty straight-forward with only one or two moves that might trip you up.

The first three levels of the game are of course training missions to get you acclimated with the different control styles for the different characters. After that you move on to the generic “meat” of the game. Each character also has at least one boss battle at some point. Once you’re through the training levels you’ll start to have choices. The plot driving ‘tween level cut-scenes will have the X-men splitting up to perform different tasks as the player you’ll have the choice of playing through which ever path you like. I thought this was a great idea when I first saw it but unfortunately seeing as the game is so short they make you play through every possible path before moving on to the next section of the story. Even if it would have shortened the game further it would have been nice if it were setup like a “choose your own adventure” book, encouraging you to play through multiple times to see how the different paths turned out.

The cut-scenes are the only things that move the plot forward, you don’t uncover anything or make any advances while the user is in control. Also rather then use movie clips the cut scenes play like an animated comic book with the likenesses of the movie’s actors shown in still frames with the occasional light animation. I’m not sure how I feel about them. Sometimes they’re perfectly suiting for the game, other times they feel incredibly cheap and corny.

Graphically on the Xbox 360 the game feels like it could have easily been made on the Xbox 1 with the exception of the occasional high resolution texture or particle effect. Dare I say it’s one of the worst looking games on the console so far. that’s not to say it looks BAD just that it’s not nearly at the level it could or should have been. Especially for the extra $10 they charge over the-last gen versions. Overall the game looks dull and drab. Most of the textures are fairly muddy for an Xbox 360 game and most of the surfaces look the same. By comparison the cut-scenes are often bright and vibrant (like a comic book) which make the actual game graphics feel that much more lifeless. They didn’t seem to make use of any modern graphical effects and the polygon count is incredibly low; that is to say getting near just about any object in the game you could easily pause the game and count the polygons. The character models are a little better then the scenery but not by much. On the Xbox 1 this is forgivable because some of the levels are fairly large so low poly models would be somewhat acceptable but with games like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, or Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter on the Xbox 360; games with such expansive yet still highly detailed graphics, X-men comes off as being graphically apathetic by comparison. Even some of the menus look low res. when you first boot the game before displaying the main menu there’s a graphic of the circular door to Cerebro sliding open and it looks like a low-res highly compressed jpeg… it made me cringe whenever I put the disc in.

The Audio is about as generic as the rest of the game. Sound effects are pretty standard occasionally getting repetitive (but only because the game has you repeating the same action over and over again). Most of the voices sound like they were done by the movie’s original actor or a very close facsimile. Occasionally during gameplay the character will say something that you might expect that character to say. The music is better then the sounds in the game providing the same type of epic orchestra backdrop, theme-music, you might recall from the movies. It easily sticks out more then the other audio aspects of the game but at the same time it does get a bit overused and can drill into your head if you’ve been playing for a few hours.

As far as replay value goes X-men does provide some but nothing too substantial. Each level has six hidden artifacts. Five “Sentinel Tech” pieces and one “Weapon-X File” collecting these artifacts is useless unless you collect all of them for a particular character’s levels. Collecting all of the Sentinel Tech or all of the Weapon-X Files for a particular character will unlock alternate costumes for the character. One alternate costume will be the characters causal close from the movie, the other alternate costume is a classic comic book style version of the character. While these make a nice addition to the game, by the time you’ve earned them you’ve already beaten the game (possibly more then once if you had to go back to collect pieces you previously missed). For the most part the pieces are just sitting out in the open and they all have audible hums that alert you to their presence for those that are hidden (similar to the Nirnroot in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion). So they shouldn’t be too difficult to collect anyway.

Another game mechanic that might encourage you to go back and play are the Mutation Upgrades each level provides you a number of genes you can place in the characters DNA to improve their health bar, attack damage, special abilities, etc. The number of upgrades a level provides can range from nothing to four and often will give you more for completing the level at a higher difficulty level. Most levels will provide one upgrade for Novice (easy) difficulty, two upgrades for the Hero (Normal) difficulty and three upgrades for the Superhero (Hard) difficulty. Playing through the game at the Superhero difficulty from the start can be overwhelmingly difficult but playing through it most of the way on Hero and going back and replaying at the Superhero level (after you’ve got a good number of upgrades) is unbelievably easy. I was able to go back and re-beat all of the previous levels in a little over 2 hours on the Superhero difficulty. The real question is: Why would you bother? Aside from doing it just to see the 100% text on top of every level Xbox 360 owners will be rewarded (handsomely) with GamerPoints for collecting all of the Mutant Upgrades. Owners of the last-gen version of this game would only have the motivation of doing it “for fun”.

Three Achievements are awarded for finishing each of the three training levels (a whopping ZERO points). Three Achievements are awarded for finishing each of the three acts. Three more for Collecting all the sentinel tech, three more for all the weapon X files, and three more for collecting all of the mutant upgrades (over half of the points are earned here). And one last achievement that you earn by completing all of the other achievements (creative huh). For the Gamerscore-whores out there the game gives next to nothing for achievements until the end of the game (so long as you collected all the stuff) and you wont even get half of the points until you re-beat most of the levels on the highest difficulty. Even still if you’re a decent player you can 100% this game in a weekend.

When it comes down to it the game is terribly generic, standard fair gameplay, drab last-gen graphics, with a few elements throw in the mix to help keep it interesting but not nearly enough to save it from homogeneity. If you’re a fan of mindless beat-em-ups, a die-hard X-Men fan, or a gamerscore whore you might enjoy this game for a rental. It does provide some beat-em-up button mashing action that’s hard to find these days, but it also reminds us WHY it’s hard to find. Die-hard X-Men fans might be interested in seeing the alternate story line, and gamerscore whores might find themselves 1000 points richer after a marathon weekend session.

Overall I give X-Men a 6.0 out of 10

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