System: Microsoft Xbox
Published by Activision
Developed by Raven Software
Players – 4 player Co-operative
They are Marvel’s superteam, rivalled only by the Avengers and DC’s Justice League. They are also the underdogs, mutants in a world where superpowers are common but mutants are hated and feared. They are the Uncanny X-Men. Led by Professor Charles Xavier, it all began 30 years ago with 4 students of Xavier’s School for The Gifted. Scott Summers, Hank McCoy, Bobby Drake and Jean Grey. Or as they came to be know…Cyclops, Beast, Iceman and…Jean Grey. Since they first debutted long ago they have developed an enormous following, which has inspired their keepers at Marvel to expand out into the world of multimedia, with comics becomming cartoon series, movies, books and of course videogames. Like many other liscenced videogames, the X-Men have had their fair share of good bad and ugly games, ranging from the classic arcade beat em up to the Capcom crossover fighting game X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, a game that helped form a whole new subgenre of fighting games.
What there has never been though, until now anyway, is a game that lets you take a sizable chunk of the team and bring it on a mission. There has never been an X-Men RPG. That is until somebody at Activision figured out what the fans have known all along, that part of what makes the X-Men so cool is the teamwork. So at long last fans of those crazy messed up gene pools have been given what they craved. An rpg based on Xavier and his band of mutants. How did it turn out? Well read on and I will tell you.
Well, it doesn’t start off on a good note, at least in terms of the review format. If I’ve had one real problem with the X-Men games over the years, it has been their reliance on old storys. Lets see, who makes appearances in this one shall we? Magneto and Asteroid M? Check. The Sentinals? Check. Wolverine’s personal hell, otherwise known as Alkaline Lake? Check. Mutant registration/Operation Vigilance? Check. All of this would have been cool, too, had they even bothered to pretend they were letting you experience it all again as the team, or something like that. What’s even crazier is that they really DO give you that option during the game in the Danger Room, as you can find and open Danger Room Disks that contain missions from the teams past.
But rather than do what I think would have been a good idea, they instead chose to rehash yet again all of the above storylines, and trying to give you an anchor to the story through one character, Allison Crestmere, or Magma as she becomes known during the game. As you progress through the game she progresses in her training until at last she becomes a full blown member of the team and becomes integral to saving the world. You know how it goes. Important story character is given extra powers to hang with your favorites. The good news is that Raven has done such a good job mixing her into the team you really don’t mind so much, as her training missions are seperate from the storyline missions, and when she is ready you will have wanted her in the field long before hand. The beginning of the game see’s Wolverine rescuing Allison from the clutches of Mystique and her Brotherhood of Mutants, and from there Allison must decide if she is to be a student with Charles.
Most of the graphics in the game are best described as adequate. The X-Men themselves are attired in their black movie uniforms, and the mansion looks alot like it did in the movies. This is basically where the reliance on the movies ends though, as all of the characters who weren’t seen in the films have their old recognizeable uniforms. You can unlock some other uniforms for the Hollywood bunch, and see what they looked like back when they were merely comic book stars. The environment that the gang runs around in and demolishes isn’t too shabby looking and can be very impressive until you give it a closer look. Take the sub-basement of the mansion, the secret hideout if you will. It looks very good when you first see it, but if you look closer you’ll see that the floor reflects objects like doors and things, but it won’t reflect your image, or that of any other character who happens to be near you. Just don’t be expecting Riddick or Halo 2 and you should be fine. I’m told the X-Box version supports some fancy hdtv stuff but since I don’t have one of those I can’t comment. Feel free to send me an HDTV though. I won’t mind at all.
There are good things and bad things about the sound in this game. Typically that applies to the voice work and to the music/sound effects. In the area of voice work Activision went the extra mile and got Patrick Stewart to return and do the voice of Charles Xavier. Where they didn’t go the extra mile for was the voice of everyone else. That’s not to say they got some chumps off the street to do it, no, in fact you will recognize many of the voices you hear in the game. I feel some of the voices wound up being miscast. Magneto strikes me as being completely wrong for the character. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tony Jay (his voice anyway), but the man who voiced Megabyte in Reboot and Shere Khan in Tailspin doesn’t suit Magneto. To me at least. At anyrate, if you can get over who’s saying it, the voice work is well done. There are no obvious mistakes in voice synching and it wasn’t made in Japan so the script was written in English from the very start. None of the other movie actors portray their game counterparts here, but there is a bit of a Star Trek reunion of sorts in Legends. Armin Shimmerman, the shifty Ferengi Quark from Deep Space 9, joins Patrick Stewart as the voice of Toad. And if Lou Diamond Phillips was ever in Star Trek somewhere, well theres more reunion stuff, as he plays the voice of Forge.
Sound effects don’t really stand out, but they aren’t so horrible that you have to mute the game during play either. Many of the mutant super special powers, like Cyclops’s “Optic Rage”Â wind up sounding more powerful than it is in the game. Musically there is nothing that grabbed me, nothing like the original animated series introductory theme, just some bland symphonic pieces that remind you the system can play music.
I am of two minds when it comes to the control in Legends, and I’ll give you a run down of why I am so conflicted. You have your basic controls for jumping, punching and picking things up. You then also have your mutant powers which are activated by holding down the R button and then pressing another button on the joystick, one of up to four depending on where you are in the game and how many powers you have unlocked for yourself. This tends to be awkward at first, as you start using your super powers. Eventually you do get used to it, but heres where the problem comes in. The R button could easily have been used as a targeting button, and this game could really use one of those, as you will at times find yourself surrounded by foes, and being able to direct your attacks at the target instead of off to the side or perhaps at the opposite wall would probably make this an even better game than it wound up being. But, if you do that you have to use another button to activate your mutie powers. So theres the whole two minds dilema. As all of the other buttons on the X-Box are used, the controller clearly needs more buttons.
Multiplayer saves this game in terms of it’s replayability score, just like it has many other games of this sort, games which were much worse. This is due to the co-operative mode which allows a bunch of friends to get together and battle their way through the game. Add in the historical missions and the chance to fight against each other in the danger room and you get a cool little game.
As far as the single player replayabilty, I can’t really say theres alot there. You cannot take your characters back and begin the game as super powerful characters, and you can’t access the Danger Room missions once you complete the game unless you have a save before the last Extraction point, which has no access to the Danger Room or
anything else. Once you complete the game you unlock the Extreme Uniforms, and you can then start the game over again wearing the new duds, but I can’t really say thats a good reason to play through the game again. What is a good reason is the fact that the game is fun, almost addicting.
I look back at what I’ve written so far and a person could be excused for thinking I hated this game. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While the story has been done to death, and the control takes a tiny bit of getting used to, X-Men Legends still manages to be a fantasticly fun game to play. That’s with retarded AI guiding your
mates. Now imagine having your moronic friends…I mean imagine your friends playing along side you on your couch, each of you controlling your favorite character, working as a team to take down a Sentinal like it was nothing but a giant tin can.
There have been other X-Men games, some of which I can say I like more than this one, but there never been an RPG before. So in that way it’s very original. But it’s not like this game is eevolutionary. The lineage of games that Legends was inspired by is not a small one. Even so, Legends does add the feature of being able to enter the Danger Room whenever you need to level your characters up if you think you’re having too hard a time. If you put the energy into leveling up your team you will find this to be a very enjoyable game.
I state above that this game is almost addicting. What I meant by that is you will find it very difficult to put down once you start playing it. Were it not for the storyline and the control problem, I probably would have played this from start to finish. As it was it took me a few days of playing for a while and then stopping when I
started getting frustrated. Unless you play this with your friends you aren’t going to want to go back and play it again and again, so it’s not crack on your TV screen.
If you are a fan of the X-Men universe, and have wanted to control the team for a long time now, this is going to appeal to you very much.
If you are just a gamer who wants to kill a few hours and thought the X-Men movies were pretty cool, you too will find something to grab your interest, especially if you have friends.
Appeal Factor: 9
The additional modes in the game outside of the basic story mode is a nice touch but would have been fantastic had they followed through on some of the ideas. They include a seperate Danger Room entrance that doubles as a multiplayer mode, but you can’t access the Danger room missions that you open up in the single player campaign. I think if they had added this one feature, the game would have gotten a much better score from me. As well, this is the kind of game that could have worked really well with X-Box Live. If you look at a game like Full Spectrum Warrior, where two seperate teams of soldiers are controlled by two individuals online, co-operating, I think that this type of gameplay would add itself nicely to the X-Men. Anything online, even if it’s not that, would have been a nice touch.
Appeal Factor: 9
Short Attention Span Summary
Legends is a very good first start for an Action RPG series, and I hope the second one, which has already been announced by Raven and Activision, improves on the things which hurt it here, like an
original storyline and a more natural targetting method.