Developer: Silicon Knights
Genre: Third Person Action/Beat ‘Em Up
Release Date: 09/27/2011
Oh Silicon Knights, what’s happened to you? You gave us the awesome RTS D&D game Dark Legions. You gave us Blood Omen. You gave us one of the best survival horrors games of all time in Eternal Darkness. However, since we hit this console generation, you’ve gone from one of the most trusted developers out there to one of the most disappointing. Too Human was a terrible game in many respects and it appeared that you were unable to adapt to the new console generation. Now with X-Men Destiny, you’ve given us yet another really bad glitch bug filled messed that should have consumers demanding their money back. You’re also in a bit of hot water with the Canadian government for taking seven million dollars of taxpayer money since April 2010 in exchange for hiring 145 new people and to become a publisher as well as developer. Well, not only are you still a third party company, but you haven’t hired anyone. In fact, you’ve just laid off fifteen. Something isn’t right up there in Ontario, eh?
Now granted, X-Men Destiny is FAR from a good game, but it’s also neither the worst game I’ve played this year, nor even the worst game I’ve played in this quarter. So does that mean the game might be acceptable when you find it in a budget bin in a few months or is this something to just stay the hell away from? Let’s take a look.
The plot of X-Men Destiny was scribed by Mike Carey, who has written X-Men Legacy for the last five years. This is a nice plus for the game, but unfortunately, the plot has some severe issues.
The game takes place in San Francisco, which is where the X-Men have set up shop in the comics continuity in recent years. Make no mistake though, X-Men Destiny is in its own universe. Magneto still leads The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Professor X is dead, and still other things (including the in-game death of a major X-Man character) separate this game from the current continuity. Personally I’m fine with this, but I can see where it will vex some comic book fans.
Basically, a rally promoting mutant and human equality is attacked by unseen forces and the Brotherhood is quickly blamed for it. The rally is never actually explained and why people believe the Brotherhood is at fault – including the X-Men – even though members of that faction are helping to save humans and quell the riots, is the first of many plot holes.
You play as one of three Mary Sue/Marty Stu characters who will go from regular human teenager to OMEGA LEVEL MUTANT that can defeat Bastion single handedly (When the entire X-Men have trouble attempting that). You are either a football jock, an anti-mutant racist whose father is a Purifier or a Japanese illegal immigrant shipped over by her mutant father to avoid the mutant concentration camps in that country. Each character gets a brief five to ten minute back story exposition at the begin of the game, but from then on, it’s all interchangeable. For my first game I went with Aimi and gave her Energy Projection as her core set of powers since her father was basically an Asian Human Torch.
From there you go through eight missions, each of which are just hack and slash button mashing without any real story except for “defeat X number of enemies,” Defeat Character Y” or, “Save Character Z.” You should be able to figure out who is behind everything (including the two would be swerves where a good guy is actually the penultimate bad guy and the supposed bad guys are actually good) within the first fifteen minutes of the game. This makes for an exceptionally lackluster story where you’re just going through the motions.
If you’re hoping to actually see a lot of the X-Men or Brotherhood in the game, you’re in for a disappointment. Less than two dozen characters are used, many of which just have brief cameos. The most any character gets is as a five minute supporting ally in a mission or to play the part of a talking head in a cut scene. Again, I’m fine with the advertised X-Men in a supporting role, but I can see why people would be upset by this. After all you don’t pick up a Spider-Man game only to find out you’re playing as The Fabulous Frog Man.
Finally there is the fact the story makes little to no sense whatsoever and if you pay even the slightest bit of attention to what is going on, you’ll realize everything falls apart from the word go. Most of the game, the X-Men are trying to decide if the Brotherhood is behind something even though said “Evil Mutants” are helping the X-Men from the beginning of the game on. Players on both sides are wildly out of character throughout the game, the characters you play as never really develop any true personality, and the plot holes are enormous. Here’s an example. In one mission you and Cyclops have to save a captured X-Men. You fail to save them as a beam exactly like Cyclops’ destroys the copter, which eventually leads to that X-Man’s death. Oddly enough the Brotherhood tries to save said X-Man’s life and grieves over them more than the actual X-Men. When Cyclops comes up to claim the body, Magneto and Juggernaut attack Cyclops and your character (even if you are already allied with The Brotherhood) accusing him of killing this X-Man. Even though both Magneto and Juggernaut know Cyclops better than that and your character can vouch for him anyway. The game never resolves who kills this X-Man. You are led to believe it’s a member of the bad guys but since those bad guys were the ones trying to kidnap her and use technology to leech their powers away AND this particular X-Men’s capture was the lynchpin of their plan…well, you can see how bad this is.
Look, if you’re the kind of game who just wants to push buttons and you don’t care how well a story holds up fine. However that’s an ever shrinking minority. For everyone else, this is pretty bad. Carey phoned it in, Silicon Knights didn’t bother for anything close to getting the personalities of these licensed Marvel character correct and everything is sloppy from beginning to end. It’s simply embarrassing that Marvel was fine with this in any way.
Story Rating: Bad
The graphics of X-Men Destiny are shockingly bad. This game looks like the high def remake of a mediocre looking PS2 title more than anything else. Character models are ugly, move awkwardly and there’s very little detail to anything, be it backgrounds, enemies, or people. Faces especially look out of date and the game is just terrible to look at from beginning to end. I’m also not sure why Silicon Knights redesigned a lot of character costumes, as they are all terrible. Quicksilver, for example, looks like he’s wearing Dr. Venture’s speed-suit after an attempt to dye it something more akin to the colours he wore in the 60s. Enemies are just waves and waves of the same six enemy types from the beginning of the game to the end, interspersed with the occasional boss. Little variety and little detail makes for a visually unappealing game.
Then there is the slowdown. My god, I haven’t seen a game with this much slowdown in this console generation. We’re talking worse than a Shoot ‘Em Up on the Super Nintendo bad. Anytime you have more than half a dozen characters on the screen (which is 85% of the time) the game will suffer massive slowdown and screen tearing. Again, it’s easily the worst I’ve seen this console generation and it will drive you nuts with how slow things get. It’s most hilarious during the end credits where you and your allies have to kill several hundred Purifiers in non-stop waves. It’s almost comical how much slowdown there is. After all, the slowness is more common than how the game should play. On those rare occasions when you can see how the game is supposed to play (empty buildings for example), you’re actually amused. How could any company do this poorly with slowdown issues in 2011? Seriously, there’s no way this thing should have made it to market looking this ugly or with slowdown being this severe of an issue. Utterly unacceptable. At least the game is playable and you can recognize most of the licensed characters for who they actually are.
Graphics Rating: Bad
Sadly, the aural aspects of X-Men Destiny are the best part of the game, and even then there are still some noticeable issues. It’s nice they got Steven Blum to play Wolverine he’s been Wolverine IN EVERYTHING save live action movies, for what, two decades now? Tom Kane, Chris Edgerly and Liam O’Brien return in roles they’ve played before (Magneto, Gambit and Nightcrawler (respectively). This is also another nice touch and it helps keep the game from feeling like a complete shambles and it shows that even though the characterization of everyone is off, there is some nod to X-Men fans with the voice actors. However, things fall apart for every other character as they also sound white-bread American Midwestern. Let’s take Aimi, the Japanese immigrant. Her father has a noticeable Japanese accent. Aimi? Sounds like she’s from Minnesota. Pixie? Same thing. They didn’t even try to give her an accent from somewhere in the United Kingdom. Surge? Same problem as Aimi. Emma Frost has one of the worst fake British accents ever – and the character’s not even British! She’s from Boston! It’s this kind of stuff that will drive an X-Men fan nuts. Hell, I don’t even care about the X-Men and I a) knew this much about the characters and b) it annoyed ME.
Music and the sound effects in the game are enjoyable, but nothing memorable or special. The tracks for the game are all fast paced and frantic, which is nice for what the pace of the game SHOULD be, but alas – the slowdown. Still, the music keeps the waves of battles where you have to take out fifty to two hundred enemies out flowing, so that’s something at least. Overall, this is the ONE area where Silcon Knights did an okay job, but nowhere as good as they should have. I’d say could have, but I’m starting to doubt they have that ability any more
Sound Rating: Above Average
4. Control and Gameplay
In a nutshell, X-Men Destiny would have been a decent game ten years ago. Not a great game or even a good game, but a decent one. It plays like a slightly retooled beat ’em up from the 32 bit era of gaming. However, the game has some many issues, bugs and glitches that the game barely qualifies as playable. In my time with the game I had it crash twice and had to restart the game two other times because it couldn’t finish a battle probably because some of the enemies I had to kill were STUCK IN A WALL. This meant they couldn’t be hit or attack. Other bugs include the inability to access Northstar’s mission no matter how times you reset or who you play as, the fact I beat the game twice on X-Treme, the hardest difficulty and only got the trophy for beating it on Easy (New Mutant), and more. The game is so buggy it makes an Obsidian or Bethesda title without patches look flawless.
So besides the bugs, glitches and slowdown, how does the rest of the game fare? Well truthfully, not very well. In fact, even overlooking the things mentioned, the game’s still extremely bad. So what’s wrong? Well cut scenes for one. In addition to being ugly, you can’t speed them up or skip through them. You have to wade through them as the move as an unbearably slow rate. Even worse, the game’s checkpoints are before cut scenes, so if you die, you have to watch them again and again. And again. Remember, you can’t skip them. Again, this would have been fine ten or fifteen years ago – but not today.
Then there are the controls. Each shape button corresponds to a different move: light attack, heavy attack, jump and dodge. The comedy is that dodge doesn’t actually let you dodge. You just do a flip and generally into an attack instead of away from one. Unlike most games where dodge would actually prevent you from taking damage, in X-Men Destiny it apparently doesn’t have any effect whatsoever. I found jumping to be more effective. Hitting a combo of light and heavy attack button presses can lead to special moves, except when the game doesn’t register your inputs correctly. There is also noticeable lag if you try one combo followed by another. In a button masher. Yes, I know. What you are thinking right now is something I can’t write in a professional piece, but I’m thinking it too. You’re supposed to use one of the shoulder buttons to lock your attacks on to an opponent, but it rarely works. Same with cycling through attacks. You’re better off just blindly button pressing than with using the lock on. It’s that terrible.
Then we have the camera angles. Look, I know the majority of third person action games have terrible camera angles, but this is something else. Often you won’t even be able to see your character with the angle you are given and the reset button (R3) actually can make it worse. The camera is at its worst and yet most comical when you are jumping or falling. In these cases the camera is slow to react and then eventually tries to catch up to your character, albeit very slowly. It’s like those people at a stoplight that take a few seconds to process that the light has changed from red to green and are just sitting there until someone honks. Eventually my sanity snaps and I tried to see how long it would take the camera to find my character in some cases.
Another big problem with the game is that the levels are very small. Oh, they look big, but 85% of what you see on the screen are invisible walls. It’s almost all linear progression without any real chance to explore. Does it look like you can get to that platform? Nope. Invisible wall. Can you go in that building with an open door even though you can go in others? Nope. Invisible wall. The vast majority of the game is simply a track you can move on even though the 3D world gives the illusion that there is more to the game that there really is. The invisible wall scenario will frustrate and annoy younger or more casual gamers used to a more sandbox approach to titles these days. Hell, it’ll annoy most people after a while.
Honestly, there is nothing positive I can say about the engine or gameplay of X-Men Destiny aside from the fact that you CAN play it if you really want to. At its best X-Men Destiny is a really bad beat ’em up. At its best, it’s a game that will make a lot of “worst of” lists on other sites.
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
X-Men Destiny is only a few hours long and it’s not very good. That said, there are three playable characters to choose from and three different power sets, each with four tiers of abilities. You’ll have to play through the game at least three times to see everything in the game and a further three if you wanted to see all the possible power combinations. You can platinum the game is as little as two playthroughs (One as Brotherhood and one as an X-Man) but that’s only if you can get the game to work properly. Remember, I couldn’t get either of the two other difficulty setting based trophies to come up and I couldn’t earn the silver one for complete all fifteen challenge arenas because I could never get the game to trigger Northstar’s Challenge Mission. So if this happens to you, you’re SOL on that platinum.
So there IS cause to play the game more than once, but only to see new powers and each of the three back stories. Both game endings are anti-climatic and neither actually feels like an ending – more like an unfinished cut scene. I’ll be kind and give it a thumb’s in the middle here because Silicon Knights did provide some reason to play the game more than once – even if it is a bug filled crapfest.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Although there are three difficulty settings, there is no real difference between any of them save that you do slightly less damage and enemies dish out slightly more. The A.I. to the game is terrible so you should have no trouble with the game at all, with the sole exception being the Sentinel fight and even that’s pretty easy as long as you’re not hit by the slowdown. In fact, in any battle where you have a name character ally helping you out, you can just sit in a corner and watch them do all the work as they have infinite life and do a lot of damage.
Boss battles are also shockingly easy. Each boss follows a pretty exact pattern – straight out of an 8-bit game or early 80s arcade title. Watch the pattern for a single loop and you should get through the rest of the battle without being hit. It was shocking how easy the last battle in the game was as it was basically the same exact pattern as the first boss battle in the game – now with a few more powers. If anything shows the lack of effort or creativity in this game – that is it.
Then you have the X-Genes. These consist of a total of 48 “genes” divided into offensive, defensive and utility powers and twenty suits. In order to maximize the effect of the genes, you have to equip all three genes belonging to a specific character and wear their suit. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, in fact it’s not. This is because while the locations of each gene/suit is set in stone, what you get is completely and totally random. So it’s possible you can go through a large chunk of the game without having a full set, thus leaving you unable to access your M-Boost. This is a pretty terrible idea. However it gets worse when a) the M-Boost is mostly useless except for Magnetos, b) many of the powers overlap so you’re collecting for the sake of collecting rather than any real differences and c) Only a few of the sets are actually worth using. Magneto, Havok, Juggernaut and Avalanche are about it. Basically the X-genes are just fluff that adds very little to the game and they will frustrate players when they have twelve sets of genes missing just one of the four aspects. This whole thing was poorly implemented. The hilarious thing is that if you pre-ordered the game, you get a full set via a DLC code and said set will probably be what you use all game.
No matter how you slice it, X-Men Destiny is horribly balanced and it’s as if no one even bothered to playtest this thing as there are so many obvious problems that could have easily been fixed had any time or effort actually been put into it.
Balance Rating: Bad
Although X-Men Destiny introduces three new characters to the X-Men universe, it’s not like they will ever be seen or used again. Aside from that, the game is a pretty generic bare bones button masher – and a badly done one at that. It doesn’t do anything new with the X-Men license. It doesn’t do anything gameplay wise that we didn’t see back in the 8 or 16-bit era, and it actually does many of them worse than those older games. In fact, in many ways this game reminds me of a really bad homage to the X-Men game on the Sega Genesis, just without playing as any actual X-Men.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing innovative or original about X-Men Destiny. It does nothing to separate itself from a long line of bad games using a Marvel Comics franchise and it doubtful many people will even remember it exists by the end of the year. It’s that generic. This is unfortunate as Eternal Darkness was one of the most original games out there. What happened?
Originality Rating: Bad
I had a hard time putting down X-Men Destiny in spite of all its flaws. Part of it is that even a bad button masher can be addictive. Good ones like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Double Dragon and River City Ransom are legendary in regards to how hard it was to stop playing. Hell, even the original X-Men arcade game is well known for being insanely fun even though you just mash buttons from beginning to end. Well, X-Men Destiny is nowhere near worth mentioning in the same breath as those titles, but it does have its moments. After a while you get used to the slowdown and even take a perverse amount of pleasure in it. It’s like MST3K’ing a video game. Trying out new powers on a horde of enemies can be fun too. Unfortunately the moments of fun are extremely brief unless you adore button mashers. Even then, people like myself and my friends who DO love this genre still can’t find much good to say about this game. Again, I’ll be kind by giving it a thumb’s in the middle if only because it’s Earth Vs. The Spider in video game form and there will always be something timeless about a button masher.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
9. Appeal Factor
I’m not sure who will like this game. I mean licensed Marvel games always sell well, even if they are terrible. Look at Iron Man and Thor: God of Thunder for example. Even though those games make X-Men Destiny look good by comparison, people still bought them and hell, some even DEFEND them. So it will be with this game.
People like the X-Men. People like button mashers. So the two together should give the game a small niche audience. However, with terrible slowdown, an appalling frame rate, no multiplayer option, a lack of any real challenge and just a bad button mashing experience from beginning to end, it’s hard to think of anyone that would feel like they got sixty dollars worth of entertainment out of this game. It’s just that bad of a game.
Sure there will be an audience out there for this, but it will be small and it will be made fun of. You know a game is hurting when even the people saying they had fun with this are agreeing the game is a “4/10 at best” per Facebook comments to me.
Appeal Factor: Poor
To be perfectly honest, X-Men Destiny had potential. Silicon Knights has made a lot of quality games in the past. It was because of this I went into XMD optimistic that Too Human was a fluke instead of the company being unable to adapt to the current console generation. I’m completely reversed on that after playing this unfortunately.
X-Men Destiny is an unfinished game. It feels like there should be a multi-player option, but there isn’t. It feels like it shouldn’t be plagued with terrible frame rates and severe bugs, but it is. There is some noticeable potential here, but it’s lost amidst the bad storytelling, the repetitive gameplay, the lackluster visuals, the mentally impaired A.I. and the programming errors that constantly spring up in this thing. Whether it’s the asinine decision to have pop-ups that take up a chunk of your screen and can only be turned off by hitting the select button or the fact you’ll have to reset the game at certain points due to spawning issues, X-Men Destiny should have been either outright cancelled a long time ago or Silicon Knights should have delayed it until it was playing better than something you experience in an Alpha testing stage. There’s no way this should have been released to market in this state. Activision knows better and Silicon Knights definitely does. You have to wonder what the Canadian Government thinks about their investment now.
Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Poor
FINAL SCORE: Pretty Poor Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
I don’t know what’s harder – to come up with a complete list of everything that is wrong with X-Men Destiny or to try and find something positive to say about the game. Since the former is longer, let’s go with the latter. X-Men Destiny is neither the worst X-Men game ever made, nor is it even close to being the worst game of the year. Make no mistake though, it is truly terrible in all respects unless you love all button mashing games – even ones that are horribly buggy and are hit with constant slowdown for the entirety of your time with it. The best thing I can say about the game is that it IS playable if you really want to put yourself through that experience. Other than that, this is a game you should only experience when it is in a budget bin and only then if you really want to waste some money or see how far Silicon Knights has fallen in the past decade.
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