When a game touts the importance of player choice on the outcome of some sort of epic storyline, I tend to expect deep, rich narrative that actually depends on the decisions I make throughout. Truth be told, when firing up a new game such as X-Men: Destiny, I also expect solid game play, immersive action, and, yes, even some solid characterizations to draw me into the Marvel Universe I so much enjoy. Unfortunately, X-Men: Destiny misses the mark on each and every one of these points, resulting in a muddled, railroading trudge.
The game opens with players deciding on one of three character choices--a stereotypical football star, a stereotypical conflicted bigot, and a stereotypical Japanese teenage girl. What is promised to be a destiny-altering decision actually results in a slightly different opening scene, whose only purpose is to put the Hero in place at a Mutant peace rally. As further backdrop, Professor Xavier is dead at the hands of Bastion, a killer robot from the Future, the X-Men have all but disbanded, and the world still doesn't like Mutants. Cyclops does manage to pull together some help in promoting better Mutant-Human relations, but others have entirely different agendas, resulting in an attack on the rally. It's at this point that the player's latent Mutant ability awakens, giving players yet another "crucial" choice in power path--as a brawler, a shooter, or a ninja-like hybrid. If any of these choices would have affected the game in any meaningful way, Destiny might have been a tolerable title.
The carnage of the rally attack leads to a veritable "Who's Who" meeting with the world's most powerful mutants, who helpfully pop in, throw out some clumsy exposition, and usher players forward. Occasionally players can choose a particular dialogue branch that will weight them toward the X-Men or Brotherhood of Mutants on a "faction meter", but mostly I got the feeling that all these cameos were simply so players would say, "Hey, cool! It's Magneto! And there's Ice Man! Awesome!".
The gameplay is distressingly simplistic. Players are given a weak and strong attack, along with a jump. The various mutant powers can add some spice to this, but it soon becomes apparent that these basic attacks will take care of the job for the majority of the time. Players move down some un-interesting corridors, complete with almost no interactive dressing, until they reach what essentially is a fighting arena. Here, thugs with various types of glowing sticks will charge out, and the goal of "Defeat 20 enemies!" will pop on the screen. As the game progresses, sometime thugs will throw things, and even later a few types of thugs will actually shoot stuff. Oh, there are some robots thrown in for good measure, but the basics are the same--spam a few different attacks, spiced by the application of some Mutant abilities if players feel the need for a change of pace, and repeat. Of course, the goals in these inexplicably-locked fighting arenas change as well--sometimes it's "Defeat 30 enemies!". Or even "Defeat 50 enemies!" And should players really want a change of pace, they can find the few branching turns in the relentless forward plot push that lead to Challenge arenas. Here, players can hone their skills with such creative challenges as "Defeat 50 enemies in 3 minutes!"
There are several instances where players are pitted against various Mutant boss battles, but for the most part these are almost as vanilla as the hordes of thugs. Most of these are mindless, "find the pattern" type fights, and as soon as the decision tree and enemy tells are determined, it's a quick run to victory. As a further disappointment, many of the late-game boss battles are just variations on a theme from earlier fights, with a few new tricks added.
At least players get to customize cool new Mutant abilities, right? Well, sort of. As the game progresses, players will get three choices in their power "tree", basically allowing them to choose a slightly different play style. In addition, players can spend some of their earned experience points upgrading those powers they decided upon. Again a neat idea if well-implemented, but ultimately just not that meaningful. The different powers just don't play uniquely, and when much of the game is spent battling a swarm of thugs in a confined space, spamming attacks is pretty much the go-to strategy, regardless of ability.
Strangely enough, players also have the ability to mimic aspects of other Mutant abilities through the collection of "X-Genes" and, for whatever reason, costumes. These random drops allow players to gain offensive or defensive abilities from various Marvel Mutants, such as Ice Man's defensive hardness or Wolverine's attack bonuses. Should players chance upon a full set of 3 matching X-Genes and costume (something that only happened once for me), an X-Factor bonus is opened. It should be reiterated that these drops are random, and with a great many different Mutants in the mix, acquiring a full set and unlocking the admittedly powerful ability is distressingly difficult.
To top things off, X-Men: Destiny also looks like a last-generation game. The environments are barren and generally uninteresting, textures pop in an out, clipping is problematic (and sometimes game-stopping), and I even ran into at least three hard crashes, requiring a re-boot of the system. Character models are a bit on the creepy side, for some reason, and while the voice-acting is tolerable, the dialogue itself is dry and lifeless.
X-Men: Destiny just isn't a fun game. With repetitive and unengrossing game play, tired and glitchy graphics, and a rail-roaded plot that fails to maintain the illusion that player choices really matter, there's not much here to recommend to even the most die-hard of Marvel fans.
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