Our favorite Marvel mutants are back fighting the forces of
Evil in X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. This time around, due to the incredible
threat posed by the titular villain, the X-Men join forces with Magneto and his
Brotherhood of Mutants for some serious hack-n-slash action-RPG superhero
goodness. And there’s quite a bit of
goodness packed into this latest outing by Activision.
While things have been polished up a bit, Raven Software
hasn’t really changed things much since the original X-Men legends. Players still control a team of 4 mutants as
they chew their way through jungles, ancient temples, and devastated
cityscapes. In single-player mode, the
player directly controls one of the heroes while the other 3 remain under the
control of a fairly competent AI. A
quick press of the D-pad allows players to instantly change mutants, making it
quite simple to switch back-and-forth between the various characters for that
precision application of mutant powers. And
while the controls are quite simple in their layout, combat is actually fairly
complex for an action-RPG. Various kicks
and punches can be strung together to make special attacks, such as trip
attacks and uppercuts. Special attacks
and powers are hot-keyed to the D-pad, ready to be unleashed when combined with
a shoulder-button. And even with each
character fielding up to a dozen powers apiece, it’s still quite simple to swap
out the hot-keyed powers on the fly. Overall,
combat runs fast and furious, which is the perfect feel for the Marvel
Not only does the game play well, it looks good, too. Using 3D cel-shaded graphics to great effect,
the X-Men and their enemies really capture that comic-book feel. Watching the mutant powers splash and explode
about the screen is quite enjoyable. The
camera work is decent, but it does suffer from the usual hang-ups of the
occasional odd angle or too-close zoom.
The sound isn’t as good as the graphics, but it’s not lagging too far
behind. My biggest gripe with the
technical side of things was the lengthy load times in between, well, just
about everything. Since the game
essentially takes place in a series of modern-day “dungeons”, moving from area
to area via teleporters or X-traction points can bring everything to a halt for
10-20 seconds. Even opening up the game
menu snarles everything for a few moments longer than necessary.
Minor quibbles aside, fielding a team of X-Men and
Brotherhood agents is a complete blast.
Players initially have 16 playable characters to choose from, with many
of the old favorites making their appearance.
Players can play through the entire game using only one single team, or
they may choose to swap out characters and mix-and-match on a
mission-by-mission basis. Characters can
even be swapped out in the field via the X-traction points. Certain teams just work together better than
others, so assembling the correct combination of characters can give an added
team bonus, such as increased damage or resistances.
True to the action-RPG playbook, characters gain experience
and level up as they progress through the game.
Every level, characters gain attribute points and skill points to spend
on customization. If they players so
chooses, Wolverine may never have a healing power, and Gambit may never throw a
single card. However, if the player
finds out they really messed up in the character build, all is not lost. For a moderate sum of “tech-bits”, characters
can have all their skill points reallocated to a completely new power
build. So there’s no need to start from
scratch if Juggernaut just isn’t as finely-tuned a wrecking ball as one would
have hoped. For those that just want to
smash, without dealing with all that petty number-crunching, the AI can
automatically distribute skill or attribute points during level up. Characters in the field accrue experience
much more quickly than those left behind, but everyone advances as the game
progresses. And it’s not too much work
to grab a new team and run them through some previous areas (populated with
fresh baddies) and bring them up to speed.
In addition, characters can be run through the virtual “Danger Room”
scenarios to boost their experience.
Speaking of the Danger Room, that’s just one of the many
extra goodies stashed around X-Men II.
There are oodles of unlockables and collectables, including concept art,
comic books, and even new characters.
These unlockables, combined with the numerous combinations of mutant
teams, make for some serious replayability in this title. And once the single-player game has lost its
appeal, players can gather a few friends, either on-line or real-life, and have
a go with some of the multiplayer functionality. Players can take their favorite mutants
head-on in a sparring match, or they can cooperatively work through the game’s
main storyline. As far as difficulty
goes, I found the game to be a bit on the easy side, but that may have just
been lucky in my primary team choice.
Additional difficulty levels are available for those wanting more or
less of a challenge.
Overall, I was quite pleased with X-Men Legends II. Sure, I’m a sucker for action-RPGs and I have
a soft-spot for Marvel comics, but even with my bias I can recommend this title
as yet another solid entry into the superhero genre.
With the huge selection of playable Marvel mutants and the horde of extra goodies, X-Men Legends II is another solid and enjoyable action-RPG entry into the comic-book genre.