There is no doubt that certain genres are getting a lot of play on the
PSP. If you're a fan of racers and action games then Sony has you
covered, but things aren't as rosy for those who gravitate towards
role-playing games. Thankfully Activision has a few superheroes
that are ready to save the day. It might not be the turn-based
RPG some have been longing for, but X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse
should satisfy just about anybody who is craving an exciting
Before we get too far into this review perhaps you should know a little
about my background with the X-Men. I'm not your traditional
X-Men fan, I've never actually read any of the comic books and have
really only seen the first two movies. I've seen the various
cartoons they've had in the past, but I'm not the type of person you
would want to ask if you needed to know something about this comic
series. In a lot of ways I'm nothing more than a passing fan, I
enjoy what I see but do not seek this stuff out. But I do know a
good game when I see it, and X-Men Legends 2 is one heck of a good game.
Despite not knowing much about the mythos of the X-Men I do know one
thing, Professor X leads the good guys and Magneto fronts those who
oppose the X-Men (and everything they stand for). So even I was
intrigued when I realized that for this game both the good and bad
sides were teaming up to fight something much bigger and stronger.
The idea of having the good guys team up with the bad guys is not only
a fun one, but it actually serves to create some fun dialogue between
the characters. It also allows you to create a large variety of
teams, something that ultimately helps to keep the game fresh as you go
through its lengthy story. These two teams obviously don't like
each other, so working together can be volatile at times. But
it’s the constant bickering, funny insults, and name calling that keeps
this otherwise simple story going.
That's not to say the story is bad, it's just not as fleshed out as
most role-playing games you run across. The plot involves the two
groups of mutants teaming up to take on the extremely powerful
Apocalypse and his (wait for it) four horsemen. These extra
powerful mutants are ready to destroy just about everything the X-Men
love, from the jungles of Genosha to their base/mansion to an entire
city (sorry, New York City). It's up both the X-Men and the
Brotherhood to destroy these horsemen and fight the ultimate baddie.
To do this you select a team of four characters to go off on this
dangerous adventure. Since you're not limited to only good guys
you end up being able to mix and match a wide assortment of interesting
characters, each with their own strengths and mutant abilities.
Obviously the game features the most popular characters, like Wolverine
and Gambit, but it also has a number of characters that don't get the
same kind of play. You can choose from such characters as Bishop,
Iceman, Juggernaut, Nightcrawler, Scarlet Witch, Storm, Sunfire, and
Toad, just to name a few. It's worth mentioning that this PSP
version features four additional characters not found in the console
versions, including a personal favorite of mine, Cable.
After you've chosen your team it's time to get out there and kick some
butt. X-Men Legends 2 is an action-RPG, with the emphasis
squarely on "action." Even though you have four characters, you
only have to control them one at a time. As you run around
fighting whatever gets in your way your backup team will follow suit
and aid in your quest. Thankfully the three guys fighting
alongside you are pretty smart; they do a good job of healing
themselves, fighting other enemies, and just about anything else you
could want from them. The good news is that if you don't like how
they act you can always tweak them to your liking … or simply switch to
another character and do the fighting for them.
As you level up your characters you will earn additional moves and
special abilities. As you would expect these abilities help you
enormously on your quest to take down Apocalypse and his large
army. These abilities aren't just useful for taking down bad guys
(or maybe I should say "worse" guys), but they also go a long way to
helping you differentiate between the various characters. When
you're not using your mutant abilities you are scrapping it up with a
two-button combat system (normal and strong). Although there are
only two buttons, there are a number of useful combos that can be
performed simply by getting your buttons in the right order. Even
with all these moves the fighting can get somewhat repetitious, but
it's not too bad.
The game is broken up into five different acts, each with their own
major boss battle at the end. Each act starts out with cinemas
that will knock your socks off. Even after seeing a number of
gorgeous games for the PSP I was blown away by the intro cinema, an
animated video that looks every bit as good as what you would find on
the home consoles. Unfortunately the in-game graphics aren't as
stunning, but they aren't bad either. The real charm of each act
is that there are a lot of different environments to fight in.
You'll be brawling in just about every creepy location, including
sewers, an ancient Egyptian temple, forests, airships, and even a
recently demolished New York City. Just when you've grown tired
of your surroundings you'll be rushed off to a brand new area that
makes you want to explore and find everything you can.
While the game's five acts may not sound very large, each act is
extremely lengthy, making for a game with a good 20 hours of
gameplay. While you may start an act for one reason, it quickly
becomes clear that there are a number of things to do (bosses to
destroy, heroes to save) in each area. You'll constantly be
running back and forth collecting items and making sure you killed
every last enemy, all while looking forward to where you'll go
next. The game itself has a few nice twists and the story, while
simple, will keep you going just to see who you'll fight and what
revelation you'll learn next.
The graphics in each of the levels is pretty good, with a lot of added
details to make it seems like you're not just going through the same
room over and over again. And it's not just the backgrounds that
look good, the characters themselves are colorful and well
animated. Granted, they are a bit on the small side, but it's
generally easy to keep track of what's going down onscreen, even when
there are a mountain of enemies surrounding you.
Like the graphics, the sound is also very good. The music sounds
like the type of thing you would hear in a comic book movie, though
maybe not as memorable as the theme from Super-Man or Tim Burton's
Batman. The voice acting is great, which is a good thing because
there is a bunch of it. Not only is there a nice collection of
playable characters (who get a chance to talk from time to time), but
you also get dozens of non-playable characters who have more than a few
things to say. If you're an X-Men novice like myself you will
find all the background information you could want from talking to
these NPC's, all with convincing accents and dialogue. While
there is a lot of no-name talent in Rise of Apocalypse, there are a
couple of actors you'll probably recognize from the get-go, such as
Patrick Stewart and Lou Diamond Phillips. Unfortunately Magneto
is not played by Sir Ian McKellen … probably too busy with his movie
Controlling your team of mutants is a fairly easy task. Despite
the PSP having fewer buttons, the controls feel just as solid as they
did on the Xbox and PS2. They had to make a few changes to get
everything to work, but you'll barely notice what was sacrificed.
Perhaps the biggest change is that we no longer have control over the
camera, which might sound like something you need but it's not.
With only a few exceptions, the camera does an excellent job of staying
on the action at all times. Switching characters is a breeze and
you will never have trouble using health or other items as they have
been mapped to the D-pad. It may seem odd to use the analog nub
to move around, but once you get into it you'll be slicing through
baddies like a pro.
The game does have some problem keeping everything running smooth,
though. From time to time the game will slow down to a crawl,
giving it a poor-man's bullet time effect. Also, the game will
just stop to let the UMD load, usually when you've just come out of the
menu (or after the system has sat untouched for too long).
Thankfully these problems don't happen that frequently, but it's
noticeable … and sometimes kind of annoying.
Like its console counterpart, X-Men Legends 2 has a lot of load
time. It's never as pronounced as the PlayStation 2 version, but
you will definitely be looking at a loading screen more than you would
like. At first it will seem odd that it takes a couple seconds to
pause the game or go into any menu, but before too long it just becomes
part of the overall experience. I can't say I ever accepted the
loading, but considering that the console versions were plagued with
much the same problem, I can't say I'm surprised to see it here.
While I'm on the topic of the game's inadequacies, the biggest problem
with X-Men Legends 2 has to be its disturbingly confusing menu
system. Let's not lose sight that we're talking about a
role-playing game, the type of product you would usually spend a lot of
time micro-managing. But sifting through the various menus in
this game is a real hassle, partially due to the fact that it seems
like there's no rhyme or reason to the order. Everything just
seems thrown up with no organization or anything, it's extremely
frustrating. Before too long I found myself just wanting the
computer to do everything for me (which is actually an option).
If you spend enough time working on your characters you can eventually
turn them into almost anything you want, but I wouldn't be surprised if
most gamers just decide not to deal with it at all.
Although you can bust through the game's story in the one-player mode,
the real fun happens when you team up with your friends and play
multiplayer. The PSP version of X-Men Legends 2 offers a couple
of different ways to connect with your friends, including both ad-hoc
(playing with people in the same room) or infrastructure (playing
online). Both of these modes come with a few hitches, but they
are the best way to experience the game … and may actually have you
going through it more than once just to play it with others. I
noticed some lag while playing online, but it was rare and never took
away from the experience.
Once you've grown tired of fighting legions of enemies, battling
exciting bosses, and declaring war on the game's interface, you still
have a lot to do and see. There are a number of really
interesting bonus features to collect, including new characters, new
levels, and more. In fact, this PSP version of X-Men Legends 2
actually features 9 all new missions and four more characters.
Not only does this PSP game cram everything the consoles had, but it
actually adds some new stuff that may give this version the edge.
Gone are the days when the portable versions are stripped down.
Regardless of whether you're a fan of the X-Men or not, Rise of
Apocalypse is a fun game that will have you glued to your PSP for
dozens of hours. It may get a little repetitive towards the end,
have some slow down problems, and have an interface from hell, but even
if some faults this ends up being one hell of a great handheld
experience. With online play it's easy to see how people could
still be interested in this long after they've beaten Apocalypse.
Not only is X-Men Legends 2 a great RPG, but I dare say it's best on
the PlayStation Portable. If you still haven't experienced this
adventure then this is the version for you.
With a lengthy story, plenty of playable characters, tons of extras, and online play, X-Men Legends 2 is one great adventure game. If you've put off getting the game so far then this PSP port is the version for you!