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.
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.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.
Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.