I’m more of a Spidey fan than an X-Man, but having enjoyed both X films and the surprisingly good animated series, I had decent expectations for X-Men Legends II - Rise of Apocalypse
. I never had the pleasure of experiencing the first game, but from what I’ve seen of the sequel, this series just keeps getting better. Activision and Raven have outdone themselves again.
I admit I was surprised that this game played so well. Raven is a sure bet if you give them a shooter to develop, however I was skeptical as to how they’d pull off an RPG/brawler. The result is more the sufficient. X-Men Legends II
plays like the X-Men version of Gauntlet; in other words, the RPG elements are just deep enough without cluttering up the experience. I personally like my RPGs well blended with another genre (I HATE turn based games of all kinds, but I absolutely loved Deus Ex) and X-Men Legends II
is a thorough, creamy mix of gaming goodness.
The whole Gauntlet element is pretty obvious: beat the living daylights out of just about whatever you want. Plenty of enemies attempt to mob you, and while they aren’t terribly smart, there are enough of them to make the game challenging on the harder difficulties. Aside from the enemies, much of the environment is also destructible. Along with the obligatory crates and pots are smashable walls—you can sometimes progress through a stage faster if you crash through the scenery.
Battling evil has a distinct twist this time around. A bigger bad guy than Magneto has come to town, going by the name Apocalypse (hence the game’s title) so Magneto’s Brotherhood is forced to team up with the venerable X-Men to defeat him. What this means for the player is entirely new combinations of mutants, powers and fighting styles. In fact, you can have arch rivals grudgingly fighting along side each other. The ensuing cutscenes are highly enjoyable as the good and bad mutants attempt to get past their embittered history.
There are eighteen playable characters in all, a few of them unlockable, but most available from the start. They all have a few basic mutant powers to begin with (Wolverine’s claws, Nightcrawler’s teleport) but they gain newer, stronger abilities as they gain experience. You can set the game so each character levels up automatically once they have enough skill points, so that RPG aspect is well integrated and doesn’t get in the way.
More depth is available, however, if you choose to equip individual team members with special items and gear. You can have up to four mutants on a team at once—I usually swapped my teammates in and out to give the whole set a solid chance to level up. Focusing on a core group can yield some very powerful mutants, but the game is long enough that equal attention can be given to most of the different characters.
Regardless of how you organize your team, you’ll want your most developed mutants on hand when you encounter the game’s bosses. They become increasingly harder to beat and display some devious tactics, and Apocalypse himself is a real heavyweight. It’ll take some honest strategy and power usage to topple him.
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