X-Men: Legends

Review

posted 10/20/2004 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
It’s been a good couple of years for X-Men fans. With the release of two decent movies, it’s been good times. The only thing that’s really been missing is a good X-Men game. Sure you had last year’s X2:Wolverine’s Revenge which was an OK game but it only featured one of the X-men. There still wasn’t a game that allowed you take control of a squad of X-men and unleash mutant mayhem. Well, that is until Activision released X-Men:Legends.

I’ll put it bluntly, X-Men:Legends is the best X-Men game that’s come out so far. It gives gamers the opportunity to play most of the X-men that have ever appeared in the comics, use a variety of cool mutant powers and kick major ass across a bunch of decent levels.

The plot of the game blends several classic X-Men plot lines. I won’t ruin the plot of the game but you’ve got your typical bad guys (the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Magneto, Sentinels), typical plot lines (the X-Men fighting humans and their hatred/fear of mutants), and other assorted X-Men back stories (even the Morlocks make an appearance). This game has everything an X-Men fan could ever want. If you don’t know the X-Men from X-Factor, you’ll be introduced to the characters slowly through Allison Crestmere, a young mutant who’s just coming into her own. Through her, you are slowly introduced to the history for the X-men and the various members of the team.

X-Men:Legends is an action RPG game. To put it in less marketing like terms, it plays a lot like the classic Gauntlet game but with RPG elements added to it. As your team dispatches enemies, they earn experience points and level up at present amounts of experience. At every level, you are given points for your physical skills as well as your mutant skills. Physical skills are made up of Strike, Agility, Body, and Focus which specify the characters offensive, defensive, damage you can take, and amount of energy available for your mutant powers. Your mutant powers are where the game really forces you to make some interesting decisions as you have to select which powers you really want to emphasize with your team. Do you want to make Wolverine nothing but a damage dealing machine or do you want to slot some points into his mutant healing ability so that you’re not always pouring healing potions down his throat? It’s a nice system and while it seems a bit odd that the X-men don’t come with all of their powers at the start it works within the construct of the game.

The other RPG element of the game is that you will find equipment in the game that can amplify your team’s powers. These range from generic strike enhancers to specialized equipment that can only be used by certain X-Men. Some of the items are also geared towards specific enemy types and characters so you will be switching equipment around several times during a mission if you want to get the max out of your items.


The game also paces the levels of the characters that you don’t use. So if you’re exclusively using Wolverine through the first half of the game but want to switch to Colossus later on in the game, you won’t have to worry about him being behind the curve level wise. The downside of this is, that if you don’t use a character until later in the game, you’re going to be spending some quality time allocating points and equipping them.

You can break the character types into three main catgories: short range (Wolverine), heavy short range (Beast), and ranged attackers (Storm). You can play around with this dynamic a bit by playing with the individual characteristics of the characters but you’ll want a range of types in your team. The difference between the heavy short range characters and the regular ones is that the heavies can pick up other character and heavier items (yes, you can relive the Cannonball special with Wolverine and Colossus). You’ll need a good mix of types as some of the bad guys you’ll face in the game are resistant to certain types of powers. For instance, you don’t want Wolverine taking on characters that are resistant to physical attacks. You’ll want him to bypass those guys and hit the electrical resistant enemies while you have Storm or Jean Gray take out the ones that Wolverine skipped. It’s a nice mix and something you’ll have to keep an eye on as you progress through the game.

The powers themselves are excellent and spot on. In addition to melee skills, each character has two combat skills (one that does a lot of damage to one enemy and one that does a moderate amount to more than two enemies), a buff power (that enhances damage and defense), and an extreme power. Also, characters have slots to up their damage dealt in melee attacks (Iceman can add frost damage to his punches and kicks), increased energy and health, and some other interesting powers (such as Wolverine’s mutant Cop-out errr…healing factor). A neat twist in the game is that you can combine the powers of two X-men if you time the attacks right. For instance, you can have Iceman freeze an attacker and then have Storm zap them with a lightening bolt. You get the normal damage for the attack plus a bonus for the combo.

Your characters earn their extreme powers at Level 15 and each character has their own attack. Wolverine will attack multiple enemies in a room, while Storm will unleash a huge storm on everyone in the room. In order to launch an Extreme attack, you have to collect extreme points which are earned by finding them in crates or by executing combination attacks. Initially, you can only have one extreme attack at a time queued up but as you progress you will earn more slots up to a maximum of five attacks at a time. The Extreme attacks aren’t nearly as powerful as they sound but if you need to hit a lot of things in the room at one time it’s a good way to do it.

Level-wise, you get to explore everything from the Mutants home base Mansion, to the Weapon-X facility. In order to keep with the comic book thematic, the designers went for a cell-shaded look for the characters. Initially, it’s a little strange because the rest of the world is rendered in the traditional way which makes the characters stand out. I played the game in high definition through my X2VGA and I thought the game and characters looked great but I know that Charlie felt a lot of characters looked alike and that there were a few rough edges to them. The models don’t seem to have individual digits but it’s really only noticeable in some of the cut scenes.


One of the things I liked about the level design was that large parts of the levels were destructible which allows you to recreate “Extreme Make Over: X-men Edition”. Of course, this version of the show only consists of the demolition portion of the show, as you can throw chairs, tables, beds, and other things lying around the environment at your enemies. Your teamates will occasionally get in the way which is a problem when you are chucking explosive barrels at people (I had a few too many friendly fire accidents this way). You can also tear through walls “Kool Aid” man style. The only problem is that the designers weren’t overly consistent in the stuff you can destroy area. Early on in the game, you are trekking through a snow area and you can destroy some but not all of the snow mobiles that litter the area. This can be frustrating as some destructible items contain health and energy potions. Another downside to this is that on some levels you are going to be taking out a lot of barrels, chairs, and cabinets looking for stuff. I understand that you have to look for stuff but on some levels I felt like I was waging a one man war against furniture and supplies from Office Depot rather than the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

For the most part, the audio in the game is superb. Although, it seems like a hefty portion of the sound effects were recycled from Soldier of Fortune II. The bulk of the cast is handled by professional voice actors but not the actors that appeared in the cartoon or major motion picture. Only Patrick Stewart is on hand to reprise his role as Professor Xavier and, as you would imagine, he does a pretty admirable job here. I like the voice acting but I was pretty disappointed to see that Mark Hamil didn’t make a return trip as the voice of Wolverine. It’s a little strange considering that Activision developed X2: Wolverine’s Revenge and X-Men Legends. Oh well, guess he was too busy shilling comic books at Comic Con at the time. The only thing that didn’t really work for me was the announcer that announces the Combos and Extreme Mutant strikes. It seems a bit too Monster Truck Rally and kind of felt a bit out of place.

The game is mostly single-player but you and up to three buddies can play through the single player game in co-op mode. What’s cool about the co-op mode is that players can join in and drop out of the game easily. So if you’ve got the one guy who has to take a potty break every five minutes, you won’t have to pause the game while he’s doing his business you can just have the AI take over the character for him. The only downer to this is that it’s not split screen so it is possible to get someone trapped on one part of the screen, requiring everyone else to wander back to get him.


The control scheme for the game is solid as well. The left thumbstick moves your characters through the world while the right thumbstick rotates through the camera positions. Pressing the right thumbstick rotates the mini-map through it’s three positions (off, small, full screen). The X button is for using, picking up and throwing items. The A and B buttons are used for punching and smashing, while the Y button allows your character to jump. The right trigger acts as a modifier for the X,A,Y, and B buttons as it brings up your mutant power selection screen. The left trigger calls the other X-Men to attack for target (for generating combos). The white and black buttons are tied to health and energy packs respectively while the Back button is used to access character profiles (this is where you equip and level up your team). To switch characters, you simply press the D-pad in the direction of the character you want to select. A helpful tip I learned early on was to put the characters in the same spot every time in the character selection screen so that I didn’t have to hunt around to find which direction to press.

While the game is solid, it is not without a few faults. The first is pretty typical in that there are times when you are fighting the camera. While the camera control is decent, there were a few times where I got hung up on a wall or two. It’s something that’s pretty typical of the genre but an annoyance none the less. The second is that there are a few bugs in the game. On more than one occasion, I had either an X-men or an item fall through the floor. I also had items get knocked into dead zones of the map which is exceedingly frustrating when you’re down to your last X-man and trying to scrape for health potions while being chased by a Sentinel or two. I also had some minor problems with the AI path finding, as they would occasionally box me a doorway or a corner. This was easily corrected by switching characters but it was kind of a pain to deal with.

I really liked this game despite the few flaws in it. It’s going to take the average gamer about 20 hours to complete the game. I finished it in a little under 18 hours but that’s because I skipped some of the optional Danger Room missions. If you’re an X-men fan, than this is a must-own. However, even if you’re not, you’ll still enjoy this exceptionally well written and mostly well developed game.





B
It’s addictive, fun, and takes good advantage of some of the best characters ever created. The only thing holding this game back is a few bugs.