With virtually no publicity and very little info X-Men: Destiny soars onto retail shelves without many people noticing. Activision has had a successful run with Professor X’s mutants over the past two generations, and a lot of people were expecting yet another Marvel Ultimate Alliance out of the collaboration with Silicon Knights. Instead, what we end up with is a straight-up action game with some light RPG elements that is designed to be played through multiple times. The core experience may be too short for some, but what is here is definitely enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of the X-Men.
The story follows an alternate path from the comics where Professor X is dead and Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men are trying to keep peace with the humans. Of course, Magneto and his Brotherhood are keeping things on the verge of chaos. The game begins at a peace rally that is quickly broken up with an attack that the X-Men assume is Magento. This is where you come in. The game offers you a choice of three characters; each one has their own back story and is just coming to grips with their powers.
Once you decide on an avatar, the game quickly jumps to you getting to choose one of three powers. This is where part of the replay comes in. You have a melee option that hardens your fists to stone, projectile-based electricity and Shadow Matter, which is basically using your aura as a weapon. Think smoke monster from LOST that can fabricate blades. Each power is unique and really differentiates the combat, making a second play through worthwhile. At certain points in the story you will gain access to new abilities for each power. You get to choose between two different options at these points, and it really fleshes out the gameplay. I definitely wanted to play again just to see how things change up.
In addition, you can also collect X-Genes, which you can equip up to three of. Each one offers various powers based on characters within the world. For example, your dodge move can be changed to add Surge’s electricity. Collecting these is fun, and seeing how they fare in battle lets you choose how you want to play. You can also level up some of these X-Genes in addition to your main powers, which is truly the only RPG aspect in the entire game. You collect XP from fallen enemies and use it to power up these abilities, but outside of deciding which ones to level up, the RPG elements are soft. Still, there are lots of incentives to play again, which is what I think the game was designed for.
The core of the game is action, so much that it almost feels inspired by classic beat ’em ups as opposed to the action RPGs we are used to nowadays. Button mashing will take you far, though there are some nice combos that deal with foes much quicker. Enemies are pretty brainless and run at you like lemmings, or just stand there and let you beat them down. Areas mostly consist of defeat X number of enemies before moving on, which really makes the gameplay a little stale. Boss battles do break it up from time to time, but even a lot of those boil down to mashing a button over and over, rinse and repeat. While it may sound disappointing, I want to note that I played through the entire game in one sitting my first time through. That may sound like a downside, but I actually was having a lot of fun, which is probably why I kept playing. Destiny walks a slippery slope, but that doesn’t detract from its entertainment value.
As you make your way through the game, you will run into a plethora of X-Men characters from both sides of the fence. At times it almost feels like cameo theater. You will, of course see staples such as Emma Frost, Juggernaut and Nightcrawler, but you will also see plenty of obscure characters such as Pixie, Caliban and Northstar. The game loves to throw plenty of faces at you. There is a dialogue system in the game, but to be honest it really doesn’t change the story much. You can opt to follow separate paths and choose to side with the X-Men or the Brotherhood, but most of the choices are there simply for you to gain more info if you so choose.
As I said earlier, the game is relatively short. My first run clocked in at around five hours, but there truly is a lot to come back for. Each character’s story varies slightly, and seeing both sides of the X-Men conflict is definitely cool. There are collectibles in the game, but they are really only bios of characters. There are also propaganda posters to tear down, correlating to Achievements/Trophies. There is also a host of Challenge Rooms that you can dig into if you so choose. Seeing all three powers is the real reason to come back though, and honestly, the game is just mindless fun at times. Sure, the enemies are pretty dumb and more fodder than anything else, but that is also what it probably feels like to be a superhero.
Visually, the game stutters more often than not with some lackluster environments and mediocre character animations. Funny enough, the one thing I loved was the overlays for objectives. When you have a specific thing to do it pops up on the screen in 3D and you can move around it. It is a subtle but really cool touch that adds to the comic book feel. The music is forgettable and the voice acting is hit and miss. I swore the entire game that Nolan North voiced Cyclops, which if he didn’t, that guy is a dead ringer. The cast is up and down with some decent performances as well as some truly atrocious ones. Overall, the presentation is lacking and doesn’t really stand out in any fashion.
X-Men Destiny is a good game that stumbles over its own shortcomings. It is hard to recommend shelling out $60 for a game that feels this shallow, unless you are a die-hard X-Men fan. The action is fun, if not monotonous, and there is simply nothing special about it at all. Still, I had fun the entire time I was playing the game, and that speaks volumes in my book. If you have a special place in your heart for these mutants, it might be worth your time. Just know what you are getting into before laying down the cash.
Review copy provided by publisher. Game finished on both consoles.