It’s finally here; the final chapter in the X-Men trilogy is finally upon us and you know what that means. Movie tie-in games are bound to show up and once again they are brought to you by Activision which have delivered some of the best Marvel games to date including X-Men Legends, Ultimate Spiderman, and of course the highly anticipated upcoming Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Now as most of you know movie games kind of have a reputation of being not so good, in fact they are mostly known to be some of the worst games you will ever play. Does X-Men fall victim to this trend or does it simply fail to deliver an engaging action game?
As I mentioned in my 360 review a while back the visuals in this game are a mixed bag. While the next-gen version is disappointing by comparison the older console version actually do a nice job of taking advantage of the system. Decent lighting, smooth frame rate, and varied locales really make up for some of the game’s shortcomings. The animation is still second rate and at times the camera can be disorienting, especially in Wolverine’s levels, but for the most part Z-Axis has done a commendable job at creating a sharp looking game on the older hardware. But we all know the old saying that game play is the most important aspect…well…
For starters I do like the fact that developer Z-Axis has mixed up the game play between three main characters; Nightcrawler, Iceman, and of course the X-Men poster child Wolverine. Each character has a set pattern of levels to traverse through and all sport unique ideas used for the game play. Iceman feels almost like a free-roaming shooter as you glide across the city on a giant road of ice putting out fires and slapping enemies from the sky with his ice blasts. Nightcrawler adds a small amount of stealth with some wickedly twisted combat using his teleport abilities, easily the most fun out of all three characters, and finally the staple Wolverine hack and slash affair that will be a dream come true for all the button mashers in the world.
While all this diversity is nice it doesn’t come without a price. Outside of a few hackneyed combos there really isn’t much keeping the game play from becoming tedious very quickly. For instance Wolverine has maybe a total of five combos so I hope you REALLY like them because once mastered there isn’t much else to disperse enemies with outside of his insane fury attack. The other characters are just as guilty, Iceman has a lock-on feature that basically takes most of the challenge away from his levels and Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner is easy to take out baddies with once you learn to utilize his teleport combo. What I am getting at here is that after two to three levels of each hero you have pretty much seen it all and it never does anything to change up the pace for the rest of the game.
All of this is pretty useless however because of the extremely substandard AI in the game. Even on the Superhero difficulty I breezed through most levels on the first try simply because enemies stuck to their set pattern attacking with the same three-step combo over and over allowing me to simply cut my way through them like a chainsaw on melted cheese. To its credit X-Men does have some truly defining moments such as the Sentinel fights and of course teleporting around levels as Nightcrawler; please Activision make a spin-off title for him and really develop the character more, now that would be a sweet game, but in the end it ends up feeling really monotonous.
The main story of the game takes place between the second and third movies and basically leads up to the events of The Last Stand. You will discover that Lady Deathstrike is still alive, why Nightcrawler is absent from the final movie, and even see nice cameo appearances by Multiple Man and Silver Samurai. For X-Fans this game is certainly a fanboy fantasy come true, it is just a shame that the repetitive game play really drags it down into a category of mediocrity. The silver lining here though is that all of the actors have lended their voices to the game, so when Professor X speaks you know that Patrick Stewart is behind it. The cut scenes are progressed through a sort of comic style still motion and do a nice job of conveying the origin of the story from its comic book roots.
There are also a few unlockables hidden throughout the game including Sentinel files and other goodies that will unlock concept art and the like. There is also some fun to be had in the Danger Room, which is basically a giant training ground for X-Men. It is nice to see some extra content floating around as the main bulk of the story can be completed in less than ten hours. You will have to finish it on Superhero if you want all the mutations for each character, but as I mentioned earlier even on that difficulty the AI really doesn’t pose a threat most of the time.
At the end of the day there isn’t anything advertently wrong with X-Men The Official Game, in fact as a straight up action game it covers all of its bases quite nicely. The disappointment comes from the fact that it simply feels average. I left the game feeling like I wanted more, whether it was better visuals, more diverse game play, or simply a fresh helping of innovation. While the great boss battles and Nightcrawler levels really make up for most of the game’s shortcomings, you may still want to give this game a rent before making a purchasing decision. X-Men fans would do well to pick this up if just for the story alone, however casual action fans would do wise to rent first.