X-Men Legends
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2, GC
Publisher
Activision
Developer
Raven Software
Genre
Action RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Fun team-based action RPG gameplay
• Lots of environmental interaction
• Plenty of X-Men to use
• Co-op is both a challenge and fun

The Bad

• Minor clipping issues
• Character models could be more detailed
• Getting some of your favorite X-Men near the end of the game is a downer

 
Grade
A-

It seems that now that comic books are finally getting some respect in the videogame world, it was about time someone revisited one of the more popular comicbook teams and gave them a full-fledged game all their own. In Legends, players are presented an X-Men world that takes liberties in it's story and history. To be fair, though, Raven Software had to do wonders to build a story without completely tossing out years of convoluted backstory. The game begins as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants kidnaps the young mutant Magma. After Wolverine and Cyclops rescue her, she is brought back to the X-Men mansion to learn about her abilities. The mansion serves as a hub from where the X-Men team is sent out on missions to different locations and even where you can play "flashback" missions that are definitely added for the longtime fans (Nightcrawler's Sentinel mission is a blast for those who followed the series circa issue #100).

Players familiar with hack-and-slash action RPGs like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Diablo will jump right into this game with little to no trouble. While there is some RPG elements in allocating points to your team's stats and to earn them new abilities, the core of the gameplay is taking a team of four into a location and blasting your way through waves of enemies. Unlike other action RPGs, Legends gives you four people to control - by selecting the icon on the D-pad you can switch party members. Those not under your control are controlled by the AI, which can be slightly altered in the menu. The AI is not the greatest, but it usually won't hamper you by making ridiculously stupid actions.

Combat involves the use of two attack buttons and the various combos you can string together with them. After some training in the Danger Room (the X-Men's training simulator), you should have a good handle on how to stun enemies, knock them into the air and even grab and toss enemies out of your way. When you pull the Right Trigger, you can also use powers from your selected X-Men, like Cyclops' Optic Beam, slash attacks from Wolverine and even teleporting by Nightcrawler. Hitting the Left Trigger will call for help from allies and get them to use their powers as well. Hitting enemies with multiple powered attacks can lead to high-damage combos.

X-Men fans should be pleased to know that they do get a number of team members to select from, though most become unlocked over the length of the game. You'll start with Wolverine, but in time get Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Storm and Rogue. As you get further into the game, you'll gain access to more X-Men. Because earn has different strengths and weaknesses, you will actually have to consider how to set up your team as you play a level. Enemies have certain weaknesses that you can exploit, like humans being weak to psychic attacks, which help you decide who to bring along.

One of the nice things Raven Software has done has allowed a certain level of interactivity with the game environments. In fact, a lot of the locations can be busted up during battle. You can pick up crates and objects and throw them (I especially enjoy throwing explosive barrels), bust through certain walls and every break a lot of furniture (some of which holds equipment and potions). To go along with this are environmental puzzles that require the use of your team's powers, be it making bridges of ice, welding certain pieces of metal or flying over gorges.

On top of the standard single-player mode, you can bring friends over and play co-op. Four player co-op. Going through the missions in co-op is both fun and noticeably more challenging. But, with the challenge is an increased level of fun I haven't experienced since Gauntlet in the arcades. Along with the co-op story mode are versus modes (sparring, king of the hill, last man standing) that prove to be a nice diversion, but wouldn't hold up on their own without the main story mode.

Visually, X-Men Legends presents a nice package, but it does seem to need just a little more. There are a good variety of locations and each of the locations has a great level of detail and depth which helps represent their specific areas quite well. To accent this is some nice effects, visual and lighting-wise, which do great at accenting. To go along with this are some nice CG scenes that act as small breaks between each scenario. Where the game's graphics seem to stumble is in the character models. Notwithstanding the personal tastes of character design (I'm not a big fan of the design of the costumes and was pleased with the flashback costumes), the models themselves lack a bit of detail and depth. Done in cel-shaded manner to mimic a comicbook style, the character models, especially upon closer inspection, are pretty under-detailed. Also, the character heads in the level-up menu also look like they could use some work. With this said, though, the graphics still prove functional and don't detract from the overall experience.

The audio portion of Legends works well to keep the mood of the game moving along. The sound effects feel appropriate and give the action a certain weight to it. Music is varied and effective in boosting your adrenaline as the action really gets going. While none of the track are overly impressive, as a whole body of work, the soundtrack succeeds. Voice acting proves to be good, especially with the inclusion of a number of familiar voice actors (Cree Summers, Steven Blum, Tony Jay) and even well known actors (Lou Diamond Phillips, Ed Asner, Patrick Stewart) making appearances in the cast. While some of the lines are delivered with a degree of "cheesiness" and I would question the voice direction on some of the cast, overall, everything does well.

With so much going right for Legends, it's pretty easy to overlook the few issues that do arise in the game. First and foremost is a balance issue with the presence of potions. In certain locations, they drop like snow in Alaska, but in other places, you're going to have to break just about everything in sight to get enough to survive some of the more challenging scenarios. With this is another minor hiccup - clipping issues. While it's understandable to have pits and ledges to fall from, I had to wonder why potions would bounce behind a building wall out of my reach, especially when I really needed it. Finally, some players aren't going to like that some of their favorite X-Men show up late in the game and with no "New Game +" option to start with the whole cast of X-Men, they'll never get more than a small percentage of time with their faves.

Not since the arcade X-Men multiplayer beat 'em up has there been a game worthy of the X-Men name as Legends does. Yes, there's been a few good platformers and the appearance of team members in certain Capcom fighting games have helped keep the name from being sullied alongside Superman and Batman, but with X-Men Legends, fans of the series will finally get a next-gen action RPG worth their time and effort. As an action RPG without the license, X-Men Legends is still a great effort, worth your time and notice.

- - Vane

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