X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2, GC
Publisher
Activision
Developer
Raven Software
Genre
Action RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Language, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Large levels with lots to find
• Environments look great and can be destroyed
• Large cast
• Co-op and online gameplay

The Bad

• Character models could be more detailed
• Lots of loading

 
Grade
A

On the successful heels of the first X-Men action RPG, Raven Software has returned with a follow-up that easily addresses any complaints offered on the first game. With a different cast (not completely different) of mutants to use, players will find themselves running through the game to get to the next area, the next objective and the next boss fight. While the previous game focused on the X-Men's conflict with Magento and his minions, this time, a greater enemy has forced the two teams (X-Men and the Brotherhood) to work together for the greater good. Legends 2 starts out with the Brotherhood and X-Men working together to free Professor X. After revealing Apocalypse (a super-powered mutant whose been around for ages) has taken Polaris, both teams head to Genosha, a mutant city once governed by Magneto. As players progress through the initial areas, they find out how Apocalypse's forces have taken over Genosha and imprisoned the mutants who live there. As with any comic book story, this one is filled with twists and revelations that the X-Men and the Brotherhood must deal with as they move from area to area (including Canada, New York City and Egypt).

All of the gameplay elements that made up the first game have returned with some obvious revisions that address some of the issues that fans had with the previous game. Players are given a team of four characters to battle their way through interconnected levels, locating various items, keys and completing objectives as they present themselves. To swap between active characters, players use the D-Pad to select the mutant they want to use. Unlike the last title, the whole cast (minus three unlockable characters) is available pretty much right from the start. All you have to do is go to an Xtraction point and swap out your team members, which include the likes of Wolverine, Magneto, Juggernaut, Toad, and Gambit. After completing the first few objectives, you'll locate Blink, a mutant that will allow you to go back to camp at any time by way of a portal that will also place you back where you came from, keeping players from losing any progress.

Combat is done in real time with a combination of the A Button for standard attacks and the B Button for powerful attacks. Using these two in combination can lead to different attack strings. The Y Button is used to jump and the X Button is used to pick up items and pick up/throw objects and enemies. Using the Right Trigger gives you access to the character's powers, which includes attack powers, boosting powers and even a character's super attack. You can also use the Right Trigger and D-Pad to swap out powers, allowing you more than the standard two you gain early in the game. Using the Left Trigger calls your allies to you and also gets them to use specific powers, which you can time out to perform combo attacks.

As you press through the game you'll find that you're going to need a balanced team to progress. It helps to have a front line bruiser and someone with energy powers. But, you're also going to want to toss in someone who can fly, create passageways or even get to switches that are beyond your team's reach. Because of this, the team building element is the more important. Also, there is a better effort towards making your characters more balanced, meaning you won't have one powerhouse dragging the rest of the team behind him (you know who I mean).

One of the nicer aspects of the game is the massive amounts of destructible environments, which can actually be great fun to watch crumble to pieces as you fight through the legions of minions. It's always good fun to grab an enemy and actually throw them trough a wall. Or, picking up a canister and chucking it at a nearby foe's head. These breakable items and walls have additional purpose in providing alternate paths and even hidden areas. Also, you'll find picking up items to throw at enemies useful in certain battle situations.

Those who felt they spent too much time micromanaging their character's stats and skills will be pleased to find out that they have the option to let the game auto-distribute upon level up. For those who loved that aspect, the many skills, abilities and powers available to you will allow you to mold your mutant team to your liking. Along with skills, players are given more than enough equipment that they can buy or find to put on their team. Of course, if you're a true collect-a-holic, there are more than a few additional items to collect, including comic book covers, concept art, an even homing beacons which allow you to unlock a special character when you find them all.

Unlike the previous game, you're not forced through boring mansion portions just to get back to the combat. This time around, you just have a small hub to do everything. When not fighting your way through the game, you have access to a trivia game (always good for some quick experience points), the Danger Room and NPCs to talk to further the story and give depth to the cast. Outside of the main story, players can also access the Danger Room for various bits of combat, including Sparring matches and a Skirmish mode, which can be unlocked at a certain level.

While the single player experience is pretty enjoyable, the multiplayer aspect is where you're going to have the most fun. The game can be played cooperatively with up to four players for the Xbox and GameCube and two players for the PS2 or you can play online through Xbox Live or Gamespy's service on the PS2. When the game isn't suffering from some online lag, the online experience is pretty fun. As a personally preference, I thought that the co-op experience with friends made the adventure all the more fun.

Visually, X-Men Legends II is a step up from the first game. Levels are large and have a great deal of detail. Visual effects and lighting make most areas look fantastic and varied. One of the nicer aspects is that the destructible elements of the environment are integrated seamlessly. You'll have a hard time telling what you can bust up and what you can't. And, after a good battle, the damage done to the area is pretty self-evident. CG sequences are well done and show a good bit of personality. The character models themselves look good, but lack a certain level of detail, which really shows up in the engine run cutscenes. They are better than the previous models, but in light of the detailed locations, they show room for improvement. The enemy models tend to fall in the same category, but at least these have enough variety to keep you from feeling like you're killing the same enemy over and over again.

Audiowise, X-Men Legends II falls right in line with the previous installment. The soundtrack is effective and works well during the length of the game. Sound effects have a great range and variety, setting the tone of the action well. The large voice cast, including Dee Bradley Baker, John DiMaggio, Quinton Flynn, Steve Blum, Jennifer Hale and Lou Diamond Phillips, does a great job at making the characters come to life. Maybe a few of the performances feel a little over the top, but when capturing some pretty over-the-top characters, the actors do well with the material.

While most of the game has been pretty well honed to near perfection, the only real issue the game still suffers from is a good bit of loading throughout the game. Luckily most stages are large enough that this isn't an issue, but it does tend to break up the flow of the game from time to time. This is exceptionally noticeable on the PS2 version, where you're faced with load screens even in the menu.

If you loved the previous one, X-Men Legends II is a fine step up and well worth your money. Raven has addressed a lot of the complaints from the first game without taking away from what made the game work so well. With tons of items to collect, including unlockable characters, and some excellent co-op play, this game may be the best the X-Men have to offer this generation.

- - Vane

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