X-Men Destiny - Staff Review  

Professor X Is DEAD?!
by Adriaan den Ouden

Click here for game information
Xbox 360
Less than 20 Hours
+ Lots of customization options.
+ A ton of replay value.
- Extremely short.
- Lots of exposition, little character development.
- No manual save.
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   People complain that JRPGs have insane storylines — ever try reading a comic book series? While there is obviously a subset of gamers who enjoy both comic books and games, there's also a large group who only delve into the latter, and games like X-Men Destiny are a real eye-opener for them. As a general rule, comic book games are set either at the beginning of a franchise's history, or in an alternate, cut-off setting where background reading isn't really required. Occasionally, however, games base themselves in the current state of a comic book's setting, and the results can be a bit jarring for the uninitiated.

   As X-Men Destiny begins, we learn immediately that Charles Xavier is dead. Jarred yet? Apparently the leader of the X-Men, Professor X, has been killed while fighting alongside Magneto against a foe named Bastion, a robotic, anti-mutant super-weapon from the future. In the aftermath of this battle, Magneto has gone into hiding and the X-Men have fled the east coast as anti-mutant protests grow ever-stronger, setting up shop in San Francisco. Xavier's school has been shut down and abandoned, and Cyclops has become the new leader of the X-Men. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood is now under Mystique's control, until Magneto resurfaces. A new anti-mutant force has started to gain headway as well, known as the Purifiers. All this is laid out in a massive exposition dump before the title screen even shows up. Frankly, this kind of background information just shouldn't be necessary.

   As the game proper begins, players take control of one of three characters, each with a different backstory, who are attending a peace rally dedicated to ending the conflicts between humans and mutants. When the rally is attacked by an unknown force, the ensuing chaos causes the player's latent mutant powers to unlock. From here the story follows the player, X-Men, and Brotherhood as they fight to protect other mutants from the Purifiers and the shadowy organization that has allied itself with them. The player will have to make choices as the story progresses about whom to side with, which will ultimately determine which mutants will fight alongside them. The story is actually put together quite well, particularly in respect to how each player character's background is worked into the plot. That said, it also moves far too quickly, resulting in a game that's barely six hours long and a plotline that's heavy on exposition but extremely lax on detail and character development.

Fighting alongside other X-Men is one of the game Fighting alongside other X-Men is one of the game's few highlights.

   The reason for X-Men Destiny's pacing problems likely stems from the fact that it's more brawler than RPG. Right from the moment you start the game, waves of baddies are thrown at you over and over, and the only respite comes in the form of brief, exposition-laden conversations and messy, painfully easy platforming segments. That said, as a brawler it's surprisingly competent and even fun, though certainly not comparable to the juggernauts of the genre. Of note is the game's boss fights which come in both extremely fun and terribly frustrating varieties. Several have as many as three phases, and players will have to restart from the first phase should they die. Since there's no reliable way to heal during these fights, death is almost inevitable until players learn the patterns. Even so, there's something about fighting a sentinel robot on top of a building or trying to chase down Magneto while he's hurling buses and bridge trellises around that's just plain awesome.

   To X-Men Destiny's advantage is its three selectable power sets, each of which is surprisingly varied. Players can choose between the power to change the density of the body (Density Control), the ability to launch beams and balls of pure energy from the hands (Energy Projection), and the ability to create shadow matter at will in the form of blades and other objects along with teleportation powers similar to those of Nightcrawler except more limited (Shadow Matter). As the plot progresses, players will occasionally be able to choose between two new abilities for their power set, and experience gained from defeating enemies can be spent to improve these powers.

   Players will also come across X-Genes and Suits that can further enhance their abilities. X-Genes contain passive bonuses based on the abilities of various X-Men and Brotherhood mutants and come in three varieties: offense, defense, and utility. Many of these X-Genes can be upgraded with experience in the same way that mutant powers can, and the bonuses they grant can be quite powerful and often vital to success, especially against bosses. Suits, alternately, offer appearance options to the player, modifying a character's suit to make use of the color schemes of various mutants. As a bonus, if players equip a full set — a suit plus three X-Genes belonging to a single mutant — they can activate a powerful X-Mode, which grants significant combat bonuses.

Fighting half a dozen enemies that look exactly the same is a common occurance. Fighting half a dozen enemies that look exactly the same is a common occurance.

   Overall, the customization options in the game are extremely diverse, but they're not perfect. One aspect that's particularly irritating is the lack of a way to change your choice of power once you've selected it. X-Men Destiny has no manual save, relying entirely upon the automatic version. Because of this, once you've made your choice, it's almost immediately saved and the only way to go back and change it is to restart the game from the beginning. The descriptions of the skills when you select them aren't very exact and don't allow one to see their potential upgrades and overall power, and there's no confirmation dialogue, making it very easy to accidentally select an unwanted skill.

   Visually, X-Men Destiny is a severe letdown. The environments are all bland and uninspired, featuring mostly broken concrete and uninteresting buildings with the occasional sewer or military concrete to spice things up. These environments are then filled with a dozen or so identical enemies to beat up. Throughout the game, there are only four types of "normal" enemies to fight, with a small handful of more powerful enemies that show up in lesser quantities. Although the character designs are all completely faithful to the game's comic book origins, the quality of the models isn't particularly impressive, and the color palettes seem almost flat, as if there's no light reflecting off the costumes at all. The voice acting is quite good, but the music fails to stand out in any meaningful way.

   Although X-Men Destiny is extremely short, wrapping up at six hours or less, the game's many customization options, including three power sets with multiple individual power options, three playable characters with different backgrounds, and two factions to join, give it a lot of replay value. In fact, when viewed in that regard, its brevity could even be seen as a boon. Unfortunately, other elements of the game are not up to snuff, and it's difficult to recommend as a full-priced product. If you can find it on the cheap, however, there's definitely some fun to be had.

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