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X-Men: The Official Game Package Art
GENRE
Action
DEVELOPER
Z-Axis
PUBLISHER
Activision
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1
CONNECTIVITY
no
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X-Men: The Official Game

Marvel has reinvaded our pop culture. The once nerdy comic book creators have carved a path to the big screen attracting an entirely new generation of fans. Activision's now requisite game adaptations have been mostly quite good, a surprise considering licensed material often relies on inherent popularity alone. X-Men: The Official Game attempts to build on that popularity, but instead falls into the old trap.

visuals

X-Men's character models are about as good as it gets. While every character received great work, Nightcrawler is most noticeable as the free roaming camera lets players see the details down to his facial features. Iceman's levels do not seem as fast as they should, but that might be due to players forgetting that he's not Silver Surfer. Cut scenes are handled in an unusual but stylish way. Rather than use actual video, pre-rendered background stills and characters pan across the screen. It's more simplistic, but the art is a interesting cross between movie realism and comic book drawings. It looks great and adds much needed style.

The game struggles, however, to maintain the look throughout. Nearly all of Wolverine's levels suffer at least once from a noticeable drop in framerate, as his missions contain the most enemies. In one of Iceman's levels, the environment wasn't drawing fast enough, meaning he was slowly approaching a black void. Nightcrawler escapes most problems, except for a few disappearing backgrounds depending on the camera angle. X-Men is visually quite realistic, but the glitches interrupt an otherwise beautiful game.

audio

Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, Shawn Ashmore, Eric Dane and the always incredible Patrick Stuart lend their voices to their respective characters of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Multiple Man and Professor Xavier. That covers the majority of the voice-work used in X-Men. The remainder of the voice crew does a nice impersonation of the film actors.

The effects get the job done, but do not provide anything too memorable. The background music is standard action tunes, but the looping soundtrack ends with two minutes of dead air. Maybe this is intentional, but it feels more like another glitch.

gameplay

X-Men falls chronologically between the second and third films, and invents one of the strangest stories ever seen in a film based game. The quick version is that giant robots called Sentinels are seeking out and killing mutants. That's all well and good, but the path the three playable characters take in this story is a little silly.

The game splits 28 missions between Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler. Unfortunately, the most boring character gets the most levels. Wolverine's 12 stages have nearly no variety, consisting of either wave after endless wave of mindless enemies or an excruciatingly long boss battle. Despite having the most varied attack arsenal, Wolverine feels limited. He does nothing but fight, and the fighting involves no skill. Players will quickly learn that the roundhouse kick is never blocked, leading to its repetitive use. His Fury special move looks cool and works well, but does little to break the monotony. The only fighting strategy is how to deal with Wolverine's awful camera, which remains fixed in a corner of the room. This often forces Wolverine to walk towards the screen, making it difficult to defend attacks without picking one decent spot in a room and staying put.

It's all topped off by Wolverine's strange opponents: Ninjas, Freddy Krueger-like versions of himself (in his mind no less) and a previously deceased Deathstrike. His missions culminate with a battle against Sabertooth, a character that, aside from an early training mission, receives no mention the entire game.

Iceman doesn't fare much better. His levels take place in the air, with Iceman sliding on a sheet of ice; essentially, he's flying. He would be at home in a Star Wars game, as many of his levels involve flying into reactor cores-- who knew Earth had so many buildings with reactor cores? His Death Star levels, while still mostly repetitive, are at least a step up from Wolverine's and provide some much needed excitement. Iceman's remaining missions feel more like chores as he puts out fires and chases missiles. A few ground-based levels in place of Wolverine's button-mashing could have opened some fun mechanics and expanded his powers.

Nightcrawler is the undisputed star of the show, but his mutant ability isn't a game-saver. He continues the theme of strange storylines when he suddenly travels to Hell. This appears to be another head game, as much of Nightcrawler's levels are filled with visions of Jason Stryker. Still, it is impossible not to laugh at the absurd paths these stories take.

At least Nightcrawler is fun to use, particularly in battle. He breaks free of Wolverine's unusable view with a traditional third-person camera and uses his teleportation power to bounce swiftly between enemies. Once players learn to mix this attack with his traditional teleportation, Nightcrawler becomes unstoppable in the way an X-man should be. His battle with Multiple Man is one of X-Men's few moments of pure gaming joy, and the rest of his fights aren't too bad. The downside is that most of his already limited eight levels focus on platforming. In that setting, his teleportation is used more like a long jump, as Nightcrawler cannot move through walls or objects. His levels did receive the most creative design, and while not saying much, his powers allow for the most innovative experience X-Men offers.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

With all due respect to one of Marvel's coolest characters, Wolverine has no place in this game. He is easily overshadowed by his companions, whose abilities translate to gaming in much more inventive ways. But even their efforts do relatively little to improve an overall poor effort. If Nightcrawler and Iceman had more expanded and varied roles, this could be a solid title. Even the nonsensical story lines would be very easily tolerated if X-Men: The Official Game was any fun, but most of the time, it's not.



final score 5.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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