It’s doesn’t take a mind-reader like Charles Xavier to guess that if you had a favourite X-Men game, it would probably be that arcade game – the one with the audacity to include Dazzler as a playable character. Am I right? Frankly, save for a few beat ‘em up appearances, video game history has not been too kind to “homo superior”. Can developers Silicon Knights (Too Human) and veteran publishers Activision save mutant kind with their psuedo-RPG beat ‘em-up X-Men Destiny?
Charles Xavier is dead and his legacy is in tatters as a renegade extremist cult known as the Purifiers set out to wage war on Mutantkind. As history dictates, the X-Men and the Brotherhood step in to stop them and players can choose one of three brand new mutants who are as yet unaffiliated with either of the two mutant groups. Throughout the game, each character is given various choices that will inevitably determine whether they fight the good fight alongside Cyclops, or prepare for the next stage of evolution with Magneto.
Casual gamers will probably be turned off at the fact you can’t blast or slash your through the game with their favourite mutants, such as Cyclops or Wolverine. However, I was surprised by how much detail and back story they provided for their three newcomers. A Japanese refugee, a College jock and a young Purifier hellbent on revenge make up the new cast members giving players the opportunity to play the game from different perspectives. With much of the emphasis of this game being about choices, multiple play throughs are required to see the whole story, but at heart very little about the gameplay changes.
Along the way players are given the option to take on missions for the X-Men or the Brotherhood. Depending on your decision, your allegiance will shift and you will be one step closer to joining the mutant team of your choice. However, the missions themselves don’t vary as often as you’d like, with the result usually being your character knocking seven bells out of a given number of goons in order to achieve your goal. The choices are a nice idea, particular for a series with such a rich story as the X-Men, but it’s been done better before by games such as Infamous.
The opening sequence of the game allows you to choose between Density Control (Strength much like Colossus or Juggernaut), Energy Projection (Firepower such as Cyclops or Gambit) or Shadow Matter (Heightened Reflexes like Wolverine). Once again this adds a bit of variety to each character whenever your play through for a second and/or third time. From there on in, there a number of ways to customise your character. “X-Genes” which are scattered throughout the various levels give your chosen character traits and powers made famous by other mutants in the series. A few wardrobe changes have also been provided meaning that those who pretty much want a replica of Colossus can do so if they wish, so long as it is set within the confines of one of the new characters. Choices such as these don’t exactly change history, but they’re nice touches for somebody who’d be a bit more at home using the powers of their favourite X-Man.
The gameplay mechanics are mostly made up of button-bashing your way through level after level of enemies. Controls are made up of the usual basic attack, heavy attack, block, dodge, jump combo that comes with the territory. By adding “X-Genes”, you can use special attacks to stun or severely damage the enemies in a manner that’s not far off the surprisingly entertaining Marvel Ultimate Alliance series, The downside is that these controls are broken and lack the fluidity that’s expected from games these days. There were quite a few occasions where the controls were unresponsive to my commands, leaving me open to enemy attacks. The enemies you encounter don’t present much trouble and as long as you have thumbs, then you’re perfectly equipped to take down whatever the game has to throw at you – this goes for the boss battles as well.
One major problem with the game lies with it’s graphics. Opting for the designs similar to that of the X-Men Animated Series, blue and yellow take the for front in a very colourful game that still somehow seems to be unpolished. A lot of effort has been gone to perfect the new characters, and I’ll admit they look pretty good, but the old familiar faces have been left in the lurch. The level designs are rough and repetitive, with edges so sharp they’d take your eye out. Overall, this feels like an unfinished product, with even recent HD remakes surpassing it graphically.
X-Men Destiny is one big disappointment. Considering new franchises such as Infamous and Prototype have reinvented the superhero genre for consoles, the fact that a first class (no pun intended) X-Men game is still to be developed is just mind-boggling. Perhaps it’s about time Activision and Marvel made the right choice, and fulfilled their destiny to make an X-Men game truly worthy of the franchise.