X-Men: Destiny ReviewOctober 14, 2011
When I first saw screens for Activision and Silicon Knights’ X-Men: Destiny, I thought it looked quite a bit like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. I’m a big Marvel and X-Men fan, so this game definitely had me interested; choose a new unknown character, choose their powers and see them rise to the ranks of an X-Man or Brotherhood affiliate. If you liked Ultimate Alliance 2, you’ll have some fun with this one.
At the beginning, the game’s three playable characters are in attendance at a memorial peace rally for the X-Men’s deceased leader, Charles Xavier. Before long there is an attack, and your character’s mutant powers kick in. For the rest of the game, the Brotherhood and the X-Men point fingers at each other as to whom is to blame for the rally attack.
X-Men: Destiny certainly shares a lot of similarities with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Both games have you beating the hell out of swarms of bad guys to gain XP, both games feature slight RPG elements like leveling up mutant powers, and both games feature unlockable costumes. Also, both games feature the voice of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception‘s Nathan Drake, Nolan North. He played Deadpool in MUA2, here he plays Cyclops. Both games feature a whole lot of cameos from the superstars of the Marvel Universe. This is one of the most fun aspects about X-Men: Destiny. You can chat with Cyclops, Nightcrawler and many more. You can fight alongside (and maybe against) Wolverine. You can crash Gambit’s bar. You even get to make a good amount of choices throughout the game, aligning you more towards Magneto’s Brotherhood or Cyclops’ X-Men. You’ll pick up X-Genes, which you can equip to give your character powers similar to certain X-Men or Brotherhood members, like Wolverine’s healing power or Colossus’ metal skin. You can even find suits, most of which have powers tied to them, that look similar to all your favorite X-Men. If you’re an Iceman fan,you can equip his suit as well as some of his X-Genes. It’s all great fan service, but it does start to work against the game to an extent, because your character never feels like his own person so much as an amalgamation of other mutants.
However, by the end of the game your character’s identity feels more clear. By that time you will have leveled up your main powers- in my case I leveled up my character’s Obsidian skin, which let me punch enemies with rock hard fists. Over time I gained a slight rock like exterior skin, and by the game’s end I was able to turn into a freaking Obsidian Titan- a 30 foot tall rock monster that could smash enemies into pulp juice. How awesome is that?
The game’s visuals are a bit uneven. In some ways, like the character models and lip syncing / facial animation, the game looks pretty good- and once again, recalls the visual style of Ultimate Alliance 2. However, the game’s environments can get pretty ugly, with lots of texture streaming problems, as well as some very lackluster environments. In the beginning of the game you’ll find the most creative landscapes, such as the San Francisco rally, where debris is everywhere, fire is burning and you can see the ocean and palm trees. Unfortunately, the game falls into the old underground levels pitfall for a while, and you’ll see nothing but mundane labs, sewers and the like for way too long.
The game’s sound is overall pretty good. The soundtrack fits well, and yes, once again recalls MUA2. The sound effects all fit nicely, and the voicework is mostly well done. As stated before the always reliable Nolan North is on hand as Cyclops, and you’ll get to hear Steve Blum reprise his role as Wolverine for the first time since Hulk Vs.
The gameplay is nothing new; if you’ve played any beat-em-up since the PS2 days, you’ve essentially played this game. It is fun in short bursts, but if you try to push through the game’s roughly six hour campaign all at once, it will become stale and a bit frustrating. The AI on opponents and allies is a bit weak, hit detection is iffy, and a few boss battles go on way too long. You’ll see the return of the 3 stage boss battle- with no refilling health bar!- for the first time since the Super Nintendo. One such fight, against a boss named John Sublime (really?) had me close to turning off the console in frustration. Another strange design flaw- on boss battles, if you start the fight with a low health bar, it won’t refill for the start of the fight. However, if you kill yourself, you’ll start with a clean bill of health. I found it a bit weird to have to launch my characters into energy beams and missiles at the start of a boss fight.
Overall, the game is fun- the story is interesting, and creating a new X-Man will bring a smile to any comic geek’s face. I just know that if they had delayed the game a bit, and expanded on the gameplay and maybe improved the graphics a bit, this game could be a worthy successor to Ultimate Alliance 2. It’s just a bit rough around the edges. As it stands, it is definitely worth playing if you’re a fan of MUA2 and the Marvel/ X-Men license; it’s just a slight step backwards from that game.