X-Men: Destiny Review
Written : Wednesday, October 12, 2011
By: Lee Abrahams
Superhero games have had a rough history on pretty much every format, and none more so than the X-Men. Always one of the comic world's big hitters, they have never quite managed to translate their paper-based and silver screen success into the gaming medium. With titles like Arkham Asylum finally showing the world that, shock, horror, comic games can actually be amazing, then surely it is about time for an X-Men title to deliver.
Which is what makes the ensuing diatribe all the more painful to write. As X-Men Destiny really fails to deliver on pretty much any level and offers only the most fleeting glimpse of what could have been. The novel idea to introduce a fledgling mutant into the already established Marvel universe is a good one, as it gives the writers and the player a chance to experience events from a fresh perspective. Add to that the neat idea of being able to mould said characters abilities in a variety of ways as well as managing their moral compass in favour of either the titular heroes or the slightly more nefarious Brotherhood, and we should be onto a winner.
Sadly though, none of these elements are ever suitably fleshed out enough to make for a satisfying experience. You get a choice between three characters but they all feel rather shoehorned into events, especially when you can pretty much use the same powers no matter who you choose. It is a clever idea to force characters to choose between their core powers at certain points of the story, but the choices are pretty unimportant and only have the most minor influence on how the story or gameplay pans out.
Likewise, you can snag new gene powers as you progress which give you access to established mutant powers. Be it Juggernaut's charge, Toad’s poison or a bit of frosty-style Iceman damage, you can mix and match your abilities on the fly, or just make a replica of one particular mutant if you find the requisite abilities. It’s a clever idea but none of the powers feel overly beneficial at any stage, instead just adding a fancy effect or a bit more damage to your standard attacks. While it is nice to know that you can create your own DIY mutant from the best bits of established characters, it would have been better if those choices actually felt like they mattered or altered the game in any way.
The story is the typical struggle of the X-Men against other mutants, evil Purifiers and the mysterious U-Men. Along the way you run into a menagerie of characters from both sides of the good/evil divide, and every now and then you can chat with them to get new information and take part in a variety of challenges in order to increase your standing with each faction. Though again this is an idea that is only partially successful, as even if you spend your time trying to side with the Brotherhood at every turn then the X-Men will still come along and help you out and vice-versa. So it is only at certain key junctures that your choices actually have a discernable impact on events.
Unfortunately the core gameplay is just as humdrum as the rest of the game. You can utilise the usual light and heavy attacks, as well as stringing them together in combos, not to mention the ability to dodge and block attacks too. You can then use mutant powers when you build up enough energy, as well as having alternative abilities depending on which mutant genes you have equipped. While it can be fun to clear a roomful of enemies with a mighty flex of your mutant muscles, it soon becomes apparent that the whole game is pretty much you doing that one thing over and over again. Smacking enemies around is fun for an hour or two, but even when you level up your powers later on in the game the novelty will have long since worn off. It doesn’t help matters when enemies routinely get stuck on scenery, or run around in circles like headless chickens, it makes the AI on offer look like it could be outwitted by a roasted peanut.
"OTHER LOUD NOISES!"
The achievement list is fairly stale too, but at least you expect a very easy one thousand points from little more than playing through the game. Assuming you miss anything, you can reload and retry levels or challenges that you may have missed in order to select alternative options or find hidden items and so forth. Thankfully you are spared a second playthrough by virtue of the fact you can just replay a couple of key levels to mop up any of the faction-specific tasks you may have missed out on.
It is a shame that the few good ideas here are drowned out by an overwhelming tidal wave of bland combat, dull backdrops and a storyline that never really gets into second gear. We enjoy pummelling hordes of generic foes as much as the next guy, but frankly when it presents as little variety or fun as this game does, then where is the satisfaction? It’s like beating up blades of grass – you might always win, but what’s the point? Sure you may have a bit of fun while it lasts, but it is a far cry from what gamers come to expect for their hard earned cash. Give it a rent for a day and you will see and do everything that is on offer, which will then free you up for the rest of the weekend to play something genuinely entertaining.
Some decent voice work, with a rather hit and miss script, but the rest of the music and sound is drab to say the least.
Uninspired backdrops, with a few vivid yet sparsely animated characters to populate them. Plus the decidedly limited array of enemies and occasional glitches hardly help matters.
Some fun mutant powers aside, the whole game rapidly devolves in repeatedly mashing the same few buttons until everything is dead. While that might be a blast for a while, it soon gets old.
Some interesting takes on the traditional X-Men lore, but the plot and premise never really seem to get going, and the neat twist of using an array of mutant powers is nowhere near as much fun as it ought to be.
A very straightforward list that offers little in the way of challenge or innovation before you hit that magical one thousand points. This is pretty much a day's work at best, and you will not have to tax yourself at any point during that time.
About as middle of the road as it’s possible to get without being some kind of pedestrian crossing. X-Men Destiny does everything in as average a fashion as possible and then some. Even hardcore X-Men fans will feel let down by the story and action that is served up, and even the few good ideas are rapidly swamped in mediocrity.