Review by PapaGamer
"Not really an RPG, but a lot of fun anyway"
X-Men Legends is billed as an X-Men role playing game (RPG); however, the RPG portion of the game amounts to controlling how your characters increase in power. This game is basically a hack-and-slash adventure game ala Diablo or Dungeon Siege. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Overall, the game is quite enjoyable, especially if you have a fondness (or are an outright fanboy) for the X-Men. I fit the former category nicely, and I very much enjoy the game. I almost wish, though, they had left out the level-up structure and just put in more story or more X-Men.
The environments, FMV cutscenes and mutant power effects are fantastic. The cel-shaded characters, on the other hand, are a hate-'em or love-'em decision by the game designers. I tend more toward the hate-'em as they lack detail and are extremely fuzzy, as though filmed out of focus. And they look absolutely ridiculous in the CGI cutscenes. Still, a lot can be forgiven when the game is otherwise very solid.
The music, especially the combat music, quickly becomes repetitive. Some of the voice acting is top-notch--Patrick Stewart reprises his movie role as Professor Xavier--some of the voice-acting is really bad (Erin Matthews as Rogue, for example). The sound is probably the weakest element, and you can almost turn it off and still enjoy the game.
The gameplay is what saves this game and makes the graphics and sound almost an afterthought. The worst part, IMO, is the level-up system for the X-Men. The interface is too complex; for example, options unavailable to you still show on the screen, just "grayed out", which just adds clutter and forces you to scroll around a lot. The system is also pretty meaningless. Sure, you could focus all of Storm's level-up points on melee combat; but, she's never going to be as good as Colossus or Wolverine, so why bother? If you level your X-Men in accordance with their pre-determined strengths, then they're always going to pretty much come out the same. Since the focus of this game is team combat, I would almost prefer to have no player-controlled level-up system and more X-Men to play.
The ability to play as your favorite X-Man (assuming he or she made it into the game) is the main draw here. The combat system is good, with lots of special attacks, mutant powers and "combos" (more than one mutant power being used at the same time on a single target). In heavier fighting, it is almost impossible to pick out your character from all the intense action happening on screen. This certainly drives home, to the player, the chaotic nature of these major, comic-book style battles.
The AI for both enemies and CPU-controlled X-Men is very good; one of the best I've seen in this type of game. There's also a simple, one-button "call for help" system that brings your teammates running to you and has them attack your opponent with their mutant powers. Each X-Man has three levels of aggressiveness that all seem to work fairly well; though, I have noticed that, even when set to Aggressive, they'll run away from a fight if your character moves too far away from the battle. This can be a real problem in the boss fights if you play as a ranged character (Cyclops, Storm, etc.).
What really makes this a slick game is the multiplayer options. On a Gamecube, up to four players can, at any time, pick up a controller and take over an X-Man. If you have fewer players than X-Men on the team, any player can switch instantly to any "open" X-Man. The only difficulty with multiplayer is you have to keep all human-controlled X-Men on the screen together--there's no split screen.
The HUD (heads-up-display) during gameplay is easy to read and use. The only missing element is a health meter for each X-Man on the team. Only human-controlled X-Men show a health meter, so you can never tell if a particular X-Man is running low until he or she screams for help. You can set the AI to use a health pack whenever health gets low, but if you have run low on health packs, this won't work and by the time you get a warning, if may be too late for an expeditious retreat.
Overall I am enjoying this game very much. The gameplay is pretty smooth, the graphics look nice until you zoom in too close to the cel-shaded characters. The story is solid and the combat controls are easy to learn. There's a lot of variety and fun things to do (Danger Room tests, classic missions, sparring and more). A definite pick-up for any fan of action/adventure games. However, if what you're really looking for is an RPG in the Baldur's Gate/Knights of the Old Republic mold, this game is not for you.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/27/04
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