Review by PapaGamer
"Bigger isn't always better"
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is proof of the old adage, bigger is not always better. Compared to XML1, XML2 has more mutants with more powers fighting through bigger areas against bigger bosses. About the only thing that's really an improvement, however, are the bigger bosses.
Raven Software tweaked the graphics--at least you can count the fingers on the hands of the characters during cutscenes--but the locales tend to be annoyingly similar. And, the more you play, the more you realize a lot of the "extras" added to the game are just filler. More collecting X number of items. More long, meandering hallways built by Frank Lloyd Wright's insane twin filled with cannon fodder that must be disposed of using the even greater number of powers at your disposal, which leads to lots and lots of reading and experimenting and calculating...and other complexity.
Admittedly, there are some nice touches. There's a bit more variety in the powers now, especially with Xtremes. The bosses are even more fearsome and even some of the early bosses can lay waste your entire team a few times before you figure them out. The story is pretty good and will hold your interest, though it will be tried many times as you slink your way through yet more mindless filler.
The character models have been improved, which makes the cutscenes easier to watch. Some new environments have been modeled, but the textures are not remarkably different and the locales tend to be quite repetitious. There's only so many times you can look at the same scenery before you get bored with it. Fortunately, the game doesn't require much in the way of backtracking, so you only have to live through it once.
Mostly, though, XML2 looks the same as XML1. If you liked the first game's graphics, you'll like this one. If you didn't like the first one, don't be surprised if you are soured on this one as well.
The music is nothing special and the voice acting, overall, is a step down from XML1. There are a few good performances, and a few more you get used to. But all the tough guy characters sound like they were voiced by the same actor using the same gravely voice. Or, at least, they were tweaked in post by a single sound engineer who found a filter he liked and kept using it.
One nice thing that has been added is more fully acted conversations with NPCs; but, only if you have a certain mutant in your party or selected as your active character. There are even different conversation paths in some places depending on who is doing the talking for your team. For example, one early mini-boss can be bribed to go away and leave you alone, if you talk to the boss with the right character.
XML2 plays almost exactly like XML1, which is a good thing. XML1 had an easy-to-understand, simple interface that worked very well. XML2 has not messed with that formula. The PC version has some quirks, such as not recognizing full analog input from a gamepad and a needlessly complicated keyboard control scheme, but a little tweaking of the controls in the Options menu will quickly get you set up in your comfort zone.
XML2 introduces the ability to Xtract from any Xtraction point to any other Xtraction point you've activated. This helps mostly in allowing you to return to base almost any time you wish to restock supplies, save your game or blow off steam in the Danger Room. You can even open a portal back to your base in most areas, so you don't even really need Xtraction points any more--they are there mostly to mark progress.
XML2 also gives you 15 mutants from the get-go, with three more available after you finish your first game and meet certain objectives. PC users get an additional two mutants--Sabretooth and Pyro--for a total of 17 mutants the first go-round and 20 the second. Of course, Sabretooth and Pyro are slightly weaker clones of Wolverine and Sunfire, but at least they look different and have different voice actors.
With all the mutants to choose from and more powers for each mutant, you can get quite caught up in the complexity of leveling each character. Fortunately, the game includes an auto-leveling system that works pretty well and can be configured to auto-level ability scores (stats), skills (powers) and auto-equip gear on a character-by-character basis.
The big problem with all this complexity is the amount of experience gained by inactive X-Men is much less than it was in XML1. If you change your team around frequently, getting a feel for all the characters, you will begin to lag badly behind the hostile mobs. This will force most players to settle into using just a few mutants on a playthrough, and they will most likely fall into old reliables like Jean Grey, Storm and Iceman.
You could argue this actually creates some replay value as you can use different mutants your second and third go-rounds. Unfortunately, the size of XML2 works against this. XML2 is huge--probably taking the average player 20 to 25 hours to complete the first time through (assuming one takes the time to explore and doesn't just bash through the main story). And a lot of that time spent is needless filler, so it's not very interesting and the replay value is diminished. Even using a different team, how many will want to play through some of these levels again?
If I had reviewed XML2 after playing for a few hours, I would have scored it 9/10 as it is really enjoyable for a while--even more so than the original. However, as you continue playing, parts of the game become tedious and the score must reflect that.
Overall, this game rates about the same as the first. For every improvement, there's a disappointment. Still, in the end, this is one of the best superhero titles as well as one of the best action RPGs to come down the pike this year.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/17/05
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