Review by asherdeus
"When the X-Men and the Brotherhood join forces, you know something bad must be going down..."
Action games and role-playing games have been fused together almost endlessly since the release of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and they've appeared on almost every console under the sun (even the N-Gage). One of the most popular games to take the formula crafted by Baldur's Gate and mix it up was last years X-Men Legends, which basically took Baldur's Gates camera and gameplay and combined it with the X-Men characters and universe. But even though it was set in the X-Men universe and featured only X-Men characters, the game was still accessible to newcomers which helped attribute to it's incredible popularity. And of course, when a game is popular, that means a sequel needs to be out on the shelves a year later, and that's why I've found myself with a copy of X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse in my hands.
Rise of Apocalypse opens with Magneto and two members of his Brotherhood of Evil attacking soldiers inside a heavily fortified base. The cinematic follows them throughout endless corridors as they end the lives of a dozen different soldiers and destroy everything that stands in their way. But when the camera pans around the next corner, you'll see the X-Men standing in wait. However, just when you expect Wolverine to put his adamantium claws to Sabretooth's throat, he retracts his them back into his body and the two teams join forces and run down a hall. Later, you'll discover why: Apocalypse has openly attacked Genosha, a mutant city, and Magneto alone isn't strong enough to stop it. Forming a temporary alignment with the X-Men, no matter how painful, is essential for both mutant teams' survival.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as it was in Baldur's Gate, or Diablo, or Untold Legends. You're sent on a series of missions and asked to eliminate foes that have invaded an area and sometimes you're given neat objectives like disabling triggers for bombs, stopping a sea wall from breaching, rescuing other mutants that are in peril and the like. But even if the objectives are varied, the means to completing them are not: you and a team of three other mutants beat the crap out of whoever stands in your way. Since you're constantly beating on people, you might imagine that the game would grow quickly repetitive, but that isn't the case because the game has such a wide cast of characters that you can control basically whenever you like. I liked playing as Wolverine, but sometimes I'd get bored and switch off to the other characters, such as Storm, who fights in a completely different way. The inclusion of so many other characters truly goes a long way in preventing any feelings of repetition or boredom.
Unlike all the other hack-and-slashers out there, your characters don't need to spend their time buying silly, jewel encrusted longswords that give them +10 stamina since all of them have their own weapons, but you will need to purchase defensive items for them as well as items to replenish their stamina and mental power meters. There are insane amounts of loot to gather and barter for, and considering how many characters the game features, you'll be needing all that you can get if you want to level up all of them. Luckily, the environments are very vast and full of places to explore, which means you won't grow bored trudging through areas searching for extras. Naturally, boxes and objects that you destroy often yield gold or items, but their real purpose is being picked up and thrown, which was probably my favorite attack. There's nothing quite as satisfying as picking up a bench and bowling over a group of threatening enemies then quickly targeting and destroying them with Cyclops' powers.
The combat system's most basic attacks consist of punches, throws, and kicks which are powerful enough to dispatch most enemies, but underneath this veil rests a deceptively deep combat system waiting to be exploited. For instance, you can throw your enemies into walls and objects and down flights of stairs, but you can do even more damage if you throw them into one of their own men or even better, one of your own allies. You'll also earn some extra experience which you can then use to level up your characters and increase their power. A quick pull of the right trigger also brings up a special menu of attacks which are helpful against stronger enemies.
These attacks are all varied depending on the mutant you're playing as, so Wolverine has a lot of physical, close-combat attacks while Magneto has more mental, long-range attacks. But don't get me wrong, these special abilities aren't only used for killing. Sometimes you'll need to call on Storm to put out a fire so you can progress and other times you'll need Magneto's ability to control metals to create a bridge to cross a chasm. Sometimes you'll need to teleport people out of an area fast, so you'll call on Blink and other times you'll need to destroy a console from afar, so you'll call on Cyclops. Because of this constant need for the powers of ever mutant and not just some, your entire army of mutants becomes more powerful and very few are left behind which I think is very important to this game.
If you really aren't into the whole RPG thing, this game won't be lost on you either. Early on, you're offered the opportunity to not only have the game level up your characters automatically but also equip them with the best items. I found that, in general, this system works well. Granted, you can't customize your characters exactly the way you might have wanted, but then again, if you wanted to customize them in the first place you probably wouldn't have turned the features on. Honestly, I can't stand RPGs anymore and these features were a godsend for me, but if you do like RPGs, you're going to find more than enough stats to twiddle with, characters to level up, and items to equip.
But it's the co-op mode, which allows up to four players to simultaneously assume roles as X-Men or Brotherhood mutants that really make this game fun. Alongside your friends you can progress through the entire storyline. Even though the AI in this game is good, it isn't as good as the average human. Battles can get a little hectic in multiplayer and you can get lost in the carnage at first, but you get used to it fast. If you don't have a bunch of buddies sitting around with you, you can take the game online and play with some other people too.
Rise of Apocalypse is a rewarding experience both on-and-offline, but it's also important to note that it looks and sounds great. The typical isometric camera follows you along on your journey and shows off detailed environments and stand-out, cel-shaded characters. As for the sound, the score in this game is great and sounds like it belongs in the X-Men movies (if it isn't already). And what would this type of game be without voice-overs? Patrick Stewart lends his voice as Professor X and although no other actors from the movie are signed on, a great cast of other voice actors act out all of the other characters. I mean, there's almost an entire page in the manual dedicated to just the voice actors.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is going to please pretty much everyone who picks it up. Role-playing fans are going to dig all the characters to level up and customize, comic book fans are going to go nuts over all the cameos and references, and action fans are going to be satisfied with all the different enemies they can kill. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is a great experience that you're sure to enjoy.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/25/05, Updated 10/31/05
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