Review by C0unt9rishnack
"A solid effort that is best with a few friends"
Game play: 8
The X-men franchise has been somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to video games. That bag has a lot of junk in it. There are a few that come to mind in terms of fun games, the old arcade game was great to play with some friends, Marvel vs. Capcom is on of the best fighting games ever, and the Genesis X-men game holds a place in my heart. The first X-men Legends game was a huge step forward for the franchise as it was the best X-men game in recent memory. What really struck a chord with gamers was the fact that the action/RPG genre seemed like a perfect fit for the Marvel super-stars. Using whatever heroes you wanted, leveling them up, and customizing your powers was very intuitive and easy to use. X-men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is a worthy successor, but not the giant leap forward it could have been.
X-men Legends II takes place sometime after the first game and features the Brotherhood of Evil (Magnetos gang) on a mission at a military base. We are soon introduced to the X-men and realize that the Brotherhood and X-men must work together against a common enemy, Apocalypse. For anyone unfamiliar with the comics Apocalypse is a mutant of unbridled power who is hell-bent on destruction and the enslavement of humans and mutants alike. The game unfolds across many different settings featured in the X-men universe, as well as New York and other normal areas. The plot unfolds with true Marvel style and has a science fiction/action feel to it. Sadly the story feels somewhat stale and predictable, nothing great but not unbearable.
The direction chosen by the designers of both X-men Legends games was to go the cell-shaded route in graphics. X-men Legends II looks much less cartoon-like than its predecessor, making it much nicer on the eyes. Character models look good, if not a little stubby, and stay true to what the X-men should look like. There are generally a lot of enemies on screen and the game experiences absolutely no lag whatsoever. Short load times when entering new areas are mitigated even more by gorgeous character portraits that often give clues to who or what is coming next. Cut scenes only occur at the ends of each chapter but are some of the best visualizations of the X-men captured in a video game. By far not the best looking game on the Xbox, but the visual style fits the game perfectly.
Game play: 8
An action RPG's core game play consists of crawling through dungeons and pounding wave after wave of enemies. Pound enough and you level up your characters with better powers and abilities. X-men Legends is no different as you start out with one basic power and a plethora of skill sets to pour points into. For example Wolverine would have feral slash (a claw attack) and healing factor that you could invest points into to make stronger. Some advanced powers are locked and need other core powers before you can use them. All this gives a great sense of customizability as you can choose what powers you abuse or neglect. Enemies aren't very difficult on the default setting, but boss fights are generally interesting and more difficult. One thing is certain; you won't have very many game over messages in this one. There are also 4 core stats that every character has in the game that determine health (body), power (strike), mutant power (focus), and overall attack and defense (speed). These 4 core stats also create a feeling of customization as my Gambit may be a good mutant power user, while yours may be more of a fighter.
Throughout the game you will find a (maybe too) large supply of belts, armor, and gloves that augment stats. Equipment in the game can change attack, mutant powers, energy consumption, resistances, and a myriad of other things. You will also find health and energy packs to replenish your, well health and energy. Currency in the game (tech bits) comes in large amounts but you can always find something to buy whether it is level-ups, stat points, or new equipment. One thing that every X-fan wants to know is the roster of playable characters in a game. X-men Legends II does not disappoint with favorites like Cyclops, Wolverine, Iceman, Magneto, Toad, Jean Grey, and Storm. Some lesser-known characters such as Scarlet Witch, Sunfire, Juggernaut, and Bishop are welcomed additions and a joy to fans. You can use a team of up to 4 X-men and/or Brotherhood and finally get to see how they would work together. One of the big problems with the first game was that you had to unlock every character as the game moved along. If you wanted to play multi-player with some buddies they would have to sit and wait for you to unlock 2-3 more mutants. This problem was thankfully rectified in the sequel as there are 15 playable characters right from the start with 3 more to unlock.
Combat is handled very well as you allocate any 4 mutant powers to the A,B,X, and Y buttons. You activate them by holding the right trigger and pushing the corresponding button. Basic punches, kicks, and throws are the normal attacks but even the tanks of your team will be using mutant attacks the majority of the time. Mutant combos were essential to combat in the first game to racking up damage and experience points. Sadly the developers felt it was too easy to generate combos in the first game and definitely shortened the window of time in which you have to hit the enemy with the second mutant attack. The game is teeming with baddies to fight so you will level up very often over the course of this 18+ hour adventure. That's not to say you will max out and make it to level 99, far from it. I finished the game with my best characters between the 40-45 mark, and I am somewhat of a perfectionist. The games shining point is four player multi-player. At any point a friend or 3, can jump in and play as any mutant for any amount of time. No new game, no restarting, just good old multiplayer fun. Although you have to share a screen (no online or system link here folks) things move along well and it is quite fun to combo it up with some friends, even if only for short bursts. All things considered the game play in X-men Legends II is enjoyable if a little disjointed by a lot of time in-menu leveling up and tweaking with equipment.
X-men Legends has quite a few dialogue scenes in which the various characters talk about the next mission or whatnot. These are voiced well as Colossus sounds Russian, Pyro sounds Aussie, and Toad has a nice English accent. The most annoying part of the audio is while you are mowing down enemies your characters are constantly exclaiming things such as Colossus yelling I cannot be beaten! Needless to say these little exclamations get old real fast and should really have been more infrequent. Music is such a non-factor that I cannot recall anything memorable. Boxes smash up good, guns fire fine, and punches sound punishing. There is nothing spectacular here, but nothing to detract from the game play. You could play this game with your favorite songs on your headphones and you wouldn't miss much.
There are 3 unlockable characters in X-men Legends II, as well as comic covers, danger room discs, and hidden items to entice you play through the game again. The new characters are the best incentive to play the game again in addition to using mutants you may have neglected on your first play-through. My biggest reason to play through again was the Hard mode as I felt the game was a little on the easy side. This also gave me an opportunity to get to higher levels, use more powers, and get better and nastier equipment. If you are not the perfectionist type or don't have a larger chunk of gaming time to spare one play may be enough for you.
Having Juggernaut punch and guy in the face while Magneto holds him in place is one good time. The X-men move and feel as they should while the powers are fun and aplenty. Having 15 characters available from the start coupled with the mix and match quality of your team is great. In general this game gives you a great feeling that you are controlling a team of mutant super-heroes.
X-men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is an improvement over the first game. With new and more characters, more options in customizability, and a better looking game overall makes this the X-men game to buy now. Unfortunately the disappointing combo system, lack of difficulty, and somewhat repetitive game play has this sequel fall short of something really great. Any fan of action RPG's or those incredible X-men won't be disappointed by this one. If you are on the fence rent it, get up a couple of your friends and have a great time living out your mutant fantasies.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/05
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