Review by ConfusedGuy

"Save the world through madcap destruction."

Marvel's X-Men have long been some of the most famous comic book heroes, spawning an endless supply of merchandise over the years. Many games have been made with the X-Men before, but few cut the mustard. One notable exception was the arcade beat-em-up - you and up to three other players going medieval on the asses of Magneto's thugs.
Legends returns to that formula, adding in a more robust ability system, and an action RPG backbone to make your characters visibly more powerful over time. Having mutant powers was never quite so fun.

The story of X-Men Legends is a lot like the first X-Men movie: there's a girl with mutant powers (Alison, later known as Magma), Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants try to kidnap her, the X-Men save her, a series of investigations into suspicious activity from the Brotherhood reveals their true plans (for which Magneto wanted to use Magma), and the X-Men must stop them. The plot is somewhat different, and the storyline takes a number of departures from it, but the idea is nothing new. Most of the beginning of the story moves rather slow, but towards the end it's actually somewhat interesting.

Conceptually, X-Men Legends has a portal-like overworld and a mission-based gameplay system. However, the "overworld" is so trivial that it's really just a series of missions with short intermissions. After the initial level, every mission can be played by up to four players, each controlling a different X-Man. The game is playable by any lower number of people though; the extra guys are AI-controlled, and you can switch between them on the fly with the D-pad. The AI is capable in some situations, but dumb in others, so it's useful to manually guide them through some obstacles. The AI is partially customizable on a per-character basis; if someone's using too much mutant power or being too headstrong, you can adjust appropriately.

Each mutant has a punch attack, a kick attack, a grab/throw, and four special mutant powers (Iceman for instance has a straight freeze blast, an ice projectile attack, an ice armor, and a special move freezing nearby enemies). Each character gains experience from killing enemies. Experience is shared among the characters in play, and characters not in play receive experience at half this rate. When a character levels up, he/she gets a stat point and an ability point, which you use in a pause menu to increase the character's statistics (attack, speed/defense, health, and mutant energy) and abilities (which, aside from the four special moves, also include passive skills like more powerful regular attacks). Interspersed throughout levels are blue Extraction Points, at which you can save the game or switch your characters - you can have any four mutants on the field at once, but by the end there are over a dozen you can choose from.

The most impressive part of X-Men Legends is the environments. Almost everything is 100% destructible. Cars, phone booths, chairs, even walls can be pounded away. You can toss enemies into destructible objects to do more damage, and even pick up some objects and toss them at enemies. Colossus can pick up military transport trucks and hurl them like a child's plaything.

Legends is not however without flaws. Awkward beginning controls and unanticipated ramps in difficulty result in a lot of deaths through the first parts of the game, and death is fairly difficult to get over - the character is gone until you get to an extraction point, where you can either replace him or revive him at a cost (you collect a form of currency from downed enemies sometimes, which you can also use to buy useless items). There are also a lot of glitches, like chairs getting stuck in ceilings, or enemies becoming spontaneously invincible.

The game is good to look at. All the characters, enemies, and environments are well rendered, and effects and explosions light up the screen excellently. Sound effects can get on your nerves, but usually aren't too bad. You'll barely notice the music, as it's too muted and uninteresting to grab the player's attention.

X-Men Legends promises a fair amount of replay, in extras on beating the game and optional bonuses like comic book covers, but it's marred by the fact that you can't return to stages you previously beat. If not for that, it would be fun simply to go back and level up characters more, but, no.

In the end, Legends is a blast to play: beat people up, unleash awesome mutant powers, and wreak havoc on incredibly destructible environments, potentially with three of your friends along for the ride. But there are also flies in the ointment, like glitches and the inability to backtrack between stages. It's fun, but don't be surprised when you get frustrated at certain parts of the game.

Overall arbitrary rating: 7-7.5/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/15/04

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