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Review: X-Men: Destiny
by Joey Núñez

X-Men: Destiny
Silicon Knights
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii
Reviewed on
PlayStation 3
Action RPG/Brawler
Best price we found in GBP:
I think the first time I tried to move the TV remote solely using the power of my mind was when I was about eight years old.

I’ve been dreaming of becoming one of Marvel Comics’ ‘mutants’ ever since. I would join the X-Men and become a hero, and be utterly and unapologetically awesome. Alas, it turns out that telekinesis is not one of my god-given talents; at least, not yet. In the meantime, I am left to live out my super-heroic dreams through comics, movies, and games. X-Men Destiny promised to be a cause for celebration for me and my inner eight-year-old, but, regrettably, the celebration consisted of a couple of awkward high-fives instead of the tribal comic geek dance that we had been anticipating.

X-Men: Destiny seems promising enough, as it sets out to tread the ground so many X-Men games before it have surprisingly ignored. Instead of letting you play as an established mutant hero or villain, the game casts you as a new mutant in the Marvel Universe, and allows you to choose your alliances, siding either with the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Mutants. This is a seriously great idea; what better way is there to get the wannabe mutants of the world to identify with a game character, than to let us play through our very own origin story? Sadly, although the premise is full of promise, the execution is a strictly mediocre affair.

The game starts off at a San Francisco peace rally, hosted by the government’s Mutant Response Division, the X-Men and the Mayor. All of the involved parties are hoping to quell the rising tensions between mutants and humans, as relations have hit an all-time low following a series of natural disasters, for which mutants have been scapegoated. Add to that the death of Professor Charles Xavier, and the disbandment of the X-Men, and things look pretty grim. As you can expect, the rally does not go as planned, as an apparent mutant attack sends the masses running for the hills. You stand somewhere in that panicking crowd and, as all hell breaks loose around you, your mutant powers manifest themselves for the very first time. The story offers several predictable twists and turns, but, for the most part, it isn’t half bad. X-Men Destiny offers up a true comic book yarn, which could have been pulled straight out of one of Marvel’s books. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is the way the game wants you to believe the choices you make have some kind of effect on the story, when, in fact, they don’t.

See, at the beginning of the game, you’re prompted to choose between one of three characters: Aimi Yoshida, a young and spunky Japanese refugee; Grant Alexander, a football jock with a college scholarship (and, if you’re wondering, he is indeed a total douche); and Adrian Luca, who, as the son of a human supremacist, is arguably the most interesting of the three characters. Choosing who you play as is the first 'false' choice that the game presents you with, because the characters are so poorly developed that, regardless of who you choose, your experience with the game will be largely unchanged. Sure, Grant hits on any female character he can find, and Adrian has some serious daddy issues which pop up occasionally, but other than that, the game doesn’t really make you feel like you’re having substantially different experiences.

The same can be said of your choices of alignment with either the X-Men or the Brotherhood. Throughout the game you’ll encounter several well-known Brotherhood and X-Men members, many of whom will ask you for help with various missions and attempt to sway you towards their cause. As a fan of the comics, fighting beside Emma Frost was very different from fighting alongside Mystique, but for the casual gamer, I’m not quite sure the difference will register, largely because the game fails to make the missions offered by both sides feel any different. Most missions task you with taking out a given number of enemies, and regardless of who you fight alongside, you’ll smash through the same faceless lackeys and ultimately head towards the same goal. Having played through the campaign aligned with both the X-Men and the Brotherhood, it was utterly disappointing to choose differently only to find that I ended up taking on exactly the same mission that I had completed before. Talk about lazy game design.

As for the gameplay, X-Men Destiny promises to make me feel like a powerhouse of a mutant, and for the most part, I’m going to go ahead and confirm that this is achieved. Although the game is mostly a button masher, I must admit I did enjoy mashing said buttons, mainly due to the different ways that the game allows you to customise your mutant and his or her powers. At the start of the game, you’ll be asked to choose between three different power sets: density control, which will turn you into a brawler with the ability to encase yourself in obsidian stone; shadow matter, which will allow you to pull off some very acrobatic and quick moves (think a badass Nightcrawler); or energy projection, which will have you shooting shiny lights from your hands that blow stuff up real good. Each power set comes with a branching skill tree, which allows you to upgrade your powers with new combos and abilities, all pretty standard stuff. The real treats, though, are offered up by the X-Genes.

X-Genes are power-ups and upgrades you are awarded with upon completing missions. Think of them as genetic material belonging to your favourite X-Men characters, which you can equip to your character. There are three different types of X-Genes: offensive, which grant special attributes to your attacks; defensive, which ramp up your evasion skills and defensive capabilities; and utility, mostly passive abilities or movement upgrades, which grant you the power of flight or super-speed. If you’re playing with density control powers, you might equip the Iceman offensive X-Gene, the Emma Frost defensive X-Gene, and the Quicksilver utility X-Gene; this will cause your character’s hits to freeze your opponents, and allow you to run around the screen at super-speed with your body encased in diamond. Just that idea is pretty freaking awesome, especially for a fan of the comics.

One last bit of customisation comes in the form of the special suits you find. These suits are also inspired by the most famous mutants in the comics, so each of the three main characters end up with their own version of classic costumes, such as Wolverine’s yellow-and-blue costume, or Psylocke’s purple threads. These suits aren’t just for show, though. If you equip all of the X-Genes related to a specific character and also wear that character's suit, you’ll be able to activate X-Mode, which grants you a considerable power boost for a short period of time, allowing you access to the abilities and powers of the mutant whose genes you have equipped.

So gameplay is completely epic, right? Well, no: sadly, it isn’t. Although goofing about with your mutant powers is fun, the enemies that the game pits you against are just too darn repetitive and, frankly, dumb. The AI is a mess, and enemy variation is slim. You end up feeling like an Omega-level mutant taking on a bunch of Danger Room bots. Can this be fun? Certainly. Is it ultimately forgettable? Absolutely and undeniably.

Lastly, the game has caught a good deal of flak for its presentation, and it’s time that the record were set straight: it isn’t as horrible as certain internet folks would have you believe. The voice work is actually pretty darn good, and all the major players act and sound like you would expect them to, which is something I greatly appreciate. As for the visuals, there are two things to consider: the art style and the graphics. The art style wants to be great; a very cool animation sequence at the beginning of the game just oozes with comic book coolness. Likewise, the character's suits all look good and are faithful to the comic design – with the exception of the newly hippie Nightcrawler – and the main characters’ customised suit designs are pretty authentic as well. The problem is that the graphics just don’t do the designs justice. Character models are seriously lacking in detail and animation fluidity, and the hair, oh-do-not-even-get-me-started on the hair. Mutant powers look okay, with some decent particle effects here and there, but the environments you let your powers loose in are mostly drab and lifeless. All in all, the game is not hideous, but neither is it pretty by any stretch of the imagination. On the heels of Batman: Arkham City, a visually-uninspired comic book game is simply unacceptable.

If you are a fan of the comics, I say you should definitely give X-Men: Destiny a try. There is a certain rush to fighting as a new mutant alongside the likes of Cyclops, Colossus, and Emma Frost, which only an X-Men fan can entirely appreciate. I'd be lying if I said that I didn’t have fun with this game, though whilst X-Men: Destiny is a fun distraction, it doesn't achieve much more than that. If you’re looking for the next great action RPG or comic book game, your attention should be centred elsewhere.

6/10 [?]

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- Joey Núñez

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