Game Rant’s Rob Keyes reviews X-Men: Destiny
Activision teamed with Silicon Knights, developers of Too Human, to bring fans the first true X-Men video game in six years, not including the movie tie-ins. Titled X-Men: Destiny, this action-adventure title is unlike the competition this year in that it’s not based on its respective comic book movie and does not have the player playing the title character(s).
After a mediocre demo at E3 2011 and concern about the visual presentation and concept behind X-Men: Destiny, has Silicon Knights delivered the quality Marvel video game fans have been clamoring for? Read on for our review.
X-Men Destiny is a single-player game, taking a different route than the X-Men Legends games from Activision and Raven Software. Instead, Destiny allows players to pick one of three original characters and build their own mutant power set, while at the same time, allowing them to make their own choice in who to side with in the game: The X-Men (led by Cyclops) or the Brotherhood of Mutants (led by Magneto).
Going the single-player route allows, in theory, for Silicon Knights to deliver up-close and personal action as well as a more compelling story, a la Batman: Arkham City, but instead of taking that opportunity and running with it, they’ve made what amounts to an old and cheap arcade game, a movie tie-in without the movie.
From the outset of the story which begins and revolves around a mutant peace rally in San Francisco after the death of Professor X (the founder of the X-Men), non-fans of X-Men will have no idea what’s going on or why any of the characters thrown in matter. This is strictly a game for knowledgeable X-Fans and for them, they get a nonsensical story that takes place over the course of a single day in the area of a few city blocks, involving one of three characters who go from non-mutant to mutant god while still sometimes unsure that they are even a mutant.
With so much to draw from the X-Men universe, nothing was put to good use, and worse, X-Men: Destiny’s last-gen gameplay does the opposite of helping to salvage the experience. At key points during the game, players are given an opportunity to choose one of two mutant power upgrades, based on a selection of one of three base powers at the beginning of the game. This, and the ability for players to find collectible character costumes and X-Genes to equip and enhance their character is the fun part of the game. The non-fun part is nearly everything else.
The intro of X-Men: Destiny is rather cool and feels as if it were taken from the start of a spin-off X-Men mini-series to introduce three different characters, but like the rest of the cinematic moments, cut scenes have framerate issues and graphical bugs (invisible Wolverine claws) – characters pop in and pop out or move to places and back without purpose. Every few minutes players are pulled out of gameplay and forced to watch, with no options to skip – even if they’re replaying that segment.
During actual gameplay, which is set up in an extremely linear and very small series of boxed stages full of a pre-selected number of carbon copy villains known as the Purifiers, combat devolves into button mashing and slowly gathering M-Power to unleash the few mutant powers available. Assassin’s Creed and Batman it is not. Not even close. Combat, like the level designs, is overly simple and lacks any depth. Players can jump, block and evade, and then rapidly hit the two combat buttons repeatedly against large amounts of cannon fodder.
Not only is combat and the repetition of it boring, but so are the villains which remain the same throughout the entire game. Even the few “boss” battles are repeats of earlier boss fights with a different repeating pattern. For the few moments they are there, X-Men: Destiny does a good job at portraying a lot of characters from the books, but does little with them. Instead, the X-Men and Brotherhood characters show up in a series of short cameos and are not worked into the game’s narrative.
Since the fun comes from upgrading the protagonist of choice, the game becomes even more irritating by throwing up invisible walls and every other cheap game design trick to prevent players from back-tracking to find missing collectibles. Taking this to the next level of frustration, the checkpoint system is brutal and forces players to re-do entire sections and boss fights upon death – which can surprisingly happen more than once on normal difficulty in certain fights since the game doesn’t reward health or M-points very generously.
While the game does little more than offer the basics of story, level design and gameplay in a very short and boring game, there is some fun to be had in upgrading your character. Collecting X-Genes and costumes, while upgrading them all alongside the character’s base powers does make the player feel like one of the strongest and capable mutants out there, even if it makes no sense within the rules set up in the Marvel universe and the game itself.
X-Men: Destiny may have made for a competent game – not a good one – a decade ago or as a $10 downloadable if they cut out a that lot the redundant repetition and allowed for multiplayer. Maybe it’s a weekend rental for X-Men fans, but it is too far behind the times to warrant a purchase and doesn’t offer anything new to the genre or X-Men franchise. It’s a wasted opportunity that Activision could have used to make X-Men: Legends 3.
X-Men: Destiny is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and DS.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.