X-Men: Legends Review
The X-Men have always been a comic fan favorite. The comic’s complex themes of uniqueness and diversity in the face of alienation, fear, and prejudice seem to strike a chord with many readers. Unfortunately the X-Men have suffered a similar fate to many comic heroes that make the leap to console games – i.e., the games have been pretty darn bad. Thankfully X-Men Legends finally bucks that trend and will certainly please the legions of X-Men fans out there. Rather than slap the likenesses of the various X-Men characters on yet another lame side-scroller or fighting game, X-Men Legends draws its inspiration from the popular and enjoyable Dark Alliance games. Applying a much-loved franchise to a proven formula saved The Simpsons from years of awful games in Hit and Run, and it is just as successful with the X-Men.
Cyclops unleashes a blast.
Even though it shares the same basic gameplay mechanic as Dark Alliance, X-Men is more than just a knock-off of the game that inspired it. For starters, Dark Alliance was a solo experience for the single player. This goes counter to the X-Men’s strong teamwork ethos and so Legends lets you take a team of four X-Men into missions selected from a dozen plus available X-Men. While in a mission you’ll only actively control one of the X-Men at a time with the AI controlling the other three, but you can use the D-pad to take control of a different one at any time. You can customize the AI’s behavior a bit by setting the percentage of time they dip into the community health power-up pool or that they use special power attacks, and generally the AI does a good job of pulling its weight during battles. You’ll still do a sizable portion of the work, but at least you won’t be pulling around a lot of deadweight. The AI does have one annoying habit, though. You can easily bump teammates off of cliffs and other high places accidentally sending them to their doom with just the slightest of incidental nudges. It would have been nice if the AI knew enough to dig its heels in when near precarious precipices as it can be pretty frustrating to lose a team member this way. If you have some friends to play with though you’re in luck – the game supports multiplayer cooperative play. It’s a lot of fun as long as you don’t fight over who gets to play Wolverine.
Every one of the X-Men has two methods of attack – melee punching and kicking and special powers. The melee attacks are controlled by two buttons that basically provide a faster but weaker attack and a slower but stronger one. The attack buttons can also be used to initiate more damaging combo attacks by hitting them in the right sequence. In addition, the Circle button can be used to pick up objects to throw at enemies or even to grab and toss the enemies themselves. Each of the X-Men also has a special attack related to his or her mutant powers. For example, Wolverine has powerful slash attacks using his claws, Cyclops has ranged beam attacks, and Storm can zap foes with bolts of lightning. Holding down R2 will pop up a small icon-based menu of the available powers and you can then quickly select the desired power with the D-pad. The mutant attacks are powered by energy and each attack will drain some of a mutant’s energy – think spells and mana here and you’ll get the idea. Luckily there are plenty of energy power-ups to be found in the game’s levels. In addition to their individual attacks mutants can combine their powers to create more powerful combo attacks. For example, hit an enemy with an ice blast from Iceman as Wolverine slashes him and you will perform an Ice Claw attack combo. Part of the fun in the game comes from finding and using these combos to put the hurt on the bad guys.
There are a lot of enemies in the game and they tend to get up close and personal pretty quickly. As a result it is tougher to field an all ranged-attack team of mutants. This means that you’ll find yourself needing to control a melee attacker most of the time to ensure that enemies are dispatched before they can overwhelm your team, and when it comes to melee attackers no one can match Wolverine. Wolverine’s basic attacks are quite powerful and his special attacks devastating. In addition, he has self-healing powers that allow him to act as a tank, charging into a mob of enemies, dishing out damage while his teammates snipe at the enemies with their powers, and then healing back to full strength before the next batch of enemies arrive. This is all great if you’re a Wolverine fan, but if you are a Cyclops kind of guy or gal you’ll probably be a bit disappointed by his inability to stay in a melee fracas for very long.