STAFF REVIEW of X-Men Destiny (Xbox 360)

Thursday, October 27, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

X-Men Destiny  Box art On paper, X-Men Destiny sounds like a fantastic idea for a comic book based game. Take a brand new mutant in the universe with powers you decide to pick and choose from all the other mutants then decide whose side of the fight you?ll be on: X-Men or the Brotherhood. Unfortunately it feels as if the game was rushed and not polished at all and we have a generic comic book based game that falls flat and grows tiresome very quickly from its generic and shallow combat.

I want it to be known that Silicon Knights is one of my favorite developers. I?ve loved every game they?ve done so far, from Eternal Darkness to Too Human. Yes, I?m one of the few that loved that game and I don?t know why they got such a bad rap for it, but that?s a whole different issue. I?m not much into the comic scene though I absolutely loved the X-Men cartoon from the 90?s and once I found out Silicon Knights was doing this game I was instantly intrigued to see what they were going to do since Too Human?s offering.

First and foremost what you need to know is that you won?t be playing any of your favorite mutants from X-Men in any way; you?ll be playing a brand new character that suddenly comes upon having new powers. If you want to play Wolverine, Cyclops, Iceman and others, you?re better off getting either the X-Men Legends or Ultimate Alliance games instead. Destiny is going to feel more like a generic comic book game rather than anything exceptional that sets it apart from anything else.

As you play through the game you?ll find random X-Genes around that give you specific powers for your new character. As you pick up these enhancements you?ll be granted an offensive, defensive or utility power that ?came from? and resembles powers that your favorite mutants possess. As you gain more powers you?re able to mix and match what powers you want equipped at a time for a unique play experience to your liking.

The game?s plot starts at a peace rally that is being held in the memory of ex X-Men leader Professor X who was recently killed by Bastion whom you?ll recognize if you now your X-Men lore. Just as quickly as the rally begins it is interrupted by destruction that looks like it?s from Magneto?s hands himself, yet he?s nowhere to be seen. With mutant and human relations being tense already, this sets events in motion that start absolute chaos in San Francisco?s streets and you?re just an unlucky individual at the rally when this all goes down. Lines are about to be drawn and you?re going to have to eventually decide if you?re backing the X-Men or the Brotherhood. Just as things are looking bad for you, suddenly you appear to have mutant powers (which you get to choose) as well.

Your first order of business is deciding which of the three new mutants you want to play as. Aimi Yoshida is a Japanese teenage girl whose parents sent her away from home on a tanker ship. She doesn?t know why and has resentment towards her parents because of this choice. Grant Alexander is your generic jock type trying to become a football player that has no interest in the whole mutant vs. human conflict that?s going on. Lastly is Adrian Luca who is the son of an extremist against mutants who was killed. Adrian grew up hating mutants and seeking revenge for his father?s death. Aside from some minor back story to each character, it really doesn?t matter who you pick as they can all equip the same powers once obtained.

Throughout your journey to find out the truth you?ll cross paths with many recognizable mutants such as Iceman, Gambit, Magneto, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Cyclops, Pyro and more. Sometimes you?ll fight alongside these characters and others you might be fighting them depending on your choices. From here you?re going to go on a short five hour journey of button mashing with a story that isn?t all that interesting since you?re not really invested into your ?new? character unlike the other mutants we?ve known many years. As you smash, hack and slash your way through, you?ll probably lose interest about halfway through, which isn?t a good sign when the game is so short. I really finished the game out of curiosity and obligation rather than enjoyment.

After you make your choice of who to play as you need to pick your main core power for your mutant (which cannot be changed unless you start a new game). Your three choices are Density Control, Energy Protection and Shadow Matter. Density Control is made for your brawler types that make you tougher and hit harder, Energy Protection is your ranged attacks that may not be as powerful but makes up for it in speed. Lastly is Shadow Matter that allows you to hit multiple opponents with extremely fast attacks. I chose Energy Matter and once you get a few upgrades I had no problem being in the thick of battle with some of my extremely powerful attacks taking out groups of enemies at once.

This is a straight up brawler game. You?ll fight ten to fifty guys and once clear you can then move to the next checkpoint where you?ll fight ten to fifty guys again. As you repeat this over the course of your five hours of gameplay you?ll also be searching for collectibles and X-Genes which will grant you new powers. Once you unlock a combo or two that find work well for you you?ll essentially be repeating the same combo over and over making for a very shallow combat system even though you?re ?supposed? to have many different abilities at your disposal. Eventually your attacks will become so powerful that you?ll no longer need to dodge or block, which can be fun but there?s only two types of enemies that need any sort of strategy to destroy (I hate you mechs with turrets!). As you complete large combos or have a specific numbers of enemies remaining you?ll see these giant words appear on the battlefield saying ?Great Combo!? or ?1 Enemy Remaining!? .They can become distracting but in a neat comic book fashion, you?re able to destroy these words and see them smash as you beat up enemies through them.

As you meet up with some of the more famous mutants, you?ll be given different dialogue options in your conversation with them. You can talk to them about certain subjects to find out more backstory but skipping these options won?t really lose you any background info you?ll need. Sometimes when there?s only one choice of response, you?re still asked to pick it as a dialogue option. Why wasn?t it just part of the cutscene of you two talking rather than pretending you had an option of something different to say? Oh, and you better hope you don?t accidently pick the same dialogue choice a second time because all dialogue and cutscenes are unskippable. Sometimes in your conversations you?ll have to make moral choices that are supposed to be a big factor in X-Men Destiny?s gameplay. Sometimes you?ll need to decide if you?re standing behind the X-Men or Magneto?s Brotherhood. Moral choices are supposed to have a heavy weight or bearing attached to them to make them feel like you?re actually deciding between good and evil. Your choices really have no weight attached and has no repercussions other than which faction?s quest you want to side on. This mechanic could have had such a great possibility, what if you had to choose to side with Magneto or else he?d kill a bunch of his prisoners in front of you. Sadly nothing this deep is ?offered? so don?t worry about siding with one side or the other; it really doesn?t matter.

As I mentioned before, as you play you?ll need to find X-Genes hidden around the world as you progress to gain new abilities, powers and combos. Rewards are completely random so when you reload a checkpoint for a second time, you will find a completely different ability than your first time. While it seems like a good idea, it makes it near impossible to find a full matching set of offensive, defensive, utility and costume. The reason you want a matching set of the same mutants powers is because when you match all four slots of the same person you have the ability to use a very powerful ability of theirs called an X-Mode attack inspired by that mutants powers. During my one and a half playthroughs I was only able to find one person?s complete matching set; disappointing indeed. This means there?s no way to find all your missing powers consistently and trying to finish a set can be frustrating as it?s completely random. As a redeeming quality, the option to mix and match specific abilities does become quite powerful once you decide how you?re going to play, but it does take a lot of trial and error to find out what works for you.

It?s very confusing to figure out how you spend your xp gained from battle to put into your skills and abilities. Once you figure it out it still doesn?t make sense and is more convoluted than it needs to be. If you have a maxed out X-Gene then swap it out, you?re stuck using the new one instead, so decide well before hand what abilities you want to level up. To make matters worse, many X-Genes essentially do the same thing but exact powers will have different wording. For example: ?an extra bar is added to your M-Power meter? and ?an extra bar is added to THE M-Power meter?. Subtle difference and they mean the same thing, but with an already confusing menu and inventory system, this doesn?t help and seems sloppy and overlooked.

I understand that X-Men Destiny is comic based, but why must every boss tell you their master plan in great detail just before they think they?re going to kill you so that when you escape and defeat them you can fix all the wrong doing? Your character seems to have this problem as well and will tell anyone your plants regardless if you?re aligned with X-Men or Brotherhood as if everyone is your friend.

Once I finished the game for the first time I was slightly disappointed there was no New Game+ mode once the main menu loaded. I decided to see if I went to continue my first game if it just saves it before the final boss and lo and behold, it starts the game over with my character and powers intact. While you?re stuck with your main core choices it is entertaining to defeat challenges in mere seconds with your overpowered mutant and to see the secondary choices in the dialogue options. Even though the campaign is short, I simply didn?t want to sit through the game a second time but at least the option is there for people who will try and suck a few more hours out of the game and achievement hunters.

X-Men Destiny lacks polish and lots of it. Some may consider these next items minor but the fact that they stood out made my experience tainted. Subtitles don?t always match what?s being spoken which is a big irk for me for some reason. Many cutscenes are clumsy and lack continuity; like when you give Gambit a package and he says ?let?s see what?s in the box? then reacts to it instantly before even opening it or moving himself. I had a cutscene where a big package in the back of a truck slipped out half way and was clipping through the side of the truck as if nothing was wrong. If you have Iceman?s defensive ability equipped that gives you an ice armor coating, it?s instantly gone and missing once a cutscene loads. Facial expressions look completely dead and there?s massive slowdown at specific sections where the frame rate just plummets.

As I said before, I?m not the biggest X-Men fan but I know the basics and some of these are just wrong. Gambit doesn?t sound the least bit Cajun or even resemble anything like the Gambit from the 90?s cartoon. Also, why can you get Juggernauts X-Gene powers? Technically he?s not a mutant. But alas, maybe I?m reading too much into it, but when a casual fan notices this stuff I can only imagine what the real hardcore fans are going to think to these decisions.

Being that there are three characters to choose from it seems like the game is meant for a co-op experience but it?s only a single player affair and has no multiplayer of any kind. X-Men Destiny isn?t inherently bad; it?s just unfinished and unpolished with a few poor design choices that make for a shallow experience. As I said, on paper all these ideas seem great, they just don?t come together well in this full prices package. Even if you?re a huge X-Men fan, it?s a rental at best and you?ll probably finish it in one sitting like I did.

Overall: 3.7 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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