STAFF REVIEW of X-Men: Next Dimension (Xbox)

Sunday, December 1, 2002.
by Queasy Buddy

X-Men: Next Dimension Box art In the world of comics, no other team of superheroes is more loved then the X-Men which is why this is not the first (or last) attempt to bring them to the consoles. Part of the appeal is that these superheroes have nifty powers and have interesting background and individual stories of their own. Through the fighting genre we get to catch a glimpse of their powers in action. The game contains a large number of play modes, including the standard arcade, versus, survival, practice, time attack, and team battle ones. These modes are straightforward, but offer enough variety to satiate any gamer looking for a fight. To complement this selection are the stable of fighters and the choices of fighting grounds. Players can choose from two dozen different combatants, each with their own set of moves and supers. The characters are modeled after the current comic design of the X-Men and are faithful to the series. Wolverine is relentless, Betsy is agile, and it is nearly impossible to take Juggernaut off his feet. The most appealing aspect of the game lies in its single-player story mode. Keeping with the continuity of the comic series, the story sees the return of Bastion and the abduction and exploitation of Forge. Unlike most fighting games, which create a story for each character, this story involves all characters. Numerous cut scenes and an orchestral score make the play feel more involved than simply a chain of fights. It is this story mode that makes "X-Men: Next Dimension" a worthwhile rental.

The fighting controls are a bit tricky to get use to but once a gamer keep playing, busting out with the combo moves and power attacks become simple. Each character has his or her own style of fighting with various kinds of punches and kicks; you can also grab a character and perform devastating moves such as slamming an opponent against a wall or smashing them into the ground. There is a Super Meter that fills up with successful punches or kicks that connect with the opponent. Once the meter is filled and a level is specified, your character performs a signature attack. For instance, as Wolverine you slash away in a berserker rage that really does damage or as Cyclops you shoot a continuous beam from your visor. This game also borrows elements from Dead or Alive 3 such as throwing, kicking or punching a character off a ledge only to continue the fight in another location. You can also interact with certain objects as well, such as tossing an opponent against a crate of an Egyptian column and watching it crumble to pieces. In a way, the fighting controls are a lot more solid than its PS2 predecessor X-Men: Mutant Academy. It is also so much easier to perform combos or unleash individual power attacks. Also available are tech rolls that come handy after an opponent manages to get him or herself knocked down and the counter system allows you to block some attacks. You can even break away from a hold if the timing is right. There are also some characters with the gift of flight, making their attacks more dangerous and make them a target more difficult to miss since flying characters can sidestep in midair. Double tapping the left trigger can just as easily bring the character down to the ground. Depending on the game mode you choose, the game?s difficulty level is still pretty tough. Each opponent can be really difficult to defeat depending on the character you choose to go up against him or her. Fighting Mystique, who is fast and agile, with somebody as strong and a bit slower like Beast will make for a frustrating fight. Of all the opponents, the most difficult to defeat is Magneto and Phoenix because they have the best of both worlds--power and speed. Up to two players can take each another on in Arcade and Versus mode and there are enough characters to keep things interesting for awhile. While these two mode are perfect for multiplayer play, it would have been even cooler adding a tag team battle mode.

Visually Next Dimension does not take advantage of the accelerated graphics of the Xbox, but what is here isn?t at all that bad at all. Some characters are neatly designed while others (like Phoenix, for example) have funny facial features. Still, the bodies of each character move fluidly and realistically and its something of a rare treat watching the more bizarre-looking characters, such as Beast, in action. Character move more life-like in battle then in the animated cut scenes. The environments are also huge and neatly detailed but still nowhere near as detailed as, say, DOA 3 or Tekken 4. While the jungle setting is alive with wild plants and gorgeous blue skies, the waterfall does not look so convincing and neither does any body of water. The nineteen different stages in the game fit well with the look of the characters. Players will fight in a variety of recognizable locations, from the Xavier School to the Savage Land. Some of the stages contain multiple levels, or way in which to break through to other stages. The environments are big and contain a number of interactive and breakable scenery elements, but the overall look is very simple. Regrettably, single color textures and low-polygon models lend an unfinished feel to a number of the backgrounds.

Aside from the fact that actor Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men movie) verbally reprises his role of Professor Xavier, the voice talent here is actually okay. Each voice truly corresponds with each individual character the way you would expect it. Rogue is a southern belle so her voice contains a Southern drawl, while Gambit, the thief from New Orleans, speaks with a French Creole dialect. Still, before each battle, you?ll be hearing the same phrases repeated over and over again. The music isn?t bad either, with an intense score that brings the film?s soundtrack to mind. The music becomes especially commanding during the cut scenes. There are some decent sound effects that make each punch and kick sound like it would really hurt and the powers, such as Cyclops? explosive beam, are pretty decent. My only complaint is that there aren?t enough individual sound effects. For example, when Beast slams an opponent into the ground, you don?t really hear the actual slam.

While not as solid as other fighters, X-Men: Next Dimension makes a great effort yet fails to immerse gamers into the world of the children of the atom. This is still an entertaining enough game for fans of the Marvel comics. But I would suggest paying more attention on little details and add a few more special effects for the eye candy.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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