Release Date: Out now!
Developer: Silicon Knights
Thank you to Activision for providing a copy of the game for review.
The X-Men, like most comic book heroes, haven’t had the best history with videogames, with most being either terrible or just barely decent. It’s a bit of a shame really as the varied powers of the Uncanny boys and girls should, on paper, be pretty damn good for a game. But now we’ve got a new X-Men game, a new chance to bring them into the world of games and craft something special, something fun, something brilliant. What we’ve actually got is X-Men: Destiny, a button masher that just doesn’t get it right.
In X-Men: Destiny Professor X is dead, killed at the hands of an enemy known as Bastion, the X-Men are barely holding together and now operating in San Francisco, and a group known as Purifiers are on a mission to kill every mutant they find. In short, things aren’t looking great for mutants or humans alike, but it’s the perfect setting for a new mutant to arise and power his or her way onto the scene, causing carnage and generally beating people up. The game itself opens by showing a peace rally in honor of the late Professor X. Cyclops, Emma Frost and Nightcrawler are all in attendance, but that doesn’t stop the brutal attack which leaves untold numbers dead or wounded. The attack itself would seem to point to Magneto and his Brotherhood, yet it’s Purifiers that are showing up to make life hell in the aftermath.
It’s during this attack that you’ll be given the option of choosing from one of three playable characters, each coming with a small back story. In reality your choice is largely aesthetic as their personal back stories have little impact on the overall story, never altering events or even conversations all that much so just pick someone who appeals to you and off you go. Some X-Men fans may balk at not getting to play as an established X-man or member of the Brotherhood, but from a gameplay sense introducing a new character makes sense, as it’s mere seconds later that you’re asked to pick from one of three mutant powers which have, rather conveniently, just activated within your chosen character. Your choices are being able to control the density of matter, allowing you to turn your fists into something resembling stone; being able to control and project energy or the ability to control Shadow Matter, which lets you create blades and move at incredible speeds. During your career as a fledgling mutant you’ll encounter moments where you get to expand your core power by choosing from one of two new abilities. The three powers on offer are fairly interesting, and getting to play with each one does offer the game some replay value, though I did note that Shadow Matter seems to be able to mow through the faceless enemy hordes quicker than anything else, thanks to being an unholy blend of Nightcrawler and Wolverine. Scary stuff.
But it’s the X-genes that really let you customise your character. These X-genes belong to specific mutants, such as Cyclops or Colossus, and can be found lying around the world or earned by completing objectives. There are three different types available; offensive, defensive and utility and you can equip one of each type at will, and can swap them out for any other X-gene whenever you want. There’s a few different styles of gene on offer, but it isn’t long before you realise that most of them are actually quite similar to each other. Still, they do offer a decent amount of choice in which to craft your very own dream mutant. By the end of the game my character could hover above the ground, turn his skin into ice and had a chance of attacks hitting at twice the normal speed. To top it off most of the X-genes can be upgrade using XP gained from beating the snot out of anyone who gets in your way. Different suits can also be found or earned during the game, and equipping these gives you access to varying powers, but one if your suit and three X-genes all belong to the same mutant. Exactly how different suits can grant you new powers and why you’re capable incorporating these X-genes into your body are never actually explained in the game, and don’t really fit in with the comics in any way, but if taken from a purely gameplay point of view it’s a decent system that offers a surprising level of customisation to your character, allowing you to create your perfect blend of mutants in one walking badass, and trust me, by the end of the game you will be a badass capable of taking down huge amounts of enemies without breaking a sweat.
However, before we go any further I would like to point out to Silicon Knights, who developed the game, that Juggernaught is not a mutant and therfore cannot possess the X-gene, which is what gives a mutant his or her powers. So, by that logic, you shouldn’t be able to pick up and equip a Juggernaught X-gene during the game. Geek moment over.
The X-genes do a good job in the first hour of covering up the simplistic and dull combat system. At firs the customisable powers keep you from noticing that you’re not unlocking many extra moves to add to your arsenal, but after that first hour it becomes apparent that the combat is never going to get much deeper than hitting the buttons like an enraged chimp demanding his next meal.. You’ve got a light and heavy attack at your disposal, along with a block and dodge, but the amount of combo’s and moves at your disposal are extremely limited. To make matters worse X-Men: Destiny loves to throw enemies at you; in fact during the games five to six-hour campaign you’ll do little else that fight the seemingly endless waves of repeated enemy types who require no variation in strategy to pummel into a pulp. Hordes of purifiers make up the bulk of the enemies, with the occasional bigger enemy thrown in, but simply mashing the buttons will see you through the fights without a problem. In short the combat is simplistic, dull and repetitive.
It really doesn’t help that your opponents are utterly brain-dead, either, thanks to a rather poor AI system which just sends the mindless horde charging toward, with no thought towards tactics or strategy. Sadly this lack of any intelligence shows up in the boss battles too; epic fights against Wolverine or Gambit should be a deadly dance of death, but in reality both characters have just a few simple moves at their disposal and have a rather peculiar tendency to attack absolutely nothing, leaving the locked in an attack animation where you can happily batter them black and blue. And here was me thinking Wolverine was fully of animal cunning and feral intelligence. The poor AI stretches to the many mutants you get to team up with, as well. It might sound like a great idea to get to fight alongside Cyclops or Iceman, but once they’ve gotten themselves stuck on the scenery or being attacking absolutely nothing, you’ll quickly find yourself irritated by their stupidity.
A vague attempt to mix things up comes in the form of extremely short, which is for the best, platforming sections. There are only a few of these sections on offer, but they’re so badly implemented that you won’t be complaining. Movement during these climbing sections is imprecise, but thankfully the actual amount of moments when precision climbing is required is mercifully small.
Along the way you’ll have to side with either the Brotherhood of Mutants or the X-Men during pivotal moments in the story. It’s a rather cool idea, but one that’s let down by the choices have almost zero impact on the actual game itself. Regardless of who you side with you’ll generally still end up playing exactly the same level. Even if you side with the Brotherhood for the entire game you’ll still end up in a boss fight with Magneto and Juggernaut, and towards the end of the game you’ll have to choose a side anyway, thereby making all previous choices entirely pointless as they have no effect on your final decision. It’s a shame, because a game where I’ve got to choose between the two opposing sides and deal with the consequences sounds incredibly fun, but it’s just poorly implemented here.
Destiny doesn’t impress on the graphical side, either. The environments are incredibly bland with little detail, resulting in each level feeling like a trudge through yet another grey street or warehouse. The levels are also completely linear with nothing in them, so there’s really no joy in traversing them to reach the next room full of people to clobber. Character animations are also stiff, giving attacks a rather stick-man like feeling, or conversations a complete lack of believability. It’s a shame, though, as Destiny does exhibit some surprisingly good character models.
On the audio side of things the voice acting is actually quite good, with the likes of Cyclops being quite well voiced. Sadly the rest of the game’s audio doesn’t hold up; the music barely manages to do what it should, but you’re not going to be humming it while making your breakfast the morning after finishing the game, and the sound effects don’t really do the game justice, either.
So what we have is a mindless button-masher that actually does have some good ideas, but sadly those good ideas have been buried under the onslaught of enemies, poor graphics, dull combat and a number of other problems. Unless you’re a real X-men fan, there’s little reason to pick up Destiny.
+ Creating my own kickass power selection.
+ Plenty of characters have made it into the game.
– The graphics
– Repetitive, dull gameplay.
– It’s short.
Good character models don’t make up for bland environments and stiff animations.
The voice acting is pretty good, but the sound effects don’t do the game justice and the music is simply forgettable.
Entertaining enough, but it’s a pretty simplistic tale with a couple of plot holes.
The X-genes are a good idea, allowing for some decent customisation, but that doesn’t hide the repetitive, simplistic combat that makes up practically the entire game.
With only a five or six-hour campaign on offer, there’s not much game time to be had here. The different power choices do encourage a second replay, but only if you can handle another five hours of the combat.
Summary: Yet another poor showing for the X-Men with simple combat against waves of mindless drones and moral choices that are entirely pointless.