Iâ€™m a huge X-Men fan. I know my Starjammers from my Alpha Flight. I can give you a lecture on Garokk the Petrified Man or an insightful debate on the Age of Apocalypse series. Naturally when I first heard about X-Men: Destiny, I was pretty excited. The concept of customising my very own mutant before fighting alongside my super-powered chums sounded like a dream come true. Sadly though, and this is probably compounded by my aforementioned love of the comic books, X-Men: Destiny fails miserably in nearly every department.
The premise of the story borrows from the strongest on-going theme from the X-Men universe; the conflict between mutants and normal humans. In fact this gene-war has now escalated and an extremist organisation of humans calling themselves the Purifiers are out to detain or kill mutants.
Following the death of former X-Men leader Professional Charles Xavier, this rivalry between homo superior and homo sapiens is now at a crucial breaking point. Never one to miss out on a nice healthy riot, the enigmatic Magneto is also taking full advantage of the chaos to further fuel the tension for his own means of the Brotherhood.
Anyone, like myself, hoping to create their own avatars and place themselves in the game will be disappointed as X-Men: Destiny revolves around three predetermined playable characters. I should add, three heavily stereotyped characters that include; a smartass jock who always carries a football around when heâ€™s not chatting up girls, a cute-as-a-button, short-skirted Japanese girl trying to win her daddyâ€™s affection, and some other guy whoâ€™s completely forgettable. Iâ€™m pretty sure they all have names, but chances are anyone whoâ€™s played the game canâ€™t remember what these one-dimensional shells are called either.
Thankfully the supporting cast in the game is a lot stronger. Throughout youâ€™ll come across a multitude of recognisable characters from the X-Men universe including Caliban, Colossus, Gambit, Mystique, Northstar, Surge, Wolverine, Cyclops, and dozens more. Each appear in costume lifted from the comics (and the excellent 90â€™s cartoon TV show) and generally, the voice acting does an admirable job. Although at some moments Gambit seems to unleash his inner-black man, rather than a husky Cajun accent.
He also seems to run the lamest nightclub in existence that comprises of nothing but 4 tables and a door. The massive queue of people you see waiting outside are going to be damn disappointed when they finally get in. This scene ends in a pathetic showdown between you and Gambit over what appears to be an empty cardboard box.
The downside of being able to fight alongside the likes of your favourite mutants like Iceman and Nightcrawler is... it just makes you wish you could play AS them instead. Youâ€™ll find yourself fumbling around with your whacky powers as your heroes dash around on the battlefield with skill and finesse.
Many times I found myself waddling up to an enemy only to have someone like Quicksilver rush in, beat him up and leave me looking like a chump in his dust. For nearly every battle scene with allies, youâ€™re better off sitting down and making a sandwich rather than trying to join in.
X-Men: Destiny does try though. On paper, a lot of the ideas conceived in this game sound brilliant. Youâ€™ll be able to choose your set of powers, with the option of Density Control, Energy Protection, and Shadow Matter on offer. Density Control is a fancy term for super-strength, Energy Protection has your ranged attacks that arenâ€™t as powerful but faster and allow you to keep your distance. Lastly, and the more interesting of the lot, Shadow Matter allows you to hit multiple opponents by forming limbs or blades out of dark energy.
As you progress youâ€™ll even be able to upgrade your abilities and gain additional powers by collecting X-Genes. Most of the time these X-Genes will be from other famous mutants, so finding Icemanâ€™s X-Gene gives you a full-body ice shield or Wolverineâ€™s will grant you healing.
But when the gameplay is this disappointing, all this customisation pales in comparison. Even the deliciously inviting choice over whether to fight for the noble X-Men or turn to the dark side and join the Brotherhood is all watered down to a set of boring pick-a-path dialogue options that make little difference to the gameplay. Or even the plot for that matter.
The amount of fanfare in X-Men: Destiny is equally poor. Unlike Batman Arkham City, that had unlockable 3d model renders of characters, this game produces a simple sketch and brief biography on each. Granted the game is full of unlockable costumes, which are fun to collect and try out. But the costumes are only inspired by their counterparts, for example Wolverineâ€™s costume is just a one-piece body suit, but in blue and yellow. The worst thing is, it doesnâ€™t matter whether they are male or female, both genders can wear any costume. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll ever get over seeing a full-grown man dressed in a skin-tight Psylocke outfit. Why would they have that in by default!? WHY!?
Costumes and extra abilities can be unlocked by tracking down collectibles scattered around the maps. Except actively trying to track them down by exploring the levels seems to defy all logic. Quite often theyâ€™ll be hidden sneakily behind objects or in hard to reach places, but many times youâ€™ll wander off the beaten track in the hopes of finding one, only to get denied by invisible walls or impassable gaps. The poorly designed maps often mean that finding them is a painful exercise and only a sadistic fan would bother playing this game through more than once in an effort to collect them all.
The visuals in the game are bearable. Although the character models and animations are bordering on average, the game does feature some stylish comicbook-esque graphical overlays. The game also does an impressive job of handling 50+ enemies on screen at once. But when the combat boils down to button mashing against complete morons, having 50 enemies on screen actually becomes more of an â€˜anti-featureâ€™. Youâ€™ll constantly see enemies disappearing into the ether or popping out of walls too - and no before you say anything, theyâ€™re not mutants. Itâ€™s a bloody glitch, okay?
There are just so many annoying and unpolished aspects to this game that it made me think developers Silicon Knights had some serious deadlines to meet. Or perhaps they all had to hand-code it using crayons and old napkins during their lunchtime. Numerous boss battles are bordering on retarded, featuring boring rinse and repeat strategies and painfully scripted weak-spots. Just to really rub salt in the wound, players will often need to replay the same sections over and over again due to unforgiving checkpoint saves.
Blind people wonâ€™t enjoy this game much more either. At one point the soundtrack sounded like a guy tapping on a microphone for ten minutes. Iâ€™m sure it was left in by accident from a mic check in the studio. The storyline, despite the plethora of plot to draw on from the Marvel universe is lackluster and fails to explore any proper character development.
The worst thing about X-Men: Destiny however is the complete lack of any multiplayer whatsoever. A game like this screams for at least 2 player co-op, along the lines of far superior games like X-Men Legends. Even if itâ€™s just so you can share your pain with someone else.
This blatant slap in the face just reinforces how rushed and unpolished this game is. Iâ€™m off to re-read Joss Whedonâ€™s Astonishing X-Men and forget this game ever happened.