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X-Men Legends
X-Men Legends
Developer:Raven Software
Platform:PS2; Xbox; GameCube
Release Date:September 2004
Article Posted:July 2006

For decades now, the X-Men comic books have continued to entertain and inspire their readers as a team of brave mutants faces one threat after another. Three movies, dozens of cartoons, and thousands of comic book issues later, the X-Men still manage to remain interesting and continue to spread a message against oppression and prejudice.

For the uninitiated, the underlying premise is fairly simple. Carriers of a special gene, a number of people from all over the world start demonstrating incredible talents. Their powers allow these mutants to fly, heal rapidly, teleport, telepathically communicate with other people, become virtually indestructible, or charge objects with kinetic energy to the point that they explore on impact. Humans regard the mutants with fear and suspicion. At the same time, a group of mutants believe that it is their destiny as ‘homo-superiors’ to rule over the rest of mankind.

Yet under the guidance of Professor Charles Xavier, another group has a vision of peaceful coexistence. Professor Xavier opens an institute where mutants can learn to control their extraordinary powers. The powerful telepath also creates the X-Men. A team of mutants consisting of some of Xavier’s most gifted students, the X-Men fight to turn the professor’s dream into reality. In the process, they also save the world from miscellaneous super villain threats on a weekly basis.

X-Men Legends is most certainly not the first game based on the popular comic book series. From a number of fighting games such as X-Men Next Dimension or X-Men Mutant Academy to the action-adventure game Wolverine’s Revenge, the mutant team has been brought to our consoles and PC’s many times. Unfortunately, many of the games carrying the X-Men license also had considerable problems and failed to deliver a great experience. Thankfully, developed by Raven, X-Men Legends breaks away from the mold and offers a remarkably entertaining action-RPG. Bringing many members of the X-Men to life, this engaging game is a real treat to the fans of the comic book. But even those who know absolutely nothing about the X-Men might find something to enjoy.

The story begins with the discovery of a new mutant. Alison Crestmere’s powers have surfaced for the first time. There is a great upheaval in the young woman’s neighborhood. As police officers are arriving at the area to restore order, two members of The Brotherhood of Mutants are sighted. Among the X-Men’s worst enemies, the Brotherhood undoubtedly wants Alison for some foul purpose. It will be up to the X-Man Wolverine to travel to the area and find Alison before she is captured by the Brotherhood.

The first mission puts players into the streets of New York City and Central Park. Controlling Wolverine, you will have to overcome the local law enforcement and miscellaneous Brotherhood thugs before you can reach Alison. Halfway through the mission, Cyclops will join you to give the first impressions of what it will be like to control a team of X-Men.

Upon reaching Alison, the plot will start to thicken. It turns out that the Brotherhood is carrying out other secret operations at various locations. Lead by the X-Men’s arch-nemesis Magneto, the Brotherhood is planning something huge. Millions of lives might be in danger if the X-Men fail to stop this threat. In the meantime, a terrifying government project is in progress. The project may bring back the mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels. As if that weren’t enough, there seems to be trouble amongst Morlocks, the group of mutants that live within New York City’s sewer system. To make matters even worse, an old enemy of Charles Xavier is waiting for the right moment to return.

How does Alison Crestmere fit into all of this? Why did the Brotherhood want to capture her in the first place? What exactly are the evil mutants trying to accomplish this time? What is the true extent of the secret government project? Starting as a simple rescue operation, X-Men Legends weaves a pretty intricate plot that should keep players interested throughout the game’s lengthy campaign. The journey takes players to many different locations within the Marvel universe. From government bases to the Morlock tunnels, from the Xavier institute to the Moira Island, the game will have you visiting a host of familiar and new locations. Several different factions get involved in what turns out to be a rather tumultuous time for humans as well as mutants. While the game has a relatively slow start, events escalate to a scale fitting for the campaign and the game delivers many great moments to appease the fans of the comic books along the way.

X-Men Legends plays as a series of missions. Upon completing the first mission, you will be taken to the Xavier institute. While exploring the institute, you will be controlling Alison Crestmere. The new mutant in many ways plays a key part in the story. This tremendously powerful young lady has the ability to create magma. She carries vast supply of energy that can make mutant gift extremely dangerous unless she learns to control it. While the inclusion of a new mutant and focusing parts of the storyline on Alison might put off long-time fans of the X-Men, the game actually manages to make it work very well.

First of all, Alison can be a rather charming character to control. She carries a great deal of youthful innocence that sets her apart from many members of the X-Men team. The fact that she is new among the ranks of the X-Men also creates a perfect opportunity to introduce the other members of the team. For instance, you can engage in a conversation with the experienced X-Man Nightcrawler about his origins and one of the first times the X-Men encountered the Sentinels. Doing so not only gives you insight into Nightcrawler’s character, but also triggers a small flashback mission. A similar scene might have felt somewhat awkward if it had been between two older members of the X-Men who should by all means already know the story. Exploring the Xavier Institute with Alison and rediscovering familiar locations and characters in Raven’s adaptation of the X-Men universe should be entertaining.

It is also worth noting that the entire storyline certainly does not revolve around Alison. She is the character with which you will explore the mansion. You will always control her exclusively during story sections in between the missions. And she does have an important part to play during the later stages of the game. However, she will not be part of the regular team for the first set of missions. And even when she is available to control, you have the option to leave her out as you will be choosing an active field team from a group of X-Men. As such, it is very possible to go through practically all of the missions with your favorite X-Men.

A few of the missions in X-Men Legends does restrict players to a specific set of characters. Of course, there are good story reasons behind this restriction. For the most part however, players can customize the active team in any way they wish. At the beginning of the mission, players are given the opportunity to choose four mutants from the available roster. A good number of characters are available pretty much from the very beginning. You will be able to select some of the best-known X-Men including Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, or Storm. As the game progresses, additional characters such as Gambit or Colossus will become available as part of the storyline. With the exception of two characters that appear rather late in the game, you will have to ability to spend quite a bit of time with a considerable number of X-Men. While the game most certainly does not feature all the characters that ever put on an X-Men uniform, there is a decent selection that should give comic book fans many of their favorite characters without overwhelming newcomers with too many available team members.

Once you select the active team, you will be transported to the area where the mission takes place. The core game play consists of real-time combat against various groups of enemies and exploration. The team-based combat can be extremely fun and engaging. Since you will have a great deal of freedom in choosing the active team, it is possible to deploy a group of X-Men focused on melee or ranged attacks to help you out against certain types of enemies. In general however, it will make a lot of sense to mix and match the different skill sets of the available characters.

The star in your selection of melee fighters is without a doubt Wolverine. With his devastating adamantium claws, Wolverine makes an excellent fighter. Once he gains a few levels and you add a few ranks to his healing factor, he truly becomes a killing machine on the field. Just like he does in the comic books and the movies, you will be able to charge him headlong into battle and rip your opponents apart. Once the fight is over, his healing factor will see to it that Wolverine recovers automatically. Of course, the experienced X-Men is not the only good melee fighter. Characters like Rogue and Colossus are also available to get up close and personal with your enemies as needed.

However, even an incredibly useful team member like Wolverine is not effective in every single situation. Occasionally, you will encounter heavily armored units with a great deal of resistance against physical attacks. In these cases, having a ranged fighter with energy attacks will be essential. While Cyclops can rapidly take out opponents with his optic beam attacks, Storm can wreak havoc with her lightning bolts. Against certain types of enemies, Cyclops and Storm can clean out entire rooms in seconds where your melee fighters will struggle.

It is also possible to greatly benefit from characters that can add elemental damage to their regular attacks. For instance, the powerful telepath and telekinetic Jean Grey can add mental damage to her melee attacks. This makes her punch and kick combos quite effective even against enemies who have resistance against physical attacks. Similarly, Alison can add fire damage to her attacks, which makes her an effective fighter.

The actual fighting is quite engaging even though it incorporates a simple interface. At any given point, you will be actively controlling a single character while the rest of the team will be controlled by AI. You will have access to two melee attack buttons. Another button is reserved for picking up and throwing objects or your opponents. While weaker characters can only lift smaller objects, characters with the ‘might’ attribute are capable of lifting and tossing larger objects like cars. It is also possible to make your characters jump over certain obstacles. A few characters have the ability to fly if you double tap this button.

While your active character is likely to be doing most of the work, AI controlled characters are still quite effective. They are also good at keeping themselves alive during battle. It is very easy to configure their behavior so they automatically use healing items when their health reaches a certain level. If you are getting surrounded by a large group of opponents, it is possible to call your allies to get closer with the tap of a button. This also helps in the execution of combo attacks against your enemies which inflict significant damage and give you additional experience points.

Each character in X-Men Legends has unlimited access to their regular melee attacks. There are also no restrictions on the benefits of some of their powers. For instance, Wolverine’s healing factor is always active. The bonus elemental damage added to Iceman or Alison’s melee attacks is also available with no restrictions. The use of their truly devastating super powers however, burns up energy. For instance, Cyclops will require some energy to create his optic blasts. Nightcrawler will need energy for his teleportation-based attacks. Rogue on the other hand will need to use energy to turn on her damage resistance. The characters that are meant to stay behind and fight with ranged attacks are typically in greater need of a larger energy pool. Since a melee character like Colossus or Wolverine is already quite effective with their regular attacks, you may not use their superpowers as often. Nevertheless, potions are spread throughout each level to help you regain energy. Each character’s energy pool also automatically regenerates over time. It is also possible to find healing potions to patch up your characters and help them stay on the battlefield.

The implementation of the superpowers if nicely handled. Each character has access to four different types of powers. The simplest one is typically either a ranged attack or a melee attack that inflicts extra damage. Many characters also have the ability to enter some type of super-powered state. For instance, while Rogue can trigger additional resistance against damage, Wolverine can go into rage causing him to move faster and execute more powerful melee attacks. Alison on the other hand can turn go into her lava form which helps her cause extra damage and increases the potency of her other superpowers. Between all the different characters, there are quite a number of superpowers. While there are undeniably certain similarities and some of the characters fit into specific melee fighter or ranged fighter templates, there is still enough variety keep things interesting throughout the game.

It is important to note that all super powers will not be accessible from the beginning of the game. Even signature abilities like Wolverine’s healing factor will not be unlocked as soon as you start. This is due to the fact that each character starts the game at level one. As you proceed through the game, defeat enemies, and complete important objectives, you will gain additional levels. Fortunately, you will level up quite a few times throughout the campaign, so before long you will gain access to all of your favorite mutant powers. While the active team members are always slightly ahead in terms of experience and character level, all available characters will continue to gain experience. Thus, if you decide to try out a different X-Man in the middle of the game, he or she will be on par with the rest of the team.

The actual process of leveling up is quite entertaining. At each level, the available characters will gain one or two points that can be used towards improving their skills and attributes. The attributes include strike, agility, body, and force. Adding points to strike improves your ability to inflict damage in melee combat. Increasing agility makes your character better at defense. The body score determines how many hit points your character will have. Similarly, the force attribute determines your characters’ available energy points. Depending on the type of character you are building, the way you spend the available points should vary. For some characters, the choices are obvious. For instance, Storm will need a lot of points in her focus attribute so she can frequently use her super powers that allow her to control the weather and bring down lightning bolts or tornados. The strike ability on the other hand would be important to a character like Beast who will be frequently engaged in hand to hand combat. On the other hand, some characters are effective in multiple ways and you will have to spend points in several different categories. For example, Jean Grey can be extremely useful with her telepathic powers that allow her to confuse enemies. But she is also helpful in melee combat since she can add mental damage to her regular attacks. If you give her a good balance among her attributes, she might end up being effective in many different situations.

Each character also has access to a large number of skills. All X-Men have four super powers that can be unlocked. These are the powers that give your characters special attacks or valuable bonuses over short periods of time. In addition, there are general skills that give extra bonuses to your character’s energy pool or give them the ability to fly. Other skills give special abilities like the healing factor or elemental damage bonuses to melee attacks. While you have a great deal of freedom in how you spend available skill points, there are some restrictions. Each super power, special ability, or general skill has different ranks. You can acquire additional ranks by spending extra skill points. However, many of the higher skill levels have strict level requirements. Before you can buy the next rank in a given skill, your character will have to gain a certain amount of experience and level up a number of times. While this might seem too restrictive, since each character has access to quite a number of different skills and you gain levels rather frequently, it should not be much of a burden.

The very idea of your characters starting at level one and having to earn experience points to unlock their signature powers might seem odd. After all, readers of the comic books know all too well that the X-Men have had their abilities for many years. However, it is important to note that the most common abilities of each character will become accessible very quickly. For instance, you will have the option to buy Wolverine’s healing factor or Cyclops’s basic optic blast the first time you level up. By the time you get to add the rest of the team to your party, many of them will be at a high enough level to have their core superpowers accessible. In addition, it is quite fun to watch your team gain experience and reach their full potential. The developers have successfully managed to deliver the experience of controlling a team of mutants with extraordinary talents from the beginning of the game while also leaving plenty of room for your characters to evolve and become much more effective on the field.

The levels typically span across fairly large locations divided into smaller sections. You may have to complete certain key objectives before the game will let you proceed to the next area. These objectives may range from acquiring key objects to rescuing civilians. You will also have to destroy some critical pieces of equipment. At certain points, the game has been designed to require the use of some specific superpowers. There is usually more than one X-Men with a power that can get past the obstacle, which improves your odds of having the right person on your team. For instance, if you come across a wide gap, Iceman can build an ice bridge to provide the team passage. If you do not have him on the team however, you can use Jean Grey as a substitute. Using her telekinetic powers, she can also construct a bridge. In the event that you do not have anybody on the team with a power that can overcome the obstacle, you will have to use an Xtraction point.

Each level contains one or more Xtraction points that allow players to manage the active team. Through these points you can switch active team members. This is extremely useful if you need someone with a particular power. But more importantly, you can use the Xtraction point to replace teammates that have been knocked out in battle. You can also revive these teammates with tech points you earn by defeating opponents or destroying various objects in the environment.

Once you make a little progress in the game, you will also be able to access Forge’s Workshop and the Healer’s Den through Xtraction points. It is possible to equip your characters with certain items to enhance their abilities. Simpler items may just give you a bonus to various attributes or offer protection against a certain type of damage. Other items may give your characters to regenerate a certain portion of their health automatically or improve the rate at which your character regains lost energy. There are also unique items that give you multiple bonuses. It is possible to find all this equipment by defeating your opponents. However, you can also purchase items from Forge’s Workshop using your tech points. Similarly, you can visit Healer’s Den to buy potions that help your characters regain lost health or energy.

The action aspects of X-Men Legends are rather strong. The battles become quite engaging as you make use of the unique talents of your characters and unleash their potential as a team. The game generally does a good job of keeping you busy and keeping the action intense without becoming overly difficult. However, it is important to note that the RPG elements of X-Men Legends are not limited to gaining levels and spending attribute or skill points. It is definitely not the focus of the game, but X-Men Legends also leaves room for some character interaction when you control Alison at the Xavier Institute in between the missions. You can explore the school and meet a number of different X-Men outside of the missions. Chatting with them is quite entertaining and even gets you access to a handful of flashback missions. It would have been very nice to have the ability to discover additional side quests by talking to other characters. Some additional dialog choices to give the feeling of actually playing the role of Alison would have also been welcome. But even the simple act of exploring the mansion and meeting the different characters gives makes the game world feel fully realized and brings it a little closer to role-playing games. The game also has a tactical aspect through the selection of active team members and the options available for spending the points earned by gaining levels. Even though many of the level up paths might be obvious, having the opportunity to customize your characters adds to the game.

One fun aspect of exploring the Xavier Institute is the Danger Room. The battle training grounds for the X-Men, the danger room is a marvel of holograms and virtual reality. Able to simulate any battle situation, the Danger Room has been crucial in preparing the X-Men for active field duty in the past. In X-Men Legends, you can send the team to the Danger Room to complete various courses. As you complete the classes, you gain credit. There are different levels of classes and higher levels are accessible only when you complete qualifying exams. The qualifying exams require a certain number of credits, encouraging you to complete all the courses. While not essential to completing the game, the Danger Room courses can be seen as fun side-quests to pick up a few extra experience points. But more importantly, they are excellent for replenishing your stock of healing items as anything you find in the Danger Room carries with you to regular missions. This is especially handy since the Danger Room is accessible from many of the Xtraction Points. Thus, if things are not going well in the middle of a mission, you can take a quick trip to the Danger Room, find some more healing items and return to the battle. While this may not be realistic, it is certainly helpful in completing what might prove to be a difficult mission.

While X-Men Legends is a very solid game, there are a few glitches that take away from the experience. One minor issue is that the pick up of healing items does not always register. You are supposed to be able to walk over a health or energy potion to add it to your stock as long as you have not reached the maximum number you can carry. When you do this, you are supposed to be able to see the potion move from the battlefield into stock denoted by a small icon on the side of the screen. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a small but noticeable delay between the time you walk over the item and when the game acknowledges that you have taken it. This is a very minor problem and it does not occur very often, but it can still be confusing in the middle of a fight.

Another minor problem is that on rare occasions your teammates will get in your way. Fortunately, switching the active character is all it takes to take care of this problem. A third small glitch has to do with character interaction. When you are exploring the institute, characters that have something to say to you are supposed to be highlighted with a yellow exclamation mark. When you talk to them, the indicator disappears. Unfortunately, if you leave the area and come back, the indicator reappears even though the character has nothing new to say, which can be slightly misleading. Fortunately, these are very minor problems that do not take away much from the game play experience.

It is also worth noting that some of the levels in the game can drag out a little too long and fighting the same enemies over and over again can become a little repetitive. Thankfully, this is once again a small problem. In general, the game does a decent job of keeping the action intense and keeping players interested.

Overall, X-Men Legends is a very solid game with a lengthy campaign that is just short of being a complete hit. The game has many positive aspects. The graphics are very pleasant and stylish. The environments are fairly detailed and interesting. The voice acting is appropriate for all the characters and having Patrick Stewart voice Professor X is a nice treat. Controlling a team of X-Men can be quite entertaining. Their superpowers make for some highly engaging game play mechanics. It is also nice to have a good number of characters available with various unique powers all nicely depicted with special effects. The game does carry a few small problems and the load times can get a little too long. Nevertheless, X-Men Legends is a fun game that is easily recommended to anyone who enjoys action-RPG’s. Fans of the comic books or the X-Men movies will be in for an extra-special treat. There is something remarkably fun about seeing the X-Men on the field tackling one foe after another and working as a team.