I got to play this game a bit early because we recieved it in the store a week before its street date, I was able to beat it in around 8-12 hours so the game is extremely short. The events in the new game are supposed to take place right before the movie, it'll be interesting to see how certain main events in the storyline in this game lead into X-men 3.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this X-men game, I was interested in it from the screenshots (and somewhat desperate for a new 360 game) but knowing it was based off a movie I was a bit skeptical. The first thing I didn't realize was that the game is based around just three characters: Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Iceman. They each have their own levels as opposed to you being able to choose which character you wish to use in each level. Much of this has to do with the way each level is designed, as each character plays in much different ways. Wolverine is the melee character, you basically claw your way without too much thought through huge onslaughts of enemies. His range of attacks are limited leaving the gameplay feeling repetetive at times, but surprisingly still satisfying. Some of Wolvie's oldest foes make an appearance, including Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, and Silver Samurai.
As for Nightcrawler's levels, they are designed much differently due to the fact that he can teleport. This is the first game since X-men: Clone Wars 2 on the Genesis that I've played where they got Nightcrawler's teleporting right. Teleportation is an important aspect of traveling and combat for this character, and with the exception of a few areas teleporting exactly where you want to is very easy to do. Remember the opening scene of the X-men 2 movie where Nightcrawler kicks all sorts of ass? Imagine that sequence, and you have a good idea what combat is like for Nightcrawler in this game. Its not quite as cinematic, but its really badass nonetheless. Storm and Colossus also make appearances in Nightcrawler's levels as supporting characters.
Iceman seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in this game. He has maybe 1/3 of the missions the other guys have, although he does play a significant part in the story. Basically, playing as Iceman is like playing a flying game. Iceman is constantly creating an ice slide which has him sliding high into the skies and speeding through tunnels filled with obstacles. While probably considered to least fun of the three characters, its still a welcome break to play as Iceman when his levels come up because of the complete change in style. Basically, Iceman has a few projectile attacks at his command so you find yourself in a bit of aerial combat. You also get to have a big showdown with Pyro which I really enjoyed.
The gameplay is very limited overall. Wolverine and Nightcrawler can perform combos but not many of them, and you don't learn any new attacks as you go along so your stuck with the same set of attacks from beginning to end. There is an upgrade aspect to the game which really is completely useless. After each level you are given points which you can use to increase a character's abilities in certain areas, such as Strength for Wolverine, Health for Nightcrawler, and increasing the damage that Iceman's Hail Storm attack does. However, there are no significantly noticeable differences if you decide to upgrade certain areas more than others, so it feels like the feature was thrown in as an afterthought.
As far as the storyline goes, the game doesn't present you with FMV or CG cutscenes but rather lightly animated images narrated by the characters. It has much of a comic style feel to it and although this game is supposed to be based on the movie rather than the comic, I welcomed the style because it felt fresh. I tend to not enjoy cutscenes very often anyhow because they commonly are low quality so this comic style felt like a cool design choice. Also, a few of the actors from the movie including Hugh Jackman do the voiceovers for the characters so the game feels very authentic, which is a big plus in my book.
As far as the rest of the game comes together, it has its high points but for the most part it doesn't standout as a great game in any respect. The graphics are nice on the 360 but not the best, the lighting and shadows are lacking but the character models are gorgeous. The sound effects and musical score borrow from the movies so it sounds much like the movies do. In terms of level design, this may be where the game falls short of being a good/great game. For the most part the level design is stale and uninspiring, not to mention cluttered and condensed. There are a few moments where the level design stands out, if the development team had put as much time into the rest of the levels as they did those few awesome ones, the simple combat engine could have easily been overlooked. Alas, I'm sure they were working on a deadline thanks to the release of the movie just a few weeks later so we've got what we've got.
I definately recommend this game to X-men fans, I personally am a huge X-men fan so I enjoyed myself the whole way through. However, those who aren't into the X-men movies and comics may find the allure of this game not strong enough to warrant a play through. At its core, its just an average action game, and considering the short length, as much as I love X-men its very hard to recommend this game beyond anything more than a rental.
My score: 7/10