The X-Men have been an incredibly popular franchise. With a large number comic book series, two cartoon series, two feature-length films, and another film on the way, it’s hard not to know who the X-Men are. Previous X-Men games were often platform adventures and fighting games that starred characters in the X-Men universe. Last year Activision brought a whole new experience with X-Men Legends, an action RPG. Now Activision has tried to build upon the success of the previous game and brought X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse to all of the consoles, the PC, and the PSP. We’ll take a look at the PSP version and see how well it stacks up to its big brother versions.
There is a saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” X-Men Legends II follows the story of the X-Men, but they will have extra company. This time around the Brotherhood has joined the X-Men to fight against a common foe, Apocalypse. Can the Brotherhood and X-Men work together? Will they be strong enough combined to defeat Apocalypse and his henchmen?
The PSP is known for graphics similar to the PS2. The graphics for X-Men Legends II look very similar to those of its big brother console version. The characters are well animated with realistic movements. Tech bits, health packs, energy packs, and equipment sparkle when left behind from fallen enemies and broken containers. The environments vary quite a bit throughout the game and have an organic feel to them.
The characters could be a bit more detailed. While far away they look good, when zoomed up on the character selection and character detail screens the details are subdued and less noticeable. However, this is easy to overlook because of how well the graphics are in most of the game.
The music drives X-Men Legends 2. The music is soft and mellow during points of exploration and movement towards the next objective. However, during combat the music swells and tension increases with the minor chords and tribal drum beats. The faster the pace of the game gets, the more intense the music becomes.
A lot of voice-overs exist, which is pretty impressive for a mobile gaming system. Patrick Stewart again reprises his role as Professor Xavier. Other characters occasionally shout out something about getting stronger after leveling, but they are mostly silent during the game. During the cutscenes and some of the important conversations, there are voices included, but it would have been nice to have had more chatter during combat and all conversations with voice. As it stands though, a happy medium is reached.
Due to there being less buttons on the PSP than the PS2 controller, some adjustments needed to be made to the controls. Movement is handled with the nub. Pushing left on the D-Pad restores energy while right restores left. Pushing up on the D-pad turns on and off the mini-map while down toggles the size of the map. To change characters, you push down L and then hit the D-pad key that corresponds to the character you want to use.
Attacks are done with the X and Circle button. These can be used to form combos as well with different patterns. Triangle jumps or makes the character fly if tapped twice quickly and the character has that ability. Hitting R shows the special abilities available, and hitting the corresponding face button fires the attack.
Switching characters or firing special attacks in the heat of battle can be distracting. Hitting the L button along with the D-pad to switch characters makes less sense than just using the D-pad and using the L button to change the map options and to restore health and energy. Also, since movement is controlled with the nub, it can be hard to get the characters to face exactly the right direction you want them to face.
The camera does a good job…most of the time. However, there are times when objects are hidden from view because of the camera. Unlike the big console versions, the PSP doesn’t have any way to move the camera.
They say that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Activision took that to heart when making X-Men Legends II. Those who played the original game are going to be in familiar territory. You play as one member of a group of four from the X-Men or the Brotherhood. You run through the levels, defeat enemies, level up, and collect tech bits, energy packs, health packs, and equipment.
While in the first game only X-Men characters were playable, this time around you can mix X-Men with members of the Brotherhood. Mixing members of both groups is necessary to defeat Apocalypse. Each character has special abilities that are needed to fight against the enemies and solve puzzles. Most of these puzzles are easy because you need to use the special ability of one of the X-Men in a location marked with an X.
A majority of the time of the game is spent in combat. Fighting causes the characters to gain experience and level up. When you level up, you are given the chance to increases the characters’ statistics. You can manually increase the health points, energy points, melee damage, and speed. Since increasing stats slows down the action, you can let the AI increase the stats for you. Leveling up also gives your character skills that are unique to that character. These can be set to the four face buttons and used in conjunction with the R button.
Combat would be boring if you faced similar enemies throughout the entire game. However, you fight all sorts of enemies. While most can be defeated with brute force, some of them have resistances to specific powers, so strategy in choosing your foursome is the key to success. A wide range of abilities within your group helps to get through the levels of the game. Xtraction points are available to save your game and change the members of your party.
The main attraction of the game is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These enemies require more than just brute force to beat, as you need to use the environment to defeat them. These battles are very satisfying, and a great sense of relief is felt once they are defeated.
When restarting the game from sleep mode, it takes a while for the PSP to get the game reloaded again, and the PSP often stutters until the game has gotten everything loaded again, which can take several minutes. Once the game has been loaded though, the game seems to run almost seamlessly except for loading screens. The load times don’t seem to take any longer that the other console versions.
While you can’t play multiple people on the same PSP, you can play online with others through the Wi-Fi ability of the PSP. While there is some lag, it plays surprisingly well.
What really shines in the game is the ability to create different teams and see how they do within the scenario. While you can go through the entire game with the same four characters, mixing and matching different characters gives you plenty of customization throughout the game.
X-Men Legends II is a fairly linear game, and while there is a sense of exploration, the path for the game is fairly easy to find and it is difficult to get off-track into an area you shouldn’t be in. This might make replaying the game less interesting than it could be. However, there are several items that can be unlocked through the game, so those who want to unlock everything in the game will have plenty to go through.