Movie games get a bad rap from gamers, and superhero games got the same rap for a long time. Games like Aquaman and Superman on the N64 didn’t help matters either. Today, we’ve got the Xbox version of one of the biggest movie and superhero games this year, X-Men: The Official Game.
Will this one succeed where so many games have fallen short, or will the efforts of trying to tie a game to a movie about superheros cause it to fall flat on its face?
The graphics in X:TOG almost seem to fight against each other. In the game itself, the graphics are extremely well-done and look quite nice, especially the main characters of Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler. They look like their movie counterparts and move very fluidly. It’s amazing to watch Nightcrawler, in particular, move around the stages he’s in. The teleports are also very well done, if a bit dizzying to watch. Iceman’s levels are visually very nice as well with some great scenery as well as action shots.
The problem comes when you get to the cut scenes. They’re very amateurish in nature, using what appears to be cardboard cutouts of the various characters moving around. Compared to…well…just about any other game, it suffers immensely. If the graphics of the cutscenes had been anywhere near the graphics of the rest of the game, this score would have been near 90. As it is, it’s quite a bit lower.
First off, I want to give credit to X:TOG for the great job done with the music and sound effects. The sound of the hurricane combined with Storm’s screams in the first fight against Lady Deathstrike was incredible. The overall music and mood set by the sound is very well-done as well.
The character voices, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. While Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, Shawn Ashmore, Tyler Mane and Eric Dane all reprise their movie roles, and do a very good job with the character voicing, the other voice actors are … lacking. Of special interest are the actors for Colossus and Storm. While neither have much of an accent, if any, in the movies, Storm has almost the voice that she had in the 90s X-Men cartoon, while Colossus sounds like a 40-year-old Russian with an extremely thick accent. It’s a shame, really, that they couldn’t get the other actors to reprise their roles for whatever reason, as it really impacted the game negatively.
The controls for X:TOG really depend on which character you’re using. While playing as Wolverine, you’re almost fighting on a rail, without any real camera control. The controls for Wolverine are pretty simple, and focus exclusively on attacks. The A button is your jump, while B, X and Y are different attacks (knock back, quick and heavy). The black button extends or retracts your claws with a tap, while healing you with a long press. The right trigger blocks, while the left unleashes your fury attack when the meter is full.
Nightcrawler’s levels are all about mobility and teleporting, and thus sports a 360 degree camera. A is still the jump button, but B is now used to teleport to an enemy, X is punch and Y is kick. The black button enables Nightcrawler’s shadow aura, the left trigger locks onto an enemy and the right trigger does a quick teleport.
Iceman, of course, is all about ice-sliding and shooting, and his controls are aimed at that. He also sports a 360 degree camera. A is a boost button to speed you up, while the right trigger will slow you back down. The left trigger switches targets, the B button performs a hailstorm attack while X does an icebeam, which is good for putting out fires. Y is a frost shield, to protect against attack while the white button pulls a quick 180 and the black button locks the camera on a target.
The controls work pretty well, although the placement on Iceman’s speed up and down gets a little tricky, as does the 180 degree turn. This can get frustrating, but is a minor speed bump when it comes down to it.
Unlike most other movie-based games, X:TOG doesn’t try to rehash the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Instead, it takes place between X2 and The Last Stand, and intends to show the events leading up to the third movie. These include the storyline reason that Nightcrawler isn’t in the movie, the evolution of Iceman into a full-fledged member of the X-Men, and a feature on Wolverine which ties up a number of loose ends from X2.
Each character plays differently. Wolverine’s levels are an all-out brawler, Nightcrawler’s have a bit of stealth-action going for them, and Iceman’s is essentially a shooter on rails. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of variety to the levels, as each of them tend to play out the same. All of Wolverine’s levels involve beating on wave after wave of enemies until done, Nightcrawler’s involve hitting switches and turning off things and Iceman’s … pretty much involves putting out fires set by Pyro for a lot of the game.
The gameplay itself is quite solid, it’s just that after a few hours, you’re left feeling, “Isn’t there more to the game?” It’s rather boring, and almost frustratingly difficult in spots, even though the game does have three difficulty levels. You can power up your characters through the game, but since the game powers up their enemies just as quickly, it doesn’t seem like you’re really making headway.
Some of the character choices are rather odd also, as only Multiple Man shows up during the game as far as villains from the movie, and he’s only used to fight Nightcrawler. Then again, given what he was used for in the movie, I guess there’s no great surprise there.
There’s also an issue with changing levels. Some characters have two to three level splits where you’re locked into playing that character, and can’t decide that, for example, you’ve had enough of Iceman and want to play Nightcrawler. You have to finish all of Iceman’s line of missions in that section before picking up as Nightcrawler, which can lead to further frustration.
First off, it’s a good thing that the game does sport nearly twenty levels, because once you’ve beaten the game, that’s it, it’s over and it’s time to trade the game back in. There’re only three unlockable levels in the game, and all three are Danger Room missions. The only other unlockable content in the game is a pair of costumes for each of the three characters (street and comic-book), and there’s also no option for co-op play.
With all of that, there’s really no reason to play through the game more than once, as each level is the same no matter what difficulty you play it at, other than numbers and difficulty of your opponents. There’s no movie scenes, no comic covers, nothing at all, and what unlockables there are are hardly worth spending the time hunting down the items needed for it.