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X-Men Legends II’ mutant mayhem

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Quality games have long, expensive production cycles. It is not uncommon for a game’s development to span many years, and even then the time spent is no guarantee as to the quality of the game.

But there is a flip side to that coin – rushed games are almost always lacking in quality. Games that take less than a year to create are generally found lacking, the shortened time frame an obvious factor.

“X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse” is unique in this regard. Hitting the markets barely a year after the original was released, “X-Men Legends II” is a well-crafted, fun game to play. It avoids most of the pitfalls that are associated with rushed games, and is a solid product using the Marvel license.

Fans of the comic series will know what to expect from the game due to the title. For the non-comic fan, there is still plenty to draw the gamer in. An ancient, evil mutant known as Apocalypse is threatening to conquer the world. He is so powerful that the world’s governments can do nothing to stop him. Even the mighty X-Men find themselves short trying to measure up, forcing them to team up with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants against their mutual enemy.

This creates an even more diverse cast than that of the first game, as four Brotherhood mutants are now playable in addition to the X-Men. Joining the roster from the first game are Magneto, Toad, Scarlet Witch and the awesome Juggernaut. With their inclusion, the initially playable characters round out at 15.

However, some characters that were in the first didn’t make the jump to the second. Jubilee, Beast, Emma Frost and Psylocke were dropped, as well as X-Men newcomer Magma. This was done due to fan response, as those were the less popular characters from the first installment.

Many other changes were made in response to fans’ comments. The environments are even more interactive than before, an impressive feat for those who played the original. There are also more costumes for the playable characters, giving the player the option to play as the favorite version of their favorite mutant.

The largest, greatest gameplay impacting addition is the option of online playability. PlayStation 2 and X-Box owners can now take their game online. This is a key gameplay innovation, as playing with real people is more fun than playing with the artificial intelligence.

All is not well in the X-Men’s latest adventure, however. Not every graphical bug was worked out from the final product, as some graphics fail to appear at the scripted moment. This can vex the player, as the portal to his next destination may not appear on the screen. The bugs that do exist are minor, however, having none that drastically hurt the gameplay.

Another setback to enjoying the game is also its greatest strength, namely the roster. The 15 initially playable characters are later joined by three unlockable ones, giving the roster a final tally of 18 playable characters. However, there are so many mutants in the game and in the Marvel universe that 18 still feels like a miniscule number. Having only four characters playable from the Brotherhood, compared to the 11 from the X-Men, is particularly disappointing.

Overall, though, the game is a blast. The characters are more balanced than the original, and the gameplay has been more streamlined. For your mutant fix, look no further.