Turning a pile of shame into a pile of victory!
X-Men: The Official Game
2006, Z-Axis, Beenox, Amaze Entertainment, WayForward Technologies, Hypnos Entertainment.
PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Windows, Game Boy Advance
Getting it working
Patch away, me hearties, this beastie is a tough'n to wrangle if ye have dual cores and a non-standard aspect ratio monitor.
This.... was not a very good game.
Yet another example of how movie tie-in games suck.
Woah, Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, Shawn Ashmore, Patrick Stewart, Tyler Mane, and Eric Dane are all doing the voices! You get to play as Woverine and Nightcrawler (and Iceman, but nobody cares about him), and there will be Magneto and Colossus and Sabretooth and Deathstrike and Storm and Pyro and Magneto and SENTINALS ZOMG this should be the best game evarr!
Oh, wait, it is a movie tie-in.
A notoriously rushed movie tie-in.
And a port.
Even the glory of the X-Men would have a hard time being merely adequate given the sad reality of this game's development.
The graphics were serviceable, even swanky on rare occasions. The sound design was appalling, with inappropriate music and tortured scripting. The level design was unremarkable, with moments of repetitive dullness in the Wolverine campaigns but moments of excellence in the Night crawler sections. The plot, such as it was, vaguely bridged the second and third movies, and felt shoehorned around a series of set-pieces that were obviously engineered around the three gameplay styles of Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Iceman. Though gameplay itself wasn't too buggy, this is one crash-happy game: a third of the time cutscenes would throw me into a flickering mess with intact sound that had to be alt-tabbed out of, and not one half hour gaming session was complete without being inexplicably dumped back to the desktop.
The story is told by pseudo-animated cutscenes that bloat the game across multiple install disks. I was completely unimpressed by the art; as a Photoshop veteran, I can see a smudge job a mile off, and the “art” of most of the main characters was very, very suspiciously smudge-job-esque. With the wealth of amazing artists who have worked on the X-Men comics (or who would give a leg and or spleen to work on the franchise), the game completely wasted the opportunity to capitalise on X-Men's original medium's greatest strength – art!
The story is told via a deceptively branching hub... You think you can choose what to do, but in the end you pretty much have to finish everything to progress in the story. The little collectable extras in each level, and ability to replay the levels to get 100% completion by finding them all, was a nice touch to increase re-playability, but only the staunchest (or maddest) of gamers would want to revisit completed levels. It's best to break discussion of gameplay into three, given how utterly different the three segments are.
Iceman: As Iceman, you are continually moving on his trademark shelf of ice. You can shoot ice things and shield yourself with ice, speed up, slow down, and do a quick 180. Iceman handles like a hippo sliding down a steep slope covered in mushy, ancient bananas. Twitchy, inconsistent controls and the constant movement make him near impossible to steer; I get the distinct impression the gameplay was designed for an analogue stick and looses all semblance of playability when translated to keyboard. Even with an eight directional d-pad, wrangling Iceman to do ANYTHING right was a trial of endurance. Given most of his stages are timed races, with enemies to avoid, this lack of control is continually shoved in the player's face. Finally, add to this the game's propensity to quit for no reason, and you have yourself a perfect cocktail of suckage. Alas, suck it down we must, as completing the Iceman stages is a necessary step to progressing to the slightly less dreadful Wolverine and Nightcrawler missions.
Wolverine: Spam spam spam spam, lovely spam! Wolverine's controls are a drastic improvement on Iceman's, perhaps because he can stop. A little clunky on movement, his combat and combos are reasonably intuitive, so you feel more like you're fighting enemies rather than the game itself. Which is good, because there are a lot of enemies to fight when you're Wolverine. A lot. Grunts, grunts with poles you have to stun before pummelling, and, oh look, more grunts! There is some strategy to the battles, with a few different enemy types requiring different combinations of hard and rapid hits, and a slowly filling rage-meter that you can empty out in a torrent of madness. The old Wolvie staple of slowly healing when your claws are retracted can lead to ludicrous circle-running away from enemies, postponing things until you're topped off, but that's not the game's fault. What is the game's fault is the unabashed enemy spam. You will continually run back and forth, key mashing through combat in location A, then B, then A again, then B again. Sparse checkpoints and a veritable flood of enemies can make the stages an absolute trial, though the rare spam-free boss battles are almost, gasp, fun.
Nightcrawler: At last, the game does something right! Nightcrawler is a joy to control, his acrobatic scuttling across pipes melds seamlessly into teleports that are fast, fun, and sound and look great. His ability to lock on to enemies, teleport behind them and kick them in the head is both amusing and useful in combat. Alas, most Nightcrawler missions are uninspired bomb-disarming and button-pressing affairs which under use the well-honed teleportation mechanics.
This game had so much to play with: the X-Men universe is so rich with characters whose abilities lend themselves to interesting gameplay, and a plethora of plots and settings just waiting to be brought to (interactive) life. With the enthusiasm and budget emanating from the films, something far better could easily have been crafted.
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