Previewed: September 6, 2005
Release Date: September, 2005
I recently had a chance to visit with Vicarious Visions and Activision for a little hands-on time with their much-anticipated handheld version of the console sequel, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. If you thought the PSP wasnít ready to play with the ďBig BoysĒ then Vicarious Visions is about to change your mind.
The first thing to know is that the PSP version of Rise of the Apocalypse contains the exact same game that you will play on the console and PC. Therefore, much of my console and PC preview has been replicated here with a few noteworthy additions. For those of you who have already read my other preview, here is the quick list of what the PSP will offer:
With 20 playable characters, each with 10 unique superpowers, half the fun is just mixing and matching the perfect team to blast your way through each of the 70+ levels in this game. There is an interesting dynamic in place where Brotherhood and X-Men characters donít always work and play well together.
This also surfaces when you encounter and talk with other characters in the game leading to some humorous dialogue options. Having Wolverine try to talk to a member of the Brotherhood will get you some options that you might not get if you are playing Magneto.
In order to get up to speed with the old and new X-Men characters as well as the Brotherhood, there are all new training scenarios waiting for you in the Danger Room. Characters now have many more powers available to them that you can assign to hotkeys. Character selection is handled with the traditional D-pad input.
The AI and scripting for the computer controller characters has been improved to near-perfection. You can go into the team management options and set preferences for each characterís aggressiveness and their favorite superpower. You can also adjust how often they heal; a useful feature since everyone shares from a central pool of health power-ups.
Rise of The Apocalypse also allows you the freedom to micromanage all of the RPG elements of the game or automate a lot of the tedious chores like distributing items and choosing skills when you level-up your characters.
You can now switch out your characterís powers, almost in real time, with only a few quick button presses. This is especially nice in multiplayer so the game isnít constantly being interrupted by somebody in the team tweaking their abilities during combat.
There are literally thousands of items to be found and collected in X-Men Legends II, and there is some unique scripting in place so that you seldom find the same item in the same place on subsequent replays. There is also a unique set of items that you can only find in the exclusive online missions, so there is obviously some incentive to play online. There are also a host of secret items and collectible comic book covers. There is also a new Hero Stash system designed to allow you to store all these new items and access them later.
The game is designed so you are free to roam in and out of missions. If one mission proves to be too tough you can try another and come back later. A new character, Blink that you rescue early in the story, has the ability to open teleportation portals back to your base. This proves to be a most useful power, but the designers have been careful to balance its use so you cannot abuse it.
Gameplay has been overhauled to really make use of the teamís superpowers. There might be some items stacked behind some burning debris and Storm will need to extinguish the flames with some ice, or perhaps Magneto will need to use his powers to pull a lever or operate a console that is otherwise out of reach. Cyclops might have to blast something with his deadly red beams. Some puzzles require multiple characters and multiple powers to solve.
Multiplayer has been totally revamped to provide for a much richer cooperative experience, either locally or online using the PSP Wi-Fi capabilities. This is the first third-party developed title to actually support Internet play. There is plenty of exclusive online content and some well-thought-out gameplay mechanics in place like the ability to rejoin the party with a squeeze of the left trigger if you fall behind.
Gameplay isnít the only thing to be given the royal treatment. Academy Award nominee, Blur Studios was brought in to create some of the most fantastic CG movies ever seen outside of a Square-Enix game. The opening movie will blow you away and there are plenty of engaging cutscenes that intersperse the massive and open-ended storyline.
If you thought the movies looked good on the console and PC just wait until you see them on the PSP. They look like high-definition on Sonyís crisp LCD display, and you can really appreciate the massive collection of amazing splash screens featuring all of your favorite heroes and villains in exciting action poses.
The game graphics are simply beyond words. Even the screenshots and movies donít really do them justice. Itís all just as good as the console and PC only it looks much sharper and crisp on the smaller PSP screen.
My only concern was with all of the text on the PSP version. What was perfectly legible on the larger TV and PC monitor was just a tad too small to be read comfortably on the PSP. Hopefully they can increase the text size or choose a better font before the final release.
Character design has been greatly improved with larger characters and a cel-shaded art style that gives the game a much greater comic book feel to it. The color palette is rich and diverse with heavy outlines around the characters to make them pop off the environments. The camera is lower and close so everything is much larger and more detailed than you might expect for a handheld game.
The missions are captivating with unique locations like the Weapon X facility, the Infinite Factory, plus other detailed indoor and outdoor environments ranging from Egypt to the South Pole. The levels are massive and intricately designed with multiple paths and plenty of hidden areas.
The audio presentation mirrors the quality of the graphics and gameplay with excellent voice acting for all the characters, including the majestic voice of Patrick Stewart as Professor X. The music is perfectly matched to the cutscenes and the gameplay with dynamic cues for a tempo that complements the action. Youíll definitely want a good set of headphones to enjoy this title.
Fans of last yearís X-Men Legends game are going to absolutely love what Raven has done with Rise of the Apocalypse, and being able to take this fantastic game on the road is a privilege that is only made possible with the power of the PSP. The sheer fact that the PSP game actually has more content than the PC and console versions just blows me away.
I wasnít the biggest fan of the original game for several reasons, most of which have been addressed and resolved in the sequel. I didnít get to play the PSP version as long as I played the PC and Xbox, but I did appreciate the finely tuned controls and amazing graphics, and the promise of online Internet play is a major coup for the handheld franchise.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is going to be one of the most amazing action-RPGís of the holiday season. Whether you are a hardcore X-Men fan, an RPG-lover, a single-player, or a multiplayer, this game has something to offer everyone, and with more than 70 branching levels and over 100 hours of gameplay, there is a whole lot of X-Men coming to PSP later this month.