Reviewed: September 21, 2005
Released: September 21, 2005
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is the second game in a series of action/RPG titles that really came out of nowhere but is already making big waves. Legends 2 was developed by Raven Software, a veteran gaming studio with top-notch titles under their belt like the superb FPS Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Soldier of Fortune: Double Helix, and back in the day, Hexen and Heretic series. This studio really knows how to take a good story and put you inside it, and Legends 2 is no exception. Take the unbeatable universe of X-Men and blend it with a great RPG system, and it's no wonder many consider the Legends series to be the best comic-book game adaptations out there.
This time out, the X-Men have teamed up with their arch nemesis mutant rivals, the Brotherhood. A new massively powerful mutant, Apocalypse, is threatening to actually start one. In an attempt to save the world, as we know it, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and others team up with bad-boy mutants Magneto and his Brotherhood of evil mutants. The game has five acts, and in each one you face off against one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, with a big bad final showdown with Apocalypse himself, of course. Along the way you can play from a choice of 16 different mutants, with over 160 different mutant powers among them.
X-Men Legends 2 has a very deep and involving RPG system blended with a great real-time action combat system. You get to control the development of all of your characters by customizing them with items and leveling them up like any good RPG game. Item management can be somewhat of a pain, but there is a special stash that keeps all your items even in between bases, and you can "mule" items onto the characters you're not actively using. Item drops are random which adds a lot of spice to the game. As you level up, you gain new skills and abilities. You can assign these manually if you want, or there is an option to auto-assign them so you can concentrate on the action.
Legends 2 uses the same action RPG format as the much vaunted Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance games. You wander around and encounter a good supply of bad guys, which you proceed to pummel to death with your fists or mutant powers. The difference between Legends to and BGDA is that you have AI helpers going along with you if you choose to play it solo, not to mention it feels much more like a comic book than a hack and slash. Legends also has more special moves and things you can do, like throwing things and not to mention being able to use jumping to go to different elevations.
You play the game as a party of four characters at a time. There are Xtraction points during the game where you can swap out your characters with other characters. If you're playing with other players each one can take a character, or if you're going solo the AI will control the ones you're not, but you can easily switch characters using the D-pad. If you're going solo, you can even customize the AI by setting up parameters for aggressiveness, primary moves, and when to heal. Even with this much control, sometimes you'll find the AI doing something stupid, so you can always take over that mutant and set thing straight.
Even as you level up, the characters that you're not actively using also level up, albeit at a slower pace. This lets them stay useful throughout the game so that no one lags so far behind to become worthless later on. But the fun of the game is using different characters at all times rather than sticking with the same set, because that way you get to see all the unique power combos and not to mention there are bonuses for different combinations of mutants and you'll want to check all of them out. You can even get new costumes for your characters, which can make for different combos for bonuses.
There is a handy mini map that points you to your next objective so that you don't get too far off track. The maps that you can explore have a lot of variety to them. You might find yourself in New York City one minute and Egypt the next, or even on top of an airship! One nice thing about the environments is that they are destructible. Go ahead, smash stuff, pick it up, throw it, it's all good. You'll also have to solve some minor physical puzzles to make it through the maps, which may require the special mutant powers of some of your characters.
Like most of the games in this sub-genre, saves are limited to specific save points (Xtraction points), which means you can't just stop and go do something else without having to repeat some things. You need to keep playing until you get to a save point. This is somewhat tiresome but nothing unexpected.
X-Men Legends 2's graphics really aren't a lot different from the somewhat stale graphics of the first game in the series, but they aren't so bad that they would detract from the game. There's a lot more variation in environments this time around, from a jungle to factories or ancient ruins. The character animations all have a distinct comic book feel, thanks to the cell shading technique. Animation was smooth and the power effects looked great. Best of all, there are some tasty looking cutscenes throughout the game that look as good as anything out there, and really bring you into the story.
One downside to the graphics is that they look somewhat muddy or washed out and in some places, too fuzzy to figure out what's happening clearly. Another problem is that the camera angle makes it very difficult to get any sense of space, and also makes it somewhat difficult to navigate since you cannot see very far in front of you. Also during co-op play if you and your partners get separated, the game shrinks things down to such a level that you can barely tell what is happening. As you get closer though, you can see things better, so it's best to stick close and cooperate.
The most distinctive feature of the game's sound system is the excellent voice acting. Big names were brought onboard to help, with Patrick Stewart as Xavier, John DiMaggio as Juggernaut, Lou Diamond Phillips as Forge, and others. Nearly everyone did a smash up job on the voice work, for the most part, but there were times when it sounded forced, and a few lines that get repeated over and over can get old quickly. Not only was the voice work well done, though, but the dialogue was well written, making for some very entertaining story sequences. It is great to hear the X-men dissing on the Brotherhood and vice versa.
The sound effects of all the mutant powers, not to mention the destruction and mayhem that goes on, are all very well done. Since you can have multiple mutants dishing out their super powers all at once, the game sounds like a orchestra of destruction! Environmental sounds also add a lot to the believability of the scenes. The music is very well done and fits in with the action going on screen perfectly.
You get over 70 maps, and five story-length chapters, and there's enough here for at least 20 or 30 hours of gameplay. Since you have a choice of up to 16 different (some unlockable) mutants, replay value to try out the different characters is pretty high. Not only that, but since you can co-op the game with friends, just playing it with different people over is going to add to the replay value as well. You can always up the difficulty settings if you need more of a challenge for a repeat play. There is even a competitive Skirmish Mode, which lets you duke it out with your friends. players.
The GameCube version is perhaps the weakest value compared to the other versions since it's the only one that doesn't have online play support over the Internet.
If you enjoyed X-Men Legends, you need to drop what you're doing right now and go get X-Men Legends II. The game takes everything done right in the first game and does it better. The story is just as compelling if not better, and being able to mix the Brotherhood with the X-Men is over the top of cool. Almost all the complaints from the first game have been successfully addressed, and some new features make this game an even more compelling experience.
You really just don't get superhero games this good very often; it's one of the best. The only caveat I would have is that if you have multiple consoles and online play is an important feature for you, you should probably get that version instead of the GameCube version.