Reviewed: September 27, 2005
Released: September 21, 2005
First off, let me say I was ecstatic over the opportunity to review X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, for a number of reasons. Paramount among them, is the fact I am a pretty big nerd when it comes to comic books. Now I don’t own 12, 000 comics, all crammed in my parents basement or anything… but lets just say I know my difference between Logan, and who The Phoenix was.
I also want to add, that I am really enthused over all the increase in X-Men media lately, the movies, the hit cartoon series a few years back and of course, the quality games. After owning the prequel on PS2, I was eager to dive into this title, especially with the online features. Raven and Activision are well known and respected companies, and I expected nothing less from this game.
In this years installment, the X-Men and The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, led by Magneto, join forces to combat an even greater terror-Apocalypse. This monstrosity of fascism (“only the strong shall survive”) is considered by many to be the first mutant ever born, and hails from Egypt no less. His main goal is to wipe out the human race, enslave the mutants, and a whole host of other nefarious plans, that only our oddly paired group of heroes, and villains, can thwart.
Fans of the original game will feel right at home here, hardly anything as changed. Which isn’t so bad when it was solid to begin with. You assemble your team of four mutants, choosing from over 15 playable, plus some secret ones you can unlock after beating it. The list is wide and varied, and the villains are really a great addition this time around. Some of these include Juggernaut, Scarlet Witch, Magneto, Pyro and more.
Along with the baddies, are the venerable X-Men, such as Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Colossus and good ‘ol Wolvy. Those wanting to go solo can also do so, but be warned, this game is pretty hard without some back up. My favorite set-up was Cyclops, Magneto, Colossus, and Juggernaut, in Age of Apocalypse (AOA) skins. This looked edgier, but they also grant special bonuses, in this case plus 100% attack rating, if all 4 are wearing them.
You can create more themed teams, like all the Brotherhood, or all females (Femm Fatale) and so forth. I went with this set-up mainly based on balance; I had two ranged guys (Magneto/Cyclops), and two “tanks”, in Juggernaut and Colossus. But I also liked how they were equally powerful, and Magneto and Cyclops were basically like the leader types who made sense going on every mission.
I never even used Toad for more than five minutes for instance, or Bishop, who I consider a very cool cat. It just didn’t make sense role-play wise. After playing awhile, you also tend to notice there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the ranged and melee types. Rogue, Colossus, and Juggernaut all have similar powers for the most part. There is slightly more variation with folks like Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Magneto, but it’s more about personal preference than anything. Just pick your favs, and go at it!
To add to the variety of characters, you will come across tons of Marvel comics personas, like Forge, who helps keep you stocked up, to Banshee, The Guardian, Archangel, Iron Man, Deadpool, Omega Red and many others. Gotta love those cameos. Better still when you can beat the living snot out of them.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is split into five acts, taking you to areas such as The Savage Land jungles, the streets of NYC, to Apocalypse's inner sanctum in Egypt. Most levels consist of finding certain key cards, doors, switches and other simplistic puzzles to advance further in the level. You will have to battle mini-bosses along the way, some involving easy challenges to defeat.
Get ready to break smash a mess ‘o crap in this game, lots of clothing, health and energy packs drop from them, and I felt a lot more like Sonic than mighty Magneto, while chasing after trinkets. As you progress you will level-up of course, being able to choose from new powers and so forth. A cool feature I decided to go with to streamline gameplay was the auto-assign function. The computer automatically chooses powers, both active/inactive, what power-ups to wear etc. I really enjoyed this feature, while it may have taken some of the bonding factor away, I just didn’t want to constantly tinker with my characters.
The powers were really varied and great looking, especially the Xtreme moves that will outright flatten the screen. Each mutant has his or her own signature moves; Magneto can crush and repel opponents, Juggernaut literally plows over enemies, Wolverine carves his enemies up, Pyro incinerates foes, and so on- for 15 tremendous characters.
Along with your energy draining super-powers, each character can punch, kick and throw thugs around. For the sake of keeping things realistic, I tried to keep Magneto from doing this too much, as he really would never roundhouse kick someone for instance. Rather, he would just hover nearby, protected by an impenetrable shield, and calmly toss away his offender like a used tissue.
Sadly, the gameplay in X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse does get a bit monotonous, as you keep repeating the above steps over and over again. Find key, find door, open door, blow up ____, fight boss, find door, recall to sanctuary for further steps-repeat-repeat-repeat. While the game is still a lot of fun, this really distracted from the fresh feel.
Also, once your characters stop getting new powers to gawk at, I felt a bit remiss to keep playing with them. The gamer that wants to finish quickly, or who is on hard mode, will stick with a core group, but that brings you into boredom sooner than later. After all, variety is the spice of life. I did primarily play on the easy setting, but also dabbled in the other modes, and didn’t notice a great deal of difference, aside from me dying more as I went up the scale.
Multiplayer. Ahh yes, the PC has a clear advantage over the consoles, although they are gaining ground quickly in this department. With most PCs already having broadband internet, the possibilities for Co-op and versus modes screamed for this title. Luckily, the good folks at Raven included both, and they are a fabulous experience. While there was a bit of lag, the teaming up worked flawlessly, and was a blast. The versus mode experience was a bit more shallow, but still fun pitting a wide array of super-beings against each other.
Graphically, not a whole lot has changed since the original X-Men Legends game. Beautiful, heavily outlined visuals greet us again. The character models are pretty awesome too, nicely proportioned and detailed. For instance, Wolverine slashes his way towards enemies, while Juggernaut rumbles slowly forward, each is true to form.
Some of the special effects were just dazzling too. When you see Cyclops’s Optic Rage, or Magneto’s Metallic Mayhem executed, you will sit back in awe. They really remind me of those super moves in the late Street Fighter games, whereby the screen would flash, and your guy would deal some serious damage. To go along with the killer special effects, the animations are silky smooth and abundant as you display over 180 powers.
You also get to fight in some more exotic and varied locales, but it all seems eerily familiar after awhile. Each level has key cards to obtain, the same crates/boxes/pots to smash and so forth. The environments are gloriously destructible, which is always great when you have such brutes walking around, breaking everything in sight. Makes for some lovely eye-candy to see walls come tumbling down, and powerful turbines explode in wild electric blue colors.
The musical score is nothing to write home about, but it fits each level and doesn’t annoy. Like most games, it also hastens during the intense scenes, and mellows out back in Sanctuary. But the real strength is the extensive voice work. Patrick Stewart graces us once again with his finely polished Shakespearean accent as Professor X. He will provide most of the spoken dialogue in game, but throughout the game, and numerous cut scenes, your teammates and enemies will also chime in.
Some of these sound a bit funky, like Rogue’s cutesy southern drawl, or Colossus’s thick Ruskie voice. But most of them are very deserving, such as the gritty Wolverine, the gregarious Juggernaut, and the German accented Night Crawler. Some of the lines are pretty humorous as well. After beating opponents, your members will throw taunts and brag, and there were some soap opera moments between Kitty Pride, Colossus, and Scarlet Witch. Poor Toad just can’t buy him some love. Lastly, the effects are dutiful, and work well with the game.
This game will keep you busy for a few days to a week to beat the single player. Surprisingly, the five acts were kind of short, but if you can only play a few hours a day like myself, it will be just right. Probably 25-30 hours when it’s all said and done. Considering you can go back and play through with the unlocked characters, or just different sets of mutants, you can easily double that amount. Add to this the robust online component, with easy service hosted by Gamespy, and you have a lot of value here.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is another stellar addition to any comic book fan’s realm of Geekdom. Not only that, but it is also a very solid game, that improved upon it’s earlier design with new powers, online co-op, and the immense collection of playable characters. With sharp graphics, a wealth of rich dialogue, and simplistic, yet fun gameplay, this title will surely skyrocket up the bestseller charts.
“We fear what we do not understand”-Professor Charles Xavier.