Reviewed: November 1, 2004
Released: September 21, 2004
Please allow me to start off by saying I grew up an avid comic book reader and like most of us geeks, Marvel Comics were always my favorite. Of course these days heroes like the X-men and Spider-man are household names since Hollywood recently wised up and began making big-budget films based on our cult faves. But as most of you know, success on the big screen usually suggests the release of several mediocre video games like X2: Wolverineís Revenge and X-men Next Dimension.
Well guess what. Those cheese-loving Wisconsinites at Raven Software have developed an action/RPG title thatíll make up for every crappy X-Men game youíve ever played. *Snikt* Thatís right, X-men Legends is the perfect blend of button smashing and stat building that can potentially please any gamer, especially those familiar with the 40 years of X-men history. Similar in design to Baldurís Gate, this RPG allows the gamer to control a team of 4 heroes and fight their way through a huge 20+-hour game, building stats and learning combos along the way.
Legends boast the largest cast of characters Iíve ever seen in a comic-based game and the acting and plot both prove the design team knew everything there is to know about the X-men. Couple this with bright, clean graphics and a solid control scheme and youíve got the greatest dungeon crawling comic book RPG ever made. Itís about time, bub.
As X-men Legends begins, you control fan favorite Wolverine as he attempts to rescue Allison, also known as Magma, from the clutches of both Mystique and the Blob. This first solo mission is a short one since itís really a tutorial, allowing players to get used to the simple controls scheme of the game.
Any player familiar with popular 3rd person action/adventure titles should instantly feel right at home. You can jump, throw, climb, and attack just as fast as you can press the corresponding button. You can even bust out certain combos thatíll keep enemies hitting the ground repeatedly, dropping their health like a bowling ball. Oh, and special attacks? Every X-man has four special mutant attacks that can clear out a room in seconds if used at the right time.
Of course, thatís just the beginning. The real meat of X-men Legends is in its role-playing element. Legends is an enormous 20 hour adventure thatíll please more X-fans than ever before. While the overall look is current with the new X-men movies, the storyline and cast of characters is extremely accurate with the comics, meaning before the adventure ends youíll have fought against many comic exclusive enemies like the Shadow King and Juggernaut.
Youíll even have visited places too far-fetched for the big screen like the Astral Plane, an alternate dimension only accessible to mutant psychics. The list truly is impressive and even if youíre not familiar with the history, the developers have created rooms in the X-mansion where you can review both X-men and enemy bios, so you can do a little research before you rush into battle.
As if this werenít enough, Raven has also added a few extras that aim to please like an old-school co-op mode. Reminiscent of games like Golden Axe and Double Dragon, a second player can simply press start and instantly be thrown into the game as an X-man. Even cooler, the moment theyíve had enough, they can simply choose to back out, all without restarting the game.
The developers have also added a sparring mode where the player has free reign over any danger room simulation. Up to four players can choose any unlocked map and character and assign them to any meaningless skirmish. In fact, Raven has even added some popular multiplayer modes like King of the Hill and Last Man Standing. Looks like those all-male dorms are going to be extra loud this semester.
Initially, X-men Legends appears to be lacking in the graphics department. Characters look strange especially up close, with no real definition of eyes or even individual fingers. During the first ten minutes of play I actually thought Wolverine was wearing mittens. Of course, after about twelve minutes I realized this was by design.
Legends does a great job of making you feel like youíre playing a comic book partially because it looks like one. Every map I came across was bright and gorgeous and while I might suggest a little more detail among the characters, I thought the cell-shaded look worked great for a comic-based game.
The thing thatís most important here though, is the game hardly ever lost its smooth framerate. Even when I had all four X-men attacking thirteen or so different soldiers, the game handled remarkably well. Legends is definitely one of those titles that proves graphics arenít everything.
The most surprising thing about X-men Legends is the attention given to the gameís acting. The acting was not only surprisingly convincing, but each characterís voice was right on the money. Every character spoke with their native accents brilliantly and for those of you who are familiar with the X-men, you know thereís only a few American-born mutants on the team, meaning it was an extra treat to hear Gambitís Cajun remarks or Toadís English banter done so well.
Also, I vote to allow, nay...FORCE Patrick Stewart to play Professor X in everything. Hearing his voice as the Professor is always amazing and, of course, Legends is no different.
As I said before, X-men Legends is an enormous 20 hour game and since most of the comic games to date have been fighters or uninspired side-scrollers, I have to award this title with a great score. Not only is the single player experience lengthy and deep, but the multiplayer skirmishes mean youíll get plenty of extra mileage simply sparring with buddies. In fact the multiplayer is so much fun, I was very disappointed to learn there was no online play. Of course with a sequel already in the works, weíll just have to keep our fingers crossed.
I really have to hand it to Raven Software. Comic book fans can be a testy bunch when it comes to their muse and there canít be a single fan disappointed with this game. The fast button-pounding gameplay mixed with the strategy of stat-building and item-management makes this game fit in everyoneís favorite category. Group this with a fantastic storyline, good voice acting and the addition of several multiplayer modes and youíve got one of the best comic book games ever made.
So to sum things up, if you are a gamer who likes the X-men even a little bit, this game is a must have. And for those of you hardcore X-fans, Iíd even recommend pre-ordering the sequel.