X-Men: Destiny Review
The X-Men have enjoyed quite the run of success over the past decade or so. Multiple blockbuster movies and even a few well-done, entertaining games have put the mutants in the public’s good graces. But X-Men: Destiny is a big step backwards and even the most die-hard fans will be disappointed in the new action game from Silicon Knights. It looks terrible, the control is poor, the stories (there are three characters, each with different back stories) are lame and undeveloped, and the button-mashing repetition gets tiresome really fast.
The less than mediocre graphical presentation actually surprised me. I hadn’t anticipated something so bad; there are downloadable titles designed for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade that look far better. There’s minimal detail, the inconsistencies are obvious and glaring, the animations and effects are both boring and low-quality, and the environments are about as generic as one can possibly imagine. A few decent combat effects tied to special powers can’t save this one; it looks like a slightly refined PS2 game, and that’s not much of an exaggeration.
The sound is a little better thanks to a few average voices, but the soundtrack is almost non-existent (what we do hear redefines the term “run-of-the-mill”) and the effects fall flat. As for those voices, they’re all over the place, as some are actually quite good while others are pathetic. Nothing about this production explodes with the requisite audio impact; it’s as if they wanted to downplay the action for some bizarre reason. What this game needed was a kickin’ soundtrack and crisp, high-impact effects. But unfortunately, we got none of that.
The gameplay is about as straightforward as you would expect. You move around with the left stick, control the camera with the right, jump with X, dodge with Circle, block and parry with the trigger buttons, and unleash your attacks with the Square and Triangle buttons. But within seconds of starting, you’ll notice immediate issues. The camera is too jumpy, the dodge isn’t responsive or reliable, and the powers lack any punch. The enemies are faceless – technically, they’re “Purifiers,” but they’re all basically the same – and the AI is stupid.
Plus, there are major glitches everywhere. One time, my character ran into an invisible wall in the middle of an open area. Another time, an enemy just stood there and watched as I came up and beat the tar out of him. Oh, and let’s not forget the messed up presentation, where the narration and screen prompts pop up late or way early. “20 enemies left!” …oh yeah? Where? Oh, over there. Little too quick on the alert there, champ. Lastly, although there are three very different characters, you won’t form a personal connection with any of them.
The story just doesn’t go anywhere and worse, you won’t even care. The only fun part of the game is unlocking and upgrading new powers by earning experience, and occasionally unleashing a cool barrage on your helpless victims. And although the back stories for those characters are poorly constructed, the distinctness of each fighting style adds some diversity to the game. Also, you select the kind of power you’re going to have when your adventure starts, which presents you with three more options. Not too shabby, I suppose.
The developers further implement choice into your encounters with other characters, usually members of the X-Men or Brotherhood. See, the quest starts with apparent peace between mutants and humans, until someone (apparently Magneto but that isn’t confirmed) crashes the party. All hell breaks loose and your character, previously not a mutant, is suddenly in possession of special powers due to one of several possible occurrences. Along the way, you’ll have multiple opportunities to side with the X-Men or the Brotherhood.
This is a nice addition and should’ve really enhanced the longevity and appeal, but like most everything else in this game, it doesn’t develop. You can do little missions for members of either the good or bad guys, thereby gaining influence in either faction. But these missions couldn’t possibly be blander, and they actually have a negative impact on the flow of the game. Too much meaningless dialogue also puts a crimp in the pacing, and those little breaks do nothing to flesh out the plot. And when the gameplay gets going again, you just mash buttons.
Lastly, the control is just too jerky and erratic. The exaggerated dodge isn’t responsive enough and it doesn’t even work that well, and the climbing is just plain ridiculous. It’s almost worth playing just to see the weirdest pseudo-platforming mechanic out there; it’s not weird in execution (it’s actually really simple), it just looks exceedingly strange. It can be entertaining to push forward and earn your mutant stripes for either faction, but it’s a very ho-hum sort of fun. Chances are, you won’t make it to the end. And that ain’t good, considering the short length of the campaign.
X-Men: Destiny trips and stumbles out of the gate, and never gets going. Way too many problems hold it back; the shortcomings range from control to story to presentation to technical elements, etc, etc, etc. It’s just a really disappointing production and one that isn’t even worth a rent. Most simplistic, button-mashing action games are worth a few bucks on a rainy day, but there are just way too many other cheap - and playable - options out there. Forget about this mess.
The Good: A few very cool mutant powers. Accessible action. Character and power options add some flavor.
The Bad: Horrid graphics. Seriously lacking soundtrack and effects. Loose, ultimately flawed control. Camera is jerky and unreliable. Story is lame and never develops. Technical glitches are obvious. Terrible AI.
The Ugly: “I can’t believe I had to put 4.5 gigs worth of this crap on my hard drive. …coming off now.”
10/5/2011 Ben Dutka