One of the coolest things about turning a comic book into a video game is the amount of flexibility that comes along with it. Some developers have tried to create action adventure titles with out favorite heroes and heroines, while other super crime fighters have ended up in more traditional fighting games. Unfortunately, most of the games featuring comic book figures have been, at best, disappointing. Activision and Paradox are combining their efforts to bring us what we hope will be a quality X-Men title later this year with X-Men: Next Dimension. Featuring a huge roster of characters and complex fighting system, Next Dimension is shaping up to be a rather nice fighting game. I recently had a chance to sit down with this upcoming fighter, and it was surprisingly good to say the least. X-Men: Next Dimension is a fighting game with plots from the comic series built into the background. All of the recent plot twists and other developments will be represented in the game, as well as both the heroes and the villains. However, in the demo I checked out, the only two characters available were Beast and Phoenix.
Graphically, Next Dimension is rather striking, with incredibly detailed characters and backgrounds. Both Beast and Phoenix were very well drawn, with incredibly smooth textures and animations. Movement in the game is very fluid, allowing the pace of the fighting to really get hectic without coming off jerky like some of the Mortal Kombat games. The one level that was available was fairly generic, vaguely resembling a Hollywood style dungeon. However it was still nicely done with enough detail to at least give it some character. The only disappointing aspect of the graphics was the cheesy Batman style effects that pop up any time there is contact, like so many other games.
The gameplay in X-Men: Next Dimension is incredibly unoriginal, but still remarkably fun. After spending about 45 minutes with the game, I got a sort of "Soul Calibur meets Street Fighter" feel from it. Combo attacks are executed almost exactly like previous MK games, requiring players to tap in various button combinations, and the more complex the sequence the longer and more powerful the attack. Each character can use a combination of high and low punches and kicks, with a separate button for each, including the ability to throw your opponent by pressing the R1 button. Players can also use an 8 way run system, very similar to Soul Calibur, by using the L2 button in correspondence with the left analog stick, allowing players to circle around their enemy, taking advantage of their weak spots.
Overall, the control in Next Dimension is incredibly precise and smooth. Diverse enough to allow for experimentation without being so complex as to alienate the more casual gamer, this X-Men title is on track to become a fighting game that anyone can pick up and enjoy with minimal effort. The 8 way run could use a little work, and hopefully Paradox with tweak it a little bit before release. X-Men: Next Dimension is currently scheduled for a fall release, and we should have much more on this fighter as it becomes available.
9/13/2002 Ryan Hartmann