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Reviewed: X-Men: The Official Game
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 17th, 2006
Page: 2
X-Men: The Official Game is perhaps a great example of how not to make a movie tie-in game. Activision started off by naming it poorly; rather than even coming up with a decent title, the name is "The Official Game", which follows other great titles as "The Official Breakfast Cereal", "The Official T-Shirt", and perhaps "The Official Flamethrower" in demonstrating how poorly anything with "The Official..." on it ought to be received. This is especially true in the videogame world, where gamers have become jaded to movie tie-in games for many reasons.

The construction of the game doesn't get much better from there. The designers seem to have spent quite a bit of time designing the character models, but not a whole lot on the enemy and level design, or else they designed the game for the PS2 and then up-ported all the graphics onto the PC and Xbox360 versions. The result is that the Xbox360 and PC versions just don't look as good as players would expect from a game with "next generation" graphics.

The designers also decided, rather than focusing on one character, to try to explore three. Alas for them, only Wolverine has any noticeable screen time in the movie. Iceman, the second, is an also-ran who gets perhaps five lines. Nightcrawler, despite featuring prominently in the second movie, vanished entirely from the third, not even meriting a mention or cameo appearance.

Wolverine's had a number of games of his own over the years, of course. Mostly beat-em-ups, with the last title (Wolverine's Revenge) having its faux-stealth game moments. In TOG, of course, stealth is out the window, and beatdowns are in. The designers have helpfully given him punches, punches, claw attacks, rage, and, well, rage with which to kill his enemies. Level design for him consists either of running down a hallway beating up guards, standing in a room killing wave after wave of guards, or punching away at a boss until it drops. Not the best of designs, and not tremendously inspiring: most of the game for him can be passed with button mashing.

Button mashing becomes a theme as players explore Nightcrawler, whose attacks are slightly more varied but seem to revolve around abusing, as much as possible, his teleportation abilities. Despite the wonderful stealth opportunities his abilities to blend into shadow and teleport would seem to be, the levels are designed so that this isn't the case, and players will inevitably have to defeat the standard "horde of guards" whilst mashing the teleport keys to keep Nightcrawler out of harm's way. Inexplicably, Nightcrawler's ability to blend into shadows has also given him the ability (like Wolverine) to regenerate his health. I don't know where this comes from, because it's definitely not in the comics, but it's necessary for completing the levels as Nightcrawler's also been given an incredibly short health bar.

Last, and quite possibly least, is Iceman. Even more inexplicably, he too has been given a health-regeneration ability, in addition to the ability to fly and shoot ice beams. And yes, his levels also include the various snooze-inducing swarms of enemies and token bosses.

TOG's between-levels system isn't much better. The game consists of "chapters", each of which includes a few levels for each character; once on a character's path, their missions have to be finished before the other characters can be played. Each mission also releases "mutations" for the characters, which sounds like a cool idea, but is just a way to "advance" the size of the health bar or damage done by various attacks. It'd still be nice if it weren't so neatly spelled out so that players were forced to upgrade evenly; if you've got all the upgrades, every single stat will "max out" for each chapter, since they are limited to prevent players from moving Wolverine's damage all the way up before they upgrade his other abilities.

Ultimately, I wouldn't even bother testing this one out. It's the stereotypical movie game done wrong, and one of the lowest-quality offerings I've ever seen from Activision.

Added:  Thursday, July 20, 2006
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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