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Reviewed: X-Men Destiny
Author:Michael Ahlf
So it's time for another quickie review... this time, I've got X-Men Destiny on hand. If you're wondering, yes, it uses pretty much the same system that the other Activision/Marvel Beat-Em-Up titles have used for some time now - beat up bad guys, level up, add in token changes or select your powers.

The upside is, this time around, you're in one of three "character roles". This ought to have been a chance for players to really strut their stuff, break the mold, do something different. Experiment with power combinations. Unfortunately, instead you get to choose three RPG roles - football jock, tiny asian girl, or the son of an anti-mutant activist (e.g. Warren Worthington by another name) followed by selecting whether you're a big bruiser type of the "Density Control" school, a frenzied attacker of the "Shadow Matter" school, or a my-hands-are-guns type from the "Energy Projection" school. If I didn't know better, I'd think some of the developers had gone back to the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG by TSR for some form of bizarre inspiration.

In a vague attempt to put in some sort of relevance to storyline, most of the storyline missions involve following around existing, known mutant favorites to do things. There's supposed to be a set of choices to influence the storyline, but it's all pretty binary - you either do the X-Men thing, or you do what the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants wants you to do, and that's that. Since this is a beat-em-up cleverly disguised as an RPG, most of the "missions" and "challenge arenas" are merely orders to go beat up on bad guy mooks, mashing buttons until you reach a certain kill count or find the level boss. Sometimes, your AI friends will do things bordering on suicidal... no, I take that back, MOST of the time, your AI friends will do things bordering on suicidal. The only saving grace there is that the bosses of the game are just as suicidal, operating off of only the barest of "AI" along with repetitive patterns that make predicting and avoiding attacks and countering with your own mercifully easy. Oh, and at the end of it all, all those "choices" you made? Don't worry. The Brotherhood is always ready to embrace a turncoat, the X-Men always will take a stray back in with open arms, and your choices didn't really matter. Pick your side at the end, and that's that.

One of the few things that sounded interesting, at first glance, was the ability to equip a part of a classic character's powers along with their costume (yes, you can put on Juggernaut's S&M suit, or Wolverine's garish yellow tights, or even Bobby Drake's... well... fruit of the looms). You do this by finding secret spots and items in the levels called "X-Genes", which you can then equip - equip an entire set, and you get an "X-Mode" boost to something or other, while you also have the option to mix and match. The downside is that you can do this at any time, swapping from Wolverine mode to Colossus mode to Iceman mode to some sort of weird amalgam or to any other mode on the fly. It's not exactly an intuitive idea, nor does it work well for the system; it's pretty hard to define a character whose main power is "I can be like anyone else I want to be", and it never really worked well for most of the other Marvel power-alikes either.

But it's the latest X-Men game, so it should look good, right? All the work in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance engines and the other X-men titles coming together to make something good? Sadly, no - most of the textures seem to be re-treads, and a lot of the game's structure and visuals are just popped in from previous games as is.

There are games that are launched finished. As in, really polished. There are games that launch unfinished, but patch later and have a good concept. There are games that some people will defend as a good concept even if the execution is terrible. And then there are the games that wind up in the bargain bin for 5 bucks.

X-Men Destiny? Sorry to the guys from Silicon Knights, but... welcome to the 5 buck bin.

Added:  Monday, November 21, 2011
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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