After reading just about every pre-release review of X-Men: The Official Game, it would be easy to think the game was the worst licensed title this side of E.T. and Superman 64. Certain naysayers even said the game’s quality better not be indicative of the movie, because if it were, the sky was surely falling on Marvel Entertainment. But that misconception, dear reader, is why you come here: for the God’s honest truth and an everyman’s opinion of videogames. And having played through the game’s entirety and seen the movie, we’re here to tell you: it’s really not all that bad.
X-Men: The Official Game certainly has its shortcomings. Far too many of them, in fact, to warrant purchasing this game for anyone other than the most fervent X-Men fan. The gameplay itself is nice and varied, with Wolverine providing the brawling action, Iceman the skateboard-like play and Nightcrawler the platforming pizzazz, but none of the experiences is particularly compelling. Wolverine’s levels, for instance, basically turn into button-mashing arena exercises, while Iceman’s on-rails and almost-always timed levels get boring after the first two. Nightcrawler provides the most interesting levels and gameplay, since players can “warp” from platform to platform — and even from enemy to enemy — during combat, but you still find that Nightcrawler’s second-to-last level is a lesson in tedium and frustrating deaths.
Clearly the game’s three playable characters have decidedly different gameplay mechanics, which is great from both a variety and superpower standpoint. But where Activision went right in that regard, they went horribly wrong in the actual controls, which are so dramatically different that the learning (er, “reminding”) curve in each level is higher than it should be. Moving the camera, for example, is inverted on both the X and Y axes when playing as Iceman, but it switches to non-inverted when playing as Nightcrawler. Who QA’d thatone? And the game was confused far to often abot whether we were trying to kick and punch with Nightcrawler or use his context-sensitive action, which is mapped to the same button. Again, it’s not a horrendous mistake, but it’s one that gets in the way of the immersion and overall fun.
Ironically, the shining element in all this is the plot, which acts as a precursor to the just-released movie and at times is actually more enjoyable than the movie itself. In a nutshell, each of the three characters is dealing with his own demon, be it vengeance or voices in his head, while at the same time participating in the X-Men’s attempt to save the world from mutant-killing robots. In the process, this lets players explore a bit of the personal motivation and background of each character while doing such superhero-like acts as, oh, saving the world from certain destruction. All in a day’s work, we suppose.
It’s that same ho-hum attitude, though, that ultimately does the game in. The graphics are commendable, if not spectacular, especially the red cloud that Nightcrawler leaves behind as he warps from location to location. The audio, too, is good, the highlight being the voice acting by the actual movie stars (Wolverine is his smart-aleck self). But the lack of any multiplayer options, plus the absence of any substantial difficulty differences from one setting to the next, leaves X-Men: The Official Game falling a bit flat. It’s not bad by any means; we even appreciated the gameplay variety, which is something the X-Men Legends games occasionally lack. It’s just that The Official Game feels, in a word, uninspired. It’s got just enough oomph to put it in the average and entertaining categories, but not quite enough to put it over the edge. Hardcore comic fans will get a kick out of playing as Nightcrawler, but most gamers will probably leave with a “been there, done that” impression of the title on a whole.
- Gameplay: 7.8
- The three characters provide some variety, but other than Nightcrawler, nothing to really write home about.
- Graphics: 8
- A few nice effects and diverse environments, but when will we get past cloned enemies outside of Multiple Man?
- Sound: 7.6
- Good voice acting and a nice soundtrack, but the standard action sounds are a bit tired.
- Replay: 5
- A few unlockables such as costumes and Danger Room scenarios, but really not all that much to warrant playing past the eight-hour main game.
- Overall: 7.8
- It’s not nearly as bad as others would have you believe, but it’s also not quite out of the “average” realm.