This past Comic-Con I had the opportunity to demo Activision’s new X-men game, X-Men: Destiny.
In this version of the X-Men universe, Professor X has been killed, and the Institute has been destroyed. The team is led by Scott Summers and Emma Frost, who have relocated the team’s base to San Francisco. When I asked “Why San Francisco?” the answer was something like, “Well, San Fran already deals with plenty of weird people, so…”
Anti-Mutant propaganda is rampant worldwide. Due to unrest on issues concerning mutants, San Francisco has been segregated into mutant and non-mutant areas. With the unrest came the emergence of a militant anti-mutant group, the Purifiers, who pretty much just like to kill muties and generally not give a fuck.
In an effort to quell at least some of the unrest, the X-Men host a rally to promote synergy between mutants and humans, with the unveiling of a statue showing mutants and humans holding up the world together. However, the hand-holding and “kum ba yah” singing is brought to a swift end by what looks like a mutant attack…. This is why the mutants can’t have nice things… like the statue, which is destroyed in all this. It probably killed some people, but it’s ok, they were NPC’s.
You play as one of three characters:
Aimi Yoshida, a young Japanese refugee who was smuggled into the United States to avoid the mutant concentration camps. Since she’s so young, she doesn’t fully understand why she was sent away, and feels confused and abandoned. What it really looked like was some anime chick pulled out of some angsty ninja high school. Seriously, she wears a face mask/scarf-y thing;
Grant Alexander, a student from Georgia with dreams of making it onto a professional football team. He’s pretty much your typical all-American boy, but being a mutant would kill his chances… So would going off of his steroid regimen. He’s like one of those body builders who go through five shirts a day just by waving hello;
and Adrian Luca, an anti-mutant activist whose father was a member of the Purifiers until he was killed by mutants. His entire existence is devoted to picking up where his father left off. He hates mutants, and would do anything to protect a member of the Purifiers. Because a kid like that suddenly discovering he had mutant powers wouldn’t be ironic at all…
Aside from your character, you also get to choose from one of three powers: Energy projection, which is basically the ability to shoot energy out of your hands and body. It’s really good for heavy damage to a single target, or light-moderate damage to several targets at once; Matter manipulation, which allows you to condense matter onto your hands and arms to deliver powerful melee attacks. The ability is really good for close combat, but sucks for ranged attacks; and lastly, shadow matter. It’s a bit hard to describe, because it involves both teleportation, and the ability to create unbreakable floating knives made our of what looks like dark energy. It’s good for dealing small amounts of damage to multiple targets, but dealing it really quickly. You can also teleport around, which makes you a bit harder to hit. I’m not really sure how to use shadow matter effectively, and neither was the dude who demoed the game for me.
Gameplay is a bit interesting, and somewhat complicated to explain. Your abilities manifest, and you instantly have perfect control. Combat is combo-based, but you have to unlock the combos by finding these things called X-Genes, which are scattered around the game. There are several different types of X-Genes, and each one has to be used in a specific way. You have a few different character slots for abilities. You get one each for defense, attack, and dormant. Attack and defense don’t really need explanation, so what the heck is a dormant ability? Well basically, it’s an ability that the mutant has, but doesn’t consciously use. For instance, Emma Frost has a diamond form, which prevents physical damage, but she can also block mental attacks without having to consciously do so. In the game, it can be something like an energy shield, or increased speed when under attack. Yeah… gameplay should not be this confusing.
Also in the game are three X-Genes that each specifically correspond to each individual canonical mutants, and something called a fan suit. If you collect all three of one character’s X-Genes, and their fan suit, you gain all of their powers, along with the ones you already have. The example of this I saw was Aimi wearing Quicksilver’s suit speeding around a boss level. Seems like that could be pretty useful. Aside from X-Genes, you also unlock different combos at different points in the game, some of which can be pretty devastating.
During the game, you get to make moral decisions that shape whether you’ll end up with the Brotherhood, or with the X-Men.
So here’s what I thought about it:
I love the X-Men universe, but judging by what I saw, this game is a bit of a disappointment. First of all, when you first see Nightcrawler, he looks like a beatnik. Anyone who’s familiar with the character knows that he’s a very conservative catholic, and doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. He’s blue, there’s only so much he can do to fit in. His appearance in the game consists of dreadlocks, at least four or five ear piercings, a very punk-looking brown leather jacket with a belted closure, and a million rainbow rubber bands all he way up his tail. The other thing that bothered me a little bit is that Emma Frost had an English accent. I don’t really know if that’s commonplace for her, but the character is from Massachusetts, and has never spent any length of time in England.
The backstories for the playable characters are interesting, but they don’t really come into play at all. For the first part of the game, it affects what you can ask the cannon characters, but not much else. In fact, it really doesn’t matter who you pick at all. Each character has exactly the same stats. They all run at the same speed, hit with the same amount of force, and jump the same height. You’d think that the guy who plans on becoming a football player would have a little more power behind a punch than a little Japanese girl. Then there’s the instant power mastery. In the entire history of the X-Men universe, there has never been a mutant with complete control over an ability just seconds after it manifests. Usually they blow something up, or accidentally freeze their mom’s garage or something. I also don’t agree with the game’s allowance of the player to switch out secondary abilities. My last complaint is the portrayal of the Brotherhood and the X-Men as sort of like a light side/dark side deal. Like there are clear-cut right and wrong answers. Part of the interesting thing about the X-Men universe is that there are no right answers. The Brotherhood and the X-Men are both fighting for the same cause, just with different philosophies and tactics, but they both want the same end result.
What I’d like to see in an X-Men game is very similar to something like City of Heroes and Harry Potter. I’d like to be able to make an original character, and have the game start when he or she gets to the Xavier institute. I’d want the game to focus around building up your character’s abilities, and eventually get onto the X-Men team, where you’ll get to save the world from Sentinels and alien attacks, and deal with anti-mutant politics. I want an X-Men game where I can pretend to be a mutant, and not have to focus on pushing “A” on my controller a lot.
If it sounds like something you’re interested in, the game is available for the X-Box, PS3, Wii, and DS.Tags: X-men