|System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii|
|Dev: Silicon Knights|
|Release: September 27, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
The X-Men series has enjoyed a boon in the last several years. The big screen outings have been mostly successful, and many more video games have been added to the X-Men lineup. Silicon Knights decided to jump into the mutant pool and see what superhero they could create, but their end product suffers from a severe lack of polish in the combat, graphics, and overall fun factor.
The story is actually one of the better aspects of X-Men: Destiny, and if you're lucky, you'll get wrapped up enough in it that you'll want to suffer through the tedious levels to see its conclusion. It begins on a grim note, as you quickly discover that Professor X has been killed by Bastion, a robotic supervillain comic fans will recognize from the X-Men: Second Coming series and gamers may remember from the 2002 title, X-Men: Next Dimension. Shattering many mutant bonds, a desperate rally for peace has brought together the remnants of the X-Men, the Brotherhood, and other rogue mutants to San Francisco. However, catastrophe strikes, with Magneto as the suspected culprit, and an ensuing attack by the militarized anti-mutant group called the Purifiers sends everything into chaos.
After the epic introduction, you must decide between three characters to follow through the adventure. Aimi Yoshida is a young Japanese girl who was smuggled out of Japan before her family was captured and sent to a mutant camp. Grant Alexander is a beefy college jock whose only interest is in football, and is therefore ignorant to any politics regarding the human/mutant tensions. Adrian Luca is the son of an anti-mutant extremist, and Adrian himself has been molded by the Purifiers to be a member of their "pure-blood" army—that is, until he suddenly discovers he is a mutant. This is where the story rubs me the wrong way. Even in the universe of the X-Men, there is still a cohesion—a believable model behind the evolution of the mutants. However, in Destiny's case, three ordinary people have their powers abruptly manifest, and they immediately become adept in combat and acrobatics, with the emotional and psychological fortitude to stand firm against waves of enemies. Really? You do get to shape the progression of your character's conscience with conversation paths that score points with either the X-Men or the Brotherhood, and thus create alternate storylines (although nothing as polished as Mass Effect or Dragon Age). But considering the strict hierarchy within both factions, I just find it hard to swallow the "zero-to-hero" mold the developers have chosen.
Aside from conversation choices, X-Men: Destiny takes on another RPG form in the way of level progression and skill customization. As you defeat enemies, you'll receive yellow experience orbs, which can be spent to upgrade any skills you've acquired. Apart from you initial power choice between Density Control (manipulate body mass, turning your arms into boulders), Energy Projection (rapid ranged attacks and beam cutters), or Shadow Matter (blades created out of thin air and better reflexes), you'll also collect X-Genes after certain story sequences or by locating them in not-so-well-hidden areas. There are offensive, defensive, and utility X-Genes, and each will grant a new power or provide a bonus to health, damage, etc. There are many different combinations, all of which stem from a known mutant's power set but can alter your core powers. Also, as you level up a specific skill, you'll get an extra combo finisher that packs more punch.
What drowns out any of the satisfaction of combat is the extremely lame enemies you confront. From start to finish, the regular fare is peon worthy, masked attackers incapable of doing that which they were designed for. You'll rarely even find yourself dodging or blocking, since your attacks send them flailing before they can even make contact. But it is this contact that will deflate you the most. When I think of the satisfying "crunch" with every hit on games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Captain America: Super Soldier, X-Men: Destiny simply doesn't have that same level of connection. The strikes seem to blow right through the character models, like something you would have found in a game from the '90s. The lack of grapples, counters, and other close combat maneuvers only limit the combat flexibility further.
There are some nice power animations, but the rest of the visuals look archaic, and wouldn't have even been lauded on a previous generation's console. The buildings in San Francisco look generic and geometric, a shocking display when you consider the length of the campaign (a mere six hours at most) and the linear levels, which have plenty of room for textures and substance to their backdrops. Other than the designated Power Up crates, the few barrels and storage devices can be knocked on their sides, but that constitutes the extent of their use. Once in a while you'll be asked to scale walls and climb buildings, but that also lacks any thrill—or skill—to perform.
The music is forgettable. The sound effects are your typical action/superhero fare, with a few that resonate well. I personally enjoyed the glass smashing sounds of the oversized enemy remainder count that pops up smack in the middle of the combat, but it's sad when something like that takes the number one spot over pummeling an enemy. It is nice to see fully voiced dialogue, although with a diverse array of accents between the mutants, some nail it, like Emma Frost's British accent (despite its questionable authenticity, since Emma was born and raised in Boston), and some that would benefit from a few more takes (I wish Alan Cumming would have lent his voice for Nightcrawler).