X-Men Legends 2: Rise of the Apocalypse Review / Preview for PC

X-Men Legends 2: Rise of the Apocalypse Review / Preview for PC

Last years X-Men Legends introduced players to an entirely new way of bringing Marvel’s merry mutants to the videogame arena. XL bridged the gap between RPG style character management with up to 4 player arcade style action. Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel, Raven Software tweaked some of the areas lacking from the original, included online multiplayer, messed with the roster and created a story around Apocalypse, a mutant so bad ass that the X-Men and their sworn enemies The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants must form an uneasy alliance to eradicate the threat. In short, Raven did a lot of things right – they didn’t mess with success and that will please a lot of fans who enjoyed their previous effort.

Since the game starts all characters on a level playing field, your roster of superpowered mutants both evil and non-evil (or good, some might say) aren’t exactly what you’d call superpowered. While this might annoy those who were expecting to load in a previous completed save from XL, it’s all in the name of good fun. A big part of the appeal of XL2 is deciding which powers to give characters, what teams of mutants or villains to use in a given situation and of course unleashing some awesome mutant powers. What’s not to like, especially now that you can kick it up a notch online with up to four friends? Sorry GC owners but not only can you NOT go online, but you’re not even compensated. The PC version managed to get three exclusive characters to start with and they CAN go online. Ouch.

Anyone who spent the 20 odd hours going through the last game will know exactly what to expect. The levels designs are intrinsically the same with players being able to bust through walls, create bridges as long as a character in the party has the ability, solve environmental puzzles such as “There is a fire blocking the way. Who should we use to put it out? Sunfire or Iceman? Give me a moment, I know I can figure this out…” Items are dropped along the way and characters will level up the more they fight either under your control or under the AI – the points earned can either be distributed automatically or manually and if you know anything about anything, I would suggest doing it yourself. There are specific areas where some mutants will thrive and the game doesn’t always put points into these areas for you. Unfortunately this is one of the areas of the most concern to me. Last year when playing XL it took me awhile to learn how to navigate the games numerous menu screens and stats options and this year was no different. It was like I had relearn it all over again. To be fair though, while it appears to be an overwhelming amount of information, given time it will become second nature.

Playing the game all by your lonesome will involve having the other 3 characters you’re not currently playing as (characters can be switched instantly at the touch of the d-pad) controlled by the AI. Raven has once again provided you the player with the utmost control over the AI teammates. You can set how aggressive they fight, when they heal etc. in the pause menu where you can access the rest of the stats for each character. As I mentioned those who don’t like experience management can set the game to distribute these points automatically but you’ll be missing the depth of the game entirely. Take away the plethora of options at your disposal and XL2 becomes a far less engaging experience in my opinion.

Powering up heroes and anti-heroes to incredible power levels continuosly revives the game even when it begins to settle into repetition. Unlocking new moves and discovering exactly what character provides the most devastating attack is all part of the charm. Personally if you have Nightcrawler (yeah, go figure!) and Juggie on one team and they’re good to go, you won’t have too much of a problem taking down Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen. As an added bonus (and a great little easter egg) Raven will reward players who mix their teams up with a little imagination. Experiment with characters and think hard about how some of them would be related and you’ll be tickled when it pays off.

Visually the game hasn’t seemingly improved much since the last game. I wasn’t a big fan of the blocky cell-shaded characters and their mitten hands, but overhauling the artistic design of the game wasn’t exactly on the menu since the last game sold like the dickens. As they say in this business, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and the visuals are solid. Raven added some new characters (heroes and villains) to this years game while removing some others that fans might be a little verklempt over. Magda, the volcanic newbie mutant chick from the last game is nowhere to be found but she’ll hardly be missed. Evil mutants like Toad, Magneto, Deadpool and Juggernaut (Spyro and Sabretooth are PC exclusives only) join the roster while Bishop, Scarlet Witch, Gambit, Sunfire, round out the new good guy additions. Sorry Beast fans, he’s also relegated to supporting character status. That’s what happens when you have too many big powerful dudes on one team. Colossus and Juggernaut can certainly cover any raw power the teams will require. You’ll even be able to unlock a surprisingly un-mutant hero to play with once you beat the game….but that would be telling.

Voices are provided at the expense of “over-the-top’o meters” everywhere. If you own one and you leave it on while playing XL2, you’ll overload the poor thing. Aside from Patrick Stewart who delivers his lines with authority without leaping into pure caricature, the other voice actors either sound like they’re auditioning for Saturday morning cartoons. Since it’s comic book subject matter we’re dealing with, I’ll let the overacting go, but I will say that Sabretooth sure sounds like he’s surpressing a thick Scottish accent at times.

The online and four player co-op modes are welcome additions and I can see gamers getting a lot of them especially if they’re playing the Xbox or PC versions. The PS2 version is rife with loading screens in the online mode. Unfortunately however, the Xbox version suffers from a serious crashing bug which the Activision tech support couldn’t help me with beyond “Can you get another copy of the game, sir?”. Uh, no. Your PR company sent me this one. After some online investigating to see if I was the only one experiencing this troublesome problem, I discovered that unfortunately I was not and the problem was confined to the Xbox version. From one persons explanation, the Xbox suffers from needing to take a RAM dump which if too much info such as levels loaded, collectibles etc are in RAM, the game will freeze up. And it will continue to do so. The person seemed to know what he was talking about as he provided a necessary fix that actually cleared up the problem. You will need to rid your inventory (for each character) of useless items that you pick up and will never use. Keep the rare items but rid yourself of the ones you tend to see time and time again. This should alleviate the crashing and freezing which tends to occur in the New York levels for some reason.

Promising at least 20 hours plus gameplay (not including the multiplayer facets) is nothing to sneeze at. X-Men Legends 2 isn’t miles away from the original which will please fans of the first game undoubtedly. Extra costumes and more playable characters as well as three difficulty levels will ensure subsequent playthroughs are equally as entertaining. XL2 is a solid, well put together game that is sure to have mutant-lovers everywhere firing up their favorite system in a bid to save the world.

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