X-Men: The Official Game Review

The X-Men have been around in comic books and films since the 1960s. It centres around a gang of mutants fighting against the evil humans who want to experiment on them just because they’re different. As well as this, the X-Men also attempt to educate the nice humans so that they know mutants can be good people too. There’s so much variation in the mutants thanks to the different genetic strains, that they can be intensely interesting as the possibilities are endless. A classic story really, the fear of humanity when they encounter anything a bit different from the norm. Will X-Men: The Official Game fight against this tide of normality and become something a bit special, much like the characters it portrays? If only.

If only it looked that cool in game.

Z-Axis games developed X-Men: The Official Game (because throwing in Official instantly makes it a better game, honest), in the past some of their most notable releases were True Crime (not bad, but not wonderful either) and Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, again not bad but not great either. They all had potential yet didn’t quite fulfil it in my experiences of the games. Unfortunately they managed to ruin even this fairly average record with X-Men: The Official blahblah.

The game is a fairly run of the mill 3rd person perspective action adventure. The story aims to fill in the gaps between X-Men 2: X-Men United and X-Men 3: The Last Stand. The story is so typical of these kind of film tie-in games that once you finish playing through, you will never be able to remember it again. It’s not a classic story in any way whatsoever and I’d give out cookies to people who could remember the story for longer than a week after completing it. But basically, Iceman is learning the ways of the X-Men as he’s still young, Wolverine is going around beating up people, and Nightcrawler’s being sneaky. It’s a nice concept making it part of the storyline of the films, it’s just nowhere near as memorable as the films are, nor is it thought provoking in any way. The action is split up into three acts, again split up into three different characters and storyline arcs. The three characters are Wolverine (as always, you can’t have an X-Men game without him!), Iceman and Nightcrawler; both of which make a nice change as in many of the games they get ignored slightly in favour of the likes of Cyclops, Storm and co. Each character has a very different way of dealing with things which does make things slightly more interesting, at least at first it does.

Wolverine, rather typically, is basically the hack and slash character. His missions tend to involve him getting revenge on the people who have done him wrong (and to be fair there’s a lot of people who have done him wrong, for those who know the comic books), and basically killing lots and lots of henchmen along the way. Not much thought is involved at all with Wolverine, just run at people, press X to quick attack the enemy or try a stronger attack once in a while. The only thing that requires any hint of thought with Wolverine’s controls is keeping an eye on the fury meter in the top left hand corner of the screen, once it starts flashing press rb and let him rip into people even more simply than before! It is particularly useful for boss battles, which don’t tend to require much strategy, just repetitive hammering of the attack buttons. I hardly used the block button at all really, it was more out of laziness to move out of the way of the boss rather than because it was crucial. Wolverine also has a regeneration ability, which makes sense considering his mutant talent, so if you ever do get a bit stuck or low on health and there are no enemies around, just stay still, press lb and wait a few seconds for your health to be restored to full. Needless to say it gets very repetitive as Wolverine, which means it also becomes frustrating when you do occasionally die (especially on Superhero difficulty compared to Novice) because it means you have to go back to the beginning and do it all over again!

"In game shot? You wish!"

Nightcrawler, initially, seems much, much more interesting. Thanks to his mutant ability, Nightcrawler can teleport all over the level, behind enemies, all sorts, which sounds fantastic. Unfortunately he’s restricted quite a lot, you can only teleport around the level map, you can’t go further than the game wants you to, and he’s in a fixed position once on things high up in the air such as pipes so it loses that sense of freedom which could have been great. There didn’t need to be ‘real’ freedom, just the sense of it, instead you just feel like you’re stuck on rails half the time. Nightcrawler also suffers from the same curse as Wolverine when it comes to combat; it’s just too predictable and repetitive. In this case, Nightcrawler can’t really go toe to toe with enemies, instead you can use a teleport attack where you teleport behind the enemy and pummel him from behind. Pretty much every battle past the early levels requires this technique to get anywhere. It’s simple; it requires little thought, this isn’t a good thing though.

Then we come to my least favourite character in the game, and possibly some of the most irritating controls I have experienced in a game thus far: the Iceman levels. With Iceman he is constantly on his ice surfboard, this means it feels much like you’re controlling him on a skateboard, which would be good if this was a hybrid mutant/skateboarding game but it’s not. It’s meant to be a fun action adventure game, I think Z-Axis forgot the word fun here; actually they did for most of the game, but particularly with this part. With Iceman you mainly have to fly around putting out fires or destroying sentinels with your hailstorm attack, there is another attack but it’s completely useless most of the time. As well as this you also need to be able to move quite adeptly and quickly, unfortunately the controls fail somewhat in this respect. The movement controls make you feel as if you’re stuck on rails, it means sometimes you have to overestimate the distance before the 180 degree turn comes round properly, while other times you have to underestimate it.

In all games there’s that certain knack to be able to master something in a game, whether it be a strategy to defeat a boss or to be able to perform a move perfectly. The problem is this kind of knack should be basic to do, instead it just makes an effort out of something that should be simple, and it doesn’t even really reward you for it. This is pretty much the core to X-Men’s failings. If it rewarded the player maybe people would persevere but instead it just drives you more and more insane.

Even the game’s presentation is poor to say the least, the graphics are distinctly X-Box in nature (although it is somewhat understandable as it was one of the early 360 games and ported across from the X-Box version), the sound is laughably forgettable and the FMV is so terrible, you would think you'd gone back in time to the birth of FMV. It has a slight charm to it, basically it comes up in a comic book style and changes ‘page’ to show the development of the story. It might have once looked good but instead it just makes me long for cel shading! X-Men Legends 2 used it well, why can’t this?

Anyone order some fried duck?

Ok, ok, I know I’ve ranted about how bad this game is. It does have its positives, honest. They are very few and far between but they do exist. The mutation idea is quite unique. What occurs is when choosing the mission to play; you can choose whether to play it on Novice, Hero or Superhero. This then affects how many mutations you gain for completing the level. Each mutation can then be used to improve your character, such as improve their health, healing ability, blocking ability, attacking strength etc. This can be handy as gradually your characters become stronger and stronger, plus there’s also achievements for gaining all the mutations possible which encourages you to play it on superhero mode rather than novice mode. Achievements are another positive aspect, despite the initial first three achievements gaining you no points whatsoever, the rest aren’t too hard to get; especially not with a guide to hand. All you really need to do is complete the game on superhero difficulty to max out the mutations and to collect all the sentinel files and weapon x files (just standard stuff to collect really), it might take a couple of playthroughs but you could manage it all in one play through really; providing you have the patience to do this!

It all comes down to patience really, most people could get the full 1000 in a matter of a few hours, but if you’re a bit like me, it’ll annoy you too much so you’ll keep stopping and starting. It still doesn’t take long though; each level often takes 10 minutes at most. So really, if you want an easy 1k this is probably it, however don’t expect to enjoy it. There’s a lot more enjoyable ways to get an easy 1k, go for those first till you get desperate.

Nothing to write home about at all, intensely unmemorable in fact, very much standard action game music, could be worse though.

Fairly basic stuff, the graphics on a standard definition TV will look identical to the X-Box version, and there’s still little difference on an HDTV. It just seems dated already, when it really shouldn’t be. However some of the comic book styling is quite detailed, its sole saving grace

It’s frustrating and unrewarding for the most part, but it does have an extremely simple learning curve, so simple it’s tedious in fact.

Menus are kept to an absolute minimum and no impressive use of FMV footage of the films it’s associated with. Dull, dull, dull!

The achievements are simple enough but they could have been spread out more evenly, instead the first few achievements are worth 0 points and the bulk of the points don’t come until you complete the game which doesn’t help encourage you to struggle on!

A very distinctly average and dull film tie-in of a game. So much could have been done with the license but instead it’s dull, predictable and a waste of time and money. All hail the cash cow, not! Go play Marvel Ultimate Alliance if you want a good X-Men game.

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