Review By: Nick Arvites
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When a high-budget, guaranteed blockbuster movie comes out, it’s almost an automatic assumption that the movie will have some sort of tie-in game. While some of these games have been shockingly good (such as The Chronicles of Riddick), far more movie-based games have been abysmal. The summer of 2006 brought us the third installment of the vastly popular X-Men series, which naturally came hand-in-hand with a movie tie-in video game. X-Men: The Video Game offered gamers a chance to experience events that occur between X-Men 2 and X-Men 3 and also offered the explanation for Nightcrawler’s absence from X-Men 3 (not Fox refusing to pick up Alan Cumming’s option, and not the complaints he voiced about the makeup process being too brutal). The game puts you in control of Iceman, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler, and you set out across a series of missions to advance the storyline. However, like the movie version of X-Men 3, The Official Game falls flat on its face and simply fails to impress or even satisfy anyone.
The game starts out using perhaps the absolute worst cut-scenes I’ve seen since the 8-bit generation. Basically, you see an artist’s rendering of a scene. Yes, you get to look at a stationary picture. They do have voiceovers to advance the story, and they thankfully have the real actors doing the voices of the main characters and several villains. Every once in a while, you’ll see a picture shift to a new picture with some slight change in it due to some small action taking place (like Wolverine’s claws extending). Trust me, it’s bad. At the very least, they could have just done in-game cinematics instead of giving mediocre still-pictures.
But hey, who cares about cut-scenes if the game itself is good. Well, it isn’t good. Each character gets a different type of stage. Iceman slides around on ice and shoots things, Nightcrawler has stealth-orientated stages, and Wolverine naturally walks in and kills everything on the screen. Ok, let’s get something out the way first: Iceman’s stages are lame. You basically slide around in the air and shoot things. It’s boring and feels like something in between a rail-shooter (Panzer Dragoon Orta or Starfox 64) and something akin to Rogue Squadron without the fun and depth. Wolverine’s stages are the most frustrating in the game. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t hard in the least. They do, however, become monotonous extremely quickly. Basically, the enemies constantly have a lock on you and never miss a shot, so you’re constantly taking damage. The trick is to take them out and use your healing factor before moving on. Mix this in with the inevitable deaths from getting stuck in an animation loop when you’re being attacked by guys with sticks or other melee weapons and you’re in for a frustrating and boring ride.
Nightcrawler’s stages, however, are actually good to a point. The focus on stealth is a good changeup, although it does make his stages much easier than anyone else’s. The problems with Nightcrawler are directly tied in with his combat style. While many of the attacks seem normal, the teleporting kick is very slow. It almost looks like they watched the opening scene of X-Men 2 and didn’t realize that he was going into bullet-time at certain points. Looking further at combat, it seems stiff and slow with both Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Neither of the characters is supposed to be slow or stiff, and making them slow and stiff feels completely unnatural.
I found myself progressing very quickly through stages. I went through 10 stages before I even died. When I did start dying, it wasn’t due to difficulty or a screw-up. No, it was due to graphical glitches that basically trapped my character while taking damage. So far I've racked up more deaths like that than legitimate deaths. Granted, that would be about the only way to die in this game. The gameplay, when it boils down to it, is simplistic: Walk-punch-walk-punch-walk-kick-get stuck-die. Sure, sometimes you get Colossus or Storm to help out, and sometimes you get to fight Lady Deathstrike, Sabertooth, or some other villain. These moments are often few and far between, and when they do occur, they aren’t that great. The words “mediocre, mindless action title” come to mind. Secret tokens are scattered through the level, and collecting them allows you to unlock new content. Don’t stress yourself out looking for them as they’re often in plain view or inside a breakable crate. It almost seems like the game was half-designed for toddlers and half-designed for a normal audience. It just comes off badly, plays badly, and most (if not all) gamers will get very bored with this title very quickly.
So really, why should anyone play this game at all? If you want to play as the X-Men, I’d suggest you check out the stellar X-Men Legends series. That series may not have the voice actors, but it captures the feel of the Marvel Universe and allows you to use the full scope of powers from a full scope of characters. X-Men: The Official Game is exactly what many other “official games” are: a horrible, quickly produced bad-grade title designed to cash in on fans of the movie that happen to have game systems. Avoid this title like the plague. If the selling point of why Nightcrawler isn’t in the movie is dragging you to this game, let me spoil it for you: he can’t deal with the violence. The end. There, I saved you a horrible gaming experience.
Superhero games have historically been horrible. For every good one, there seems to be at least 10 horrible ones littering the marketplace. Movie tie-in games have also experienced some of the worst titles ever created, and this mold is rarely broken. X-Men: The Official Game flawlessly meshes in the worst stereotypes of superhero games with the horrendous nature of movie tie-in games. The game is horrible, and it simply has no selling points. It isn’t like the X-Men franchise is that hard to put into games either. The recent X-Men Legends games have been amazing, and they flawlessly capture the feel of the X-Men universe. This game simply falls on its face and can only be described with a “not another movie game” moniker. As a fan of X-Men, a reviewer, and a gamer, I simply cannot recommend this game to anyone.
Posted: 2006-09-23 09:07:38 PST