Posted by Female Gamers on Jan 19, 2010
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse – Review

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse – Review

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Following a massive battle between the forces of Magneto and an invading Apocalypse, the city of Genosha lies in scarred ruins, its people all-but destroyed, and a desperate Magneto left with only one choice: seek help. And so, the nefarious Brotherhood of Mutants form a fragile alliance with Professor Xavier’s X-Men in an attempt to rid the world of a common evil that threatens all. Meanwhile, Apocalypse is abducting individual mutants and performing mysterious genetic tests on them, sampling their DNA, searching for something specific—but what? Join the X-Men and the Brotherhood in their quest to thwart Apocalypse and discover the unsettling truth behind his relentless pursuits.

ThumbBandits.com is primarily a girl-gaming site. A safe haven for gaming’s female demographic, where all things girl-related concerning videogames can be discussed, admired, and criticized without fear of stunted discrimination. Yet, the site’s ‘Latest Reviews’ page rarely contains titles that offer the female demographic a true girl’s adventure in terms of character content—and this is not down to coverage choice, but publishing trend. Well, allow Activision and Raven to put that little inadequacy to rest. Here come the X-Men.

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. Not a particularly good start considering the “Men” of the title, but look beyond the overtly male packaging and you’ll find an instantly accessible game that allows players to freely exercise interchangeable character favoritism from start to finish. And that’s the key. The game itself plays somewhat like Phantasy Star Online; it’s a third-person adventure that embraces progress via action more than careful exploration. And though not an RPG in the strictest sense of the word, character interaction with NPCs is certainly in evidence but not essential to the game’s evolution. At its core, the player leads a band of four on-screen mutants from chapter to chapter, and each of them steadily levels-up in strength and ability through experience points amassed by defeating foes—and here’s where ThumbBandits’ faithful female followers get their money’s worth.

If so inclined, players can elect a four-strong team of mixed sex mutants, or same sex, and for once that means choosing from a broad selection of powerful and interesting male and female characters. Though the guys still outweigh the gals, including the likes of Cyclops, Wolverine, Juggernaut, Colossus, Magneto, Nightcrawler Iceman, and more, the female offering includes Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, and Scarlet Witch. Other non-playable lady mutants appear during the story, and it’s a shame that Mystique is not included to the playable ranks, but it’s still not often that a videogame places its entire female contingent in prime position for complete and utter ass kicking from the off—and X-Men Legends II is all the more refreshing because of this.

Progressive leveling-up can be assigned directly by the player or automatically by the game, and increases character special moves and mutant abilities, as well as providing better access to the wealth of applicable equipment options. The equipment store is situated in various ‘base headquarter’ areas within the game, where players will also find other members of the X-Men and Brotherhood who offer advice and mission tips. This is also where players can interact with Professor Xavier (voiced by Patrick Stewart), who doles out mission directives and generally acts as the fragile balance between the two bands of mutant forces.

Aesthetically, Rise of Apocalypse is slickly presented throughout. Visuals are well crafted, from the impressively rendered story sequences, to in-game design, character models, and overall animation. Frame rate levels remain constant and secure amidst often-frenetic onscreen action and the player never feels separated from the brawling. Character controls initially border on the worryingly extensive, yet soon become second nature as intuitively swift button combination’s provide instant access to great sways of impressive mutant moves. Game sound is also fabulously complementary, and ably enhances the experience with a moodily orchestrated score accompanied by snappy mutant dialogue and resonating sound effects. The central story is well voiced by all attending actors, and those players with hearing deficiencies can fully enjoy each passing event through the implementation of comprehensive subtitles.

Beyond the game’s central story mode, Rise of Apocalypse also has a co-op mode and online multiplayer options (for up to 4 players) via Network Ethernet. And, through the attainment of various hidden items in the main game, players can also unlock masses of extra content, including classic comic covers, concept artwork, character pin-ups, and ‘danger room’ missions for special bonuses. All in all, there’s plenty to hold your attention should the main game become stale—which it probably won’t.

Running against the usual flowing dirge of comic book videogames, Activision has turned in a pretty impressive year where Marvel licenses are concerned. Ultimate Spider-Man certainly swung elegantly from publisher to consumer, and now X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse offers solid third-person thrills, an intriguing plot, relentless action, progressive leveling, and mass character variety. Let us all turn a blind eye to the truly abhorrent Fantastic 4—but two out of three winners in a genre that generally disappoints is still an admirable achievement.

Review by Stevie

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