Posted by Female Gamers on Jan 19, 2010
X-Men: The Official Game – Review

X-Men: The Official Game – Review

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Another high-profile summer blockbuster from Hollywood gets the licensed videogame tie-in treatment as Activision and Z-Axis offer up X-Men: The Official Game for our collective ‘entertainment’. However, Hollywood tie-ins generally exist as little more than sideshow attractions to boost both the movie’s exposure and its global till receipts (Batman Begins is perhaps the worthy exception), so does X-Men: The Official Game transcend that stereotype by delivering a game faithful to the source material while also providing genuine gaming attraction? The answers to those questions are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively.

X-Men: The Official Game has plenty of franchise oomph in terms of star names providing their physical likenesses and vocal talents to the game’s characters, and the likes of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier all help to cement an air of believability to the game’s narrative structure, which is a stage-setting prelude to the events of X-Men III: The Last Stand. Game music is also lifted directly from the movie and its beautifully orchestrated pacing certainly adds further enhancement to the authentic vocal performances.

Yet, for all its franchise credibility, X-Men: The Official Game feels sadly flat, stilted, and under developed—much like most movie tie-ins—and the game as a whole falls well short of the most basic videogame requirement: fun. This ultimately damning failure arises through various components of the game, which include a strictly limited and predetermined selection of playable X-Men characters, a sporadically unhelpful in-game camera, disappointing level design and visuals, no mid-mission game saves, and unbelievably repetitive gameplay.

Having only Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler (a weak cast at best) as mission-specific rotating playable characters seems an almighty waste of considerable resources when gazing across the wealth of X-Men that are either unused or relegated to NPCs during the game. Girl gamers will not be best pleased to discover that not one of the central characters is drawn from the female mutant gene pool, which is made all the more disappointing and inexplicable by the intermittent in-game appearances of Storm (Ororo Munroe) during Wolverine’s levels. In relationship to the player’s usage of Wolverine, his missions are merely devolved exercises of hack-and-slash frustration that quickly grow tiresome, in no small part due to a trailing camera that cannot move throughout 360 degrees of vision and the game’s distinct lack of save points. Indeed, Wolverine’s amazing adamantine claws are not especially useful when attackers are inflicting damage from beyond his field of view and the camera won’t swing into a user-friendly position in order to help adapt to given situations. The simple fact that the camera is completely open and moveable during Nightcrawler and Iceman missions only further instils a sense of perplexed despair when saddled with the game’s claw-wielding lead mutant. However, Nightcrawler and Iceman levels fair little better in terms of originality and entertainment value, and even though the game’s triple character structure ably showcases the individual powers and abilities of each mutant—teleportation, surfing on an icy slide, miraculous healing, etc—there’s little on display to hold player attention for more than a few curious hours.

Graphically, X-Men: The Official Game is built around a serviceable 3D engine that copes relatively well without ever excelling in the presentation department. Environments are largely dull and dark affairs (typically places such as Alkali Lake and Dark Cerebro) that try their hardest to exude an air of menace and foreboding, but instead only conjure up a sense of unfortunate underachievement. Character representations are impressive throughout; all the in-game characters appear like their movie selves, and players can look forward to seeing the likes of Magneto, Pyro, Sabretooth, Silver Samurai, The Sentinel, Multiple Man, Colossus, and a returning Lady Deathstrike all thrown into the mix. The game’s main plotline gradually unfolds between missions via comic book storyboard frames that sport thoroughly believable—but largely static—versions of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Halle Berry as Storm, Alan Cummings as Nightcrawler, etc. Though certainly well implemented and competent in delivering the narrative segue moments (perhaps thanks to the actors’ voices), these rendered animatic storyboards ultimately smack of being unfinished elements left static rather than seen through to a completed and worthy end. In fact, the whole game feels much the same.

As already mentioned, the musical score for X-Men; The Official Game is lifted from the movie itself and it’s superb from start to finish, imbuing a degree of impact and ambiance to proceedings that’s sadly lacking across other critical departments. Game sound is carried along ably by the vocal performances of the assembled acting talent, but atmospherics, battle sounds, death cries, etc, are all perfectly acceptable behind the stellar cast. Deaf gamers, or those with hearing impairments, can follow the storyline in X-Men: The Official Game thanks to optional full subtitle accompaniment—which is handy as the storyboard segues contain a great deal of information before each new mission.

As with most modern videogames, X-Men: The Official Game holds a considerable amount of unlockable extras to be abused outside or alongside its central gameplay. In this case, various Danger Room challenges (the Danger Room is a training simulator) can be unlocked during the game, as can new X-Men costumes, and also character-specific moves and powers. Despite the moderate distraction handed down by this minor extra content, and the game’s interesting preceding storyline (to the new movie), the fact remains that X-Men: The Official Game holds limited appeal for hardened X-Men fans and casual gamers alike. Only three playable X-Men characters (all male—Ed) is the game’s first slap across the face of the consumer, whereas two of them being dull as dishwater emerges as the second. Banal and repetitive gameplay is then the equivalent of a swift kick to the solar plexus, while the Wolverine-missions’ game camera sticks a metal claw through the eye as it all-but kills any form of fluid movement and on-the-go navigation. Add uninspiring visuals, grimy presentation, and lacklustre story explanations and you’re left with great music and great vocal performances…both of which are taken from the X-Men III: The Last Stand movie. Make of that what you will.

Review by Stevie

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