X-Men: Legends review

Activision puts all its X in one basket but just how cracking are the results? Xbox World investigates...

Now this is more like it. Don't get us wrong, it's not like X-Men: Next Dimension was a bad game as such, it's just... No, hang on, that's exactly what it was. Anyway, the point we're trying to make is that if you're going to create a quality X-Men experience you don't want to be messing around with undiluted beat-'em-up gameplay. Nor do you want to split the mutants up and send them off on their own solitary quest (as was the case in the yawnsome Wolverine's Revenge). And as for Rogue And Storm's Jacuzzi Strip Poker...What? Oh, so that was a dream.

The thing is, the X-Men are cool for two overriding reasons: firstly, even the most established members of the collective are constantly coming to terms with and developing their incredible powers (consider Jean Grey and her terrifying Phoenix alter ego); and secondly, the mutants' real strength comes from working as a team, blending their unique talents to create an unstoppable force for ass-kickin' in the name of justice. And the reason why X-Men: Legends is cool is because it enables these factors to shine in an energised and surprisingly playable way as an action RPG. It's not perfect, but as a glance at Wolverine shows, being a little rough at the edges has never been a barrier to fun.

Another reason why the X-Men rock is because their membership is always on the up. Put in some serious combat time on Legends and you'll eventually have a pool of fifteen from which to choose your favourite four for active duty. Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Cyclops, Rogue, Allison Crestmere...

Allison Crestmere? Okay, she eventually takes the codename Magma, but it's Allison's brutal introduction to life as a mutant that forms the backbone of Legends' plotline and helps ease non X-fans into the comic-book world. The game opens with Allison kidnapped by Mystique and other members of Magneto's Brotherhood and sets you, as Wolverine, the task of snatching her back. It's a great way to begin. Combat is straightforward with the colour buttons mapped to two 'vanilla' fight moves alongside jump and grapple.

Combining these is instinctive and unleashes a decent roster of combos, and that's before you even get to mutant powers. Hold the right trigger and suddenly the colour buttons become home to up to four special mutant attacks. For Wolverine this means devastating melee moves like the Brutal Slash, Feral Rage and, as his experience level rises, the likes of Claw Frenzy and Berserker Rage. Jean Grey and Storm can develop the ability to fly, while Rogue can temporarily become bullet proof, and Iceman's Freeze Blast will not only slow down attackers, but can also be used to create ice bridges over chasms. Each of the characters possesses this intriguing scope for mastering new and ever beefier attacks and awesome new abilities. Addictive? You have no idea.

And here's where X-Men: Legends really comes into its own. While graphically the game is a peach, the levels essentially follow the same pattern. Choose your quartet of X-Men, battle grunts through the map from A-Z, defeat boss, return to the Xavier Institute for R and R and a little more plot exposition, then repeat. However, while this should, by rights, become dull as ditchwater, thanks to the accessible way the game unfolds (as combat experience translates to fresh characters, enhanced skills and increasingly potent signature moves) the desire to fight remains pin-sharp all the way through.

What's more, at every X-traction Point you come to (that's save point to everyone with a working head-muscle) you're free to revive flatlining comrades (for a price), swap team mates for variety, balance experience levels, redistribute XP or even pay tech-wizard Forge a visit to buy or sell items to help you on your way.

X-flies in the X-ointment? Play solo, as we reckon most people will most of the time, and you will find your three AI buddies, while eager, do have a habit of getting killed more quickly than when you're controlling them. It's not a game wrecker but that sliver of mistrust in your buddies' abilities can intrude on your fun in the heat of battle. Aside from that though, and the relative scarcity of decent puzzles given the potential afforded by the mutants' powers, X-Men: Legends is the bomb, balancing drip-fed depth and buddy enhanced action expertly and with serious style. All this and Sentinels too! What do you mean you don't know what Sentinels are? Shame on you...

X-Men: Legends is out now for Xbox

More Info

PlatformXbox, PS2, GameCube