One of the classic stories in all of superhero lore returned to consoles recently with the release of Activision’s X-Men Destiny and though the title contains no shortage of big name mutants, the overall delivery of the game leaves a lot to be desired.
Focusing on the classic X-Men story of humans and mutants struggling to co-exist in society, the game begins with Magneto’s whereabouts unknown and Professor Xavier dead after the two joined forces to battle a mutant named Bastion. A rally is being held in San Francisco to commemorate an historic, unprecedented treaty between humans and mutants when an attack by an unknown entity leads to chaos.
In the mix of this disaster are three post-adolescents hailing from different backgrounds who – coincidentally enough – start to see previously dormant mutant powers spring to life.
One of the game’s selling points is centered on presenting the player with continuous choices aimed at individualizing each experience. These choices begin right from the get-go, with the player asked to determine how their selected character will use their mutant abilities. Any one of the three characters can shoot energy from their hands, for example, or they can morph parts of their body into varying shapes. Each cluster of these characteristics come with a number of abilities that can be powered up and advanced throughout the game by spending accumulated experience points.
Furthermore, the game allows for the customization of mutant powers through the collection of X-genes or suits, the powers of which are derived from classic mutants such as Pyro or Wolverine.
The ultimate choice of the game is centered on whether or not the player wants their mutant to join the X-Men or the Brotherhood. The choices of either alliance come continuously, with each presenting a different storyline, opportunities for different X-genes or suits and side missions.
Graphically, X-Men Destiny is pretty middle of the road. It looks good, but that’s not enough in a day and age when so many games look remarkable. The combat system is also mediocre, with clunky camera angles and a button mashing element. Though players are encouraged to explore every area of each level, there are usually only two or three areas to look through and finding hidden or secret items is a pretty easy task.
The biggest flaw of X-Men Destiny, however, is in its story. By the end of the first level big names such as Magneto, Mystique, Toad, Cyclops, Nightcrawler have already been introduced, among a host of other characters. Encounters with these legends should be a gradual process that comes with a reward and not feel like a proverbial freebie. Even more damaging than this is a lack of any reason to care about the three new mutants. Yes, there is an attempt to bring some emotion to the game, such as showing how one of the new mutants is torn between his recently discovered powers and a family history of rebel oppositions to mutant-kind, but it doesn’t do enough to make you care.
Overall, X-Men Destiny is a largely forgettable title. Despite working for short periods of time the game doesn’t present any elements to keep you involved consistently. Is it a terrible title? No, but it’s a decent title that doesn’t have a place in a landscape full of phenomenal games.