Game: X-Men Legends
Platform: Microsoft XBox, Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: NA: 09/21/04, EU: 10/22/04
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1-4

Story: X-Men games always have a story of some kind driving them. Even the fighter, X-Men: Next Dimension, has a plot behind it. I won't spoil it, but within the first few minutes of gameplay, you meet Alison, a girl whose latent mutant powers have just surfaced. Magneto and Mystique are trying to kidnap her, and the X-Men are trying to save her. The story starts out slowly, but it takes off later, is quite entertaining, and feels like it belongs in the X-Men universe.

Gameplay: If an RPG making use of the X-Men license isn't enough to warrant picking this game up, the gameplay is. You have 15 X-Men at your disposal; many need to be unlocked to be playable or become available as the story permits, but the initial team of six is more than adequate to get the action started. X-Men initially available are: Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, and Wolverine. The additional and/or unlockable X-Men are: Beast, Colossus, Emma Frost, Gambit, Jubilee, Magma, Nightcrawler, Professor X, and Psylocke. Each X-Man has his or her own unique look, feel, abilities, and statistics. Wolverine regenerates health (if you put some stat points in healing), and Storm controls the weather. Each X-Man's powers come in handy for solving puzzles, too. Need a bridge? Iceman can make you one. Is he knocked out? Rogue can fly teammates over the gap instead. Colossus holds heavy things, and Nightcrawler bamfs.

Additionally, the environments usually react the way one expects. Want Colossus to pick up a car? No problem. Did an optic blast accidentally hit that bus stop? It's gone now. The gameplay is mission-based, and the X-Mansion serves as a hub. Gameplay in the X-Mansion and some missions have a restricted number of heroes. The X-Mansion bits are solo affairs, and mission requirements vary from two to four (usually four) X-Men. Each hero has two gauges: health and mutant ability. When health reaches 0, your hero is knocked out. When mutant power reaches 0, you're restricted to melee attacks until you've regenerated, which happens continuously at a slow rate. Be prepared to die a lot in the early game though. X-Men Legends has a reverse difficulty curve. The early game is quite tough, but by the time you're in the final act, nobody will be able to stand in your way.

There are lots of random things littered about the environments. The red glowing bits are health packs, the blue glowing bits are mutant power packs, and the X-Men symbols are currency used for reviving downed teammates and buying trinkets. I recommend saving them for revives, personally.

Graphics and Sound: The gameplay graphics are passable. Explosions and character models are nicely done, and the environments look authentic. Cut-scene graphics are a very stylized comic book style. They aren't bad per se, but they take some getting used to. In particular, the character models in the character select screen and the loading cards are gorgeous. Sound, however is a mixed bag. Explosions and Patrick Stewart are in the good bag, and everybody else's voice acting is in the bad bag. They're not all terrible, but if Raven was willing to pay for Patrick Stewart then they know what using a talented actor does to a game, and it's a shame they didn't get better voices for Stewart's Professor X to interact with.

Overall: X-Men Legends has a lot going for it. It's a fun beat-em-up action RPG, the graphics are nice, the story's pretty good, it has good cooperative multiplayer, and it's just plain fun. If you can overlook the majority of the voice acting, it's a worthy addition to any X-Men or RPG fan's collection.

Sources: - Developer, Publisher, and Release information