Review - X-Men Destiny

X-Men Destiny? Man, I want to like this game. I waited for and was excited for this game.

But I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Something just isn’t working for me the way that I want it too in this game. It’s like The Sing-Off.

Okay, that’s right. I said it. The reality TV show The Sing-Off. My girlfriend watches it…and I do too. All right? All right.

Anyway, the show has a certain theme for each week. Everyone will be doing country songs, or rock songs, or R&B...whatever. Occasionally, you’ll hear the name of the song that a band is going to cover and you’ll be psyched.

When the band in question finished their performance you just felt like something had been missing. Something hadn’t happened. You couldn’t put your finger on it. But it just hadn’t FELT the way you knew that song COULD feel. You were disappointed.

X-Men: Destiny feels this way. It’s got a lot in it that could make for a great game. It’s got a lot in it that X-Men fans would love.

Activision sent us a copy (Xbox 360) to check out. So why don't I love this game?

It just doesn’t pop. I swear, that’s the best way I could describe it. For some reason, try as I might, I don’t feel pulled in and entranced by this game. It falls flat, somehow and is very rough around the edges.

Now, specifically here’s a bit about what’s cool and not so cool about the game:

The Good

The presentation? VERY cool stuff here. For me, the opening menu and character selection sequence is very cinematic and fun. As you flip through New Game or Options and whatever else, you’re observing the game’s three main characters as they interact with a crowd full of people attending (or protesting) a peaceful mutant-human relations rally.

Just the subtle ins and outs of how these characters behave really give you a sense--before you’ve even chosen one--of what this character is about and where they fit in to the big picture. Aimi ducks her way through the crowd, low-profile. Grant seems to barely have a sense of what the rally is about and hits on women. Adrian just watches the mutants, real quiet like. In true Marvel fashion, these simple glimpses at each character’s behavior really makes you feel like you already know who each one is.

Furthermore, I’m a fan of the freeze frame/choose your own adventure character building thing going on in this game. While customization is featured, the game occasionally provides you with a well choreographed action sequence that plays out differently depending on what mutation you suddenly select for your character to develop in that moment.

So, maybe a car is hurtling towards your character. He or she might spontaneously A. increase the density of their body and smash right through it, B. blast a bolt of plasma out of their hands or C. form an object out of thin air with some strange shadow-matter power deal. Whatever mutation you pick permanently alters your character and provides you with a different sequence to resolve the action. Very cool stuff.

The Characters

Again--in true Marvel fashion--X-Men: Destiny’s new cast are well thought out and interesting. They’d actually make great X-Men characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three aren’t going to end up written in to the comic book at one point or another.

It’s a nice spread too. From Grant blissfully unaware of the possibility of his mutation to Aimi used to being hounded and hunted as a mutant to Adrian actually raised by mutant-hating Purifiers. They could all have their reasons for becoming X-Men--or for NOT becoming X-Men. For becoming outcasts and terrorists. They’re all nice fits for the story, however you want it to play out.

X-Men: Destiny is very current with the X-Men canon. So the whole San Francisco hotbed of mutant civil rights thing is going on in this game. A lot of the game’s enemies, including Bastion, the Purifiers and even John Sublime (Grant Morrison’s evil advanced human that’s out to kill mutants), have been big players in the recent comics. So I gotta give it that.

Now the UGLY:

The play control

it’s not bad, but it’s not great. The controls just don’t stick the way you feel like they should.

The combat feels loose and sporadic. I feel like there’s not much strategy here. Or at least, if there is a strategy to learn, I can’t glean what it is with so many Purifiers running around me like chickens with their heads cut off.

Their patterns of movement and action seem almost random to me. Some run towards you, some run away, some change direction half way toward you, some attack you while others run right up to you and block.

The actual GAME feels choppy to me and it’s like the action just lacks direction. Seeing your powers emerge and evolve on screen is fun but all that button mashing doesn’t feel satisfying if you don’t feel like ‘aahh, I’m LEARNING how to play this game better.’ Something’s just missing here. That’s all I can say.

The story sequences

Man, while X-Men: Destiny has a pretty excellent story pinning it’s events together the designers sure made some BAD MOVES choreographing the story.

I’ve seen this before- I took it upon myself many moons ago to play Justice League Heroes, a somewhat under-rated alternative to the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games.

Both games went with the same (very bad) design choice and I don’t know why. Well written and performed voice acting plays out WHILE you’re slamming bad guys all over the place. So while the dialogue is interesting and well written, you actually can barely pay attention sometimes while you’re trying to survive.

It’s tough to imagine the X-Men having these conversations while they fight as well (which I know they do in the comics all the time but still).

In real life it’d be kind of like:

Wolverine: “We need to shut down the (KAZAM, POW)-enl’s power source!”

Cyclops: (ZAK) WHAT!?

Wolverine: “I SAID- we need to (SNKIT, CRACK) the Sentinel’s POWER SOURCE!”


You do get the occasional story scripted one-on-one conversation filled with X-Men lore. But something about the game’s story just playing out in dialogue that just ROLLS through the game like someone put a tape recorder on play and walked away is a big turn off for me.

It almost feels minimalistic. Like there aren’t enough cinematics that really draw you into the plot of the game. The sort of illusion of being pulled into the X-Men universe just isn’t felt here because of this, I think.

Finally where the hell are all the X-Men?

For a game about X-Men I just don’t see enough of the ones I’d want to see in a game like this! Where’s Storm? Where’s Rogue? Where’s Beast?

Ultimately, the game’s list of used characters IS big but yet, it just feels empty to me for some reason. Like many of the big names I’d expect to see emerge in a game like this--Archangel, Psylocke, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde--are just nowhere to be found.

So, I have to say I can’t even give this game the ‘well, it’s not such a hot game but if you really love X-Men you’d love it’ feedback I was expecting to give it. It just feels like it only pulls this really limited PIECE of the X-Men mythology onto the screen and leaves too much of it out to satisfy the REALLY hardcore X-men dork.

All in all, the game isn’t BAD. It just isn’t great. And let’s face it--when someone has been telling you about an X-Men RPG for a year or so you’re expecting it to be GREAT. There are good ideas in here, but someone just has to give this another go in a few years, I’m thinking.

I’d give X-Men: Destiny a 7 out of 10 (if I even used a ranking system), but that’s a very generous. The game is more of a "it’s always cool to see (some) of the characters you love get the video game treatment" than "it’s a super fun game to play for hours on end."