Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5463)
Written on  :  Oct 28, 2004
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

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The Good

It's panic in the streets as Genetic Research and Security Organization (GRSO) troops and the Brotherhood of Mutants vie to find new mutant Alison Crestmere. Displaying her innate ability to affect magma, Alison's uncontrolled powers carve rivers of lava through the streets of New York. With GRSO troops and the Blob moving in, Alison seems doomed, but *snikkkt* there's still the man who's the best at what he does.

The movie ends and suddenly I'm Wolverine. Claws extended I tear into GRSO troops, pick one up and throw him into another, smash them both with a garbage can and they are down for the count. Later I team up with Cyke. Switching to Cyclops, I find the best strategy is to let Logan get in close, while I provide cover for him with my Optic Blast. With our quarry in sight, all that remains between us and the X-Jet is the Blob. Time for a new strategy.

X-men: Legends is a huge, dungeon-crawling RPG featuring fifteen playable characters from Marvel's popular mutant team. Legends strikes a comfortable balance between action and story, sending Xavier's crew out on sprawling, brawling missions with interludes about Alison at the school, learning to use her powers and finding out what it means to be a mutant.

While some missions are character or team specific, most missions begin with team selection, letting the player assemble a party of four mutants. During the mission, the player controls an X-man and the computer controls the other three (of course, Legends provides 2-player support or 3 to 4-player multitap support). Using the D-pad, players switch between characters in-mission, either to liven things up or to use a character in a way the AI wouldn't.

Not every character is available at the game's start, but you begin with a core group of classic X-men. Every character has the same basic melee attacks, X and O, which link together to provide powerful combos. And every character begins with the lowest level of their basic mutant power: i.e. Iceman's freeze ability slows enemies instead of encasing them in ice.

Depleting the character's energy (which recharges), the mutant abilities either deal devastating damage to opponents or strengthen the character (or in Storm and Cyclops' case, the team). If the mutant powers are used in concert—Wolverine raging on a Morlock while Storm unleashes lightning, then a special combo occurs (with some fancy name like Shocking Claws) doing more damage and providing more experience.

As an RPG, X-men: Legends feels like an entry level exercise since the typical race and class trappings don't apply. The X-men have four attributes: Strike (damage done), Agility (armor class), Body (health points), and Focus (energy points, i.e. mana). When they level up (by killing enemies), one or two points are added to a player-selected attribute and a mutant ability.

I could write a lot about the different abilities, but it's safe to say that every character is well represented and can become quite powerful (except for Jubilee). You can also purchase a special "finishing move" Xtreme power, like Beast's Orbital Bombardment, Iceman's Freeze Frame, or Jean's Phoenix Force.

In terms of story, Legends uses the different incarnations of the X-men, borrowing costumes from Ultimate, story elements from Evolution, and flashback sequences dating back to Stan Lee. Major X-men enemies and allies are here, providing a rewarding experience for fans. Gameplay is a pretty straightforward dungeon romp, dungeons here being Morlock-infested sewers, a Russian nuclear reactor overrun by the Acolytes of Magneto, the Astral Plane, and more.

Even though there are fifteen playable characters, I'd expect most players to have their favorites whom they'd use as much as possible. Experience is shared among inactive characters, so if you leave Jubilee on the bench for most of the game, she could still be a force to reckon with at the end. Actually, she wouldn't. If leveling up isn't making the characters strong enough, there are plenty of special power-ups to be found as well as hidden items which give bonuses to stats.

The Bad

My biggest complaint about Legends is that it's a little too easy. The X-men are overwhelmed every step of the way, but four of the world's most powerful mutants, working together as a team, are a force of nature—literally. The end scenario is a bit of a cakewalk, even if the bosses aren't. Part of the problem is that the four member team does incredible damage and the other part is that there are no apparent level caps. Granted, I hate level capping, but it provides balance in an action RPG.

Legends is designed for a multiplayer experience, but big chunks of the game involve Alison's lone exploration of Xavier's school and some missions are single-player only. Using the Danger Room option from the title screen isn't a better solution, since that's just a bare-bones brawler. The best solution would be if you could use the Danger Room to replay missions, especially the flashback ones.

A final gripe? The game uses cel animation for the characters, which makes them leap off the screen. This is very useful for spotting your character among mobs of enemies or against the terrain, but it doesn't provide for much detail. This is glaring during cutscenes using the engine, since all the characters seem blocky—compared to the rendered cutscenes, it's just weird.

The Bottom Line

Legends is a robust gaming experience accessible to casual fans of Singer's movies, but with enough meat to satisfy the fanboys. Huge levels with destructible environments (Wife: "Wouldn't they get their message across better if they stopped smashing things?"), filled with a large roster of villains, makes for gaming delight. To me, my X-men!