Xbox 360 Review: X-Men - The Official Game

Deep down, we all want to see a revival of genres thought long dead. The beat-em-up is one of those, and why Sega has yet to grace us with a new Streets of Rage remains one of those great gaming mysteries. Then, out of nowhere, we get something like X-Men - The Official Game. Not only are we still wondering what it's the official game of, we're also wondering why we're being charged $60 for a beat-em-up that had its mechanics trounced by Final Fight.

In all fairness, this isn't just a beat-em-up. Mixed in with controlling Wolverine and Nightcrawler is Iceman, who has been given gameplay so horrible, it's almost a shame they need to be discussed in any form. Flying around on a sheet of ice, going through rings, and taking down dumb as rocks opponents puts these levels dangerously close to being on-par with Superman 64.

Wolverine ends up in the pure beat-em-up stages, leveling disappearing enemies after walking down corridors or clearing a single room if that's what the developers require of the player. At times, enemies never stop coming, spawning repeatedly for no reason that to stretch the miserably short running time of about four hours is you play straight through.

Nightcrawler is the small highlight. His quick teleports have been superbly blended into the fighting mechanic. It feels natural, simple, and quick to take somebody out from behind before they even have a chance to know what happened. Sadly, Nightcrawler is stuck performing dull fetch quests that nearly always end up being "find X amount of this item."

While this is a genre where short length can be beneficial due to repetition, you won't be playing through this twice. It's not only the miserable gameplay, it's that the extras are meager. Finding items "hidden" in the stages isn't exactly difficult when they're in plain view. For the ones that are hidden, it would be easy enough to find them if they gave the player camera control, which they limit unnecisarily in certain spots.

In one of those inexcusable gameplay flaws, you're required to backtrack here. Later levels prove far too difficult to tackle without beating previous stages to gain needed experience, or mutations as the game calls them. Each difficulty level increase on a previous level gives more experience than the last. The cheap bosses take way too much damage and without a fully powered up character, you're not going to make it. Stranger yet, you'll never appreciate a character at their most powerful since the final mutation slot doesn't come until you beat the final missions for each character. That's bad design.

The few things X-Men does right, like wildly fun rag doll physics that enhance each blast, are not worth dealing with to play all the way through. Konami handled the X-Men better in almost this same form over a decade ago in arcades. That only makes every excruciating flaw here more inexcusable than the last.

(** out of *****)

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