Any game based upon Marvel’s X-Men, movie or not, has enough source material behind it to make for a truly compelling experience – something that cannot be said about Activsion’s X-Men: The Official Game. Billed as a bridge between the second and third X-Men films, X-Men is a clumsy, repetitive beat-’em-up that was obviously rushed to store shelves as a mindless cash grab in order to ride the wave of hype surrounding the release of another summer action blockbuster.
The game itself has you taking up the reigns of Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler through a series of similar branching missions wherein you mash buttons and beat up a monotonous army of bad guys, culminating with some of least intelligent bosses yet seen in a contemporary videogame. The only saving grace to all of this are the rail shooter sequences wherein you get to control Iceman as he flies about on his ice board, for lack of a better term, but even this joy is muddled by the game’s almost suffocating repetitive nature, wonky camera, and – at times – nonsensical plot.
One of the chief problems with X-Men lies in its mission structure. Branching paths are often a good thing, but when they are as disconnected to point where any semblance of an underlying plot is compromised as these are here, any benefit of such a feature is wasted. Case and point, early on in the game Wolverine and Nightcrawler split up as they adventure into Alkali Lake to look for the parts of Cerebro stolen in the second film. You can choose to play as either character, but once the choice is made, you are stuck on that path – which includes several missions – until its completion when you can finally switch over to control the other character through his parallel journey. The developers should have arranged it so at the end of each individual mission you could switch over and control the other character for a while, but even this would have not been enough to elevate X-Men to anything but below average.
The biggest shortcoming of the game’s narrative is in how the story is told through still comic-book style images that blur and shift from one to the next in a rather obnoxious and altogether strange way. While the voice acting is generally acceptable (Hugh Jackman, Shawn Ashmore, Alan Cumming, and Patrick Stewart all reprise their roles from the films), their performances are more or less undone by each cutscene’s awkward visual style. The whole thing looks more like something you would expect to see on Adult Swim, and not in an action game that is supposed to be taken seriously.
As expected from a cash grab title such as this, X-Men has been released on nearly every platform under the sun, including the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Xbox 360, and PC. The rub is that each version – even the Xbox 360 – looks nearly identical to any other. While the higher resolution afforded by a PC monitor or HD set does make things look more crisp, the overall difference is negligible, and in the case of the Xbox 360 version, it is certainly not enough to justify the $20 price difference between that and other console variants.
In addition, the PC, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 versions seem to suffer from rather offensive slow down that crops up at seemingly random intervals – further evidence that X-Men was rushed out the door in order match the release of its movie counterpart.
X-Men, frankly, is not a very good game, as instead of building upon the rich source material inherent to its namesake, instead has become just the latest in a long line of forgettable titles to try to cash-in on the release of a movie. It’s uninteresting, confusing, and most of all boring. X-Men fans are encouraged to seek out and play X-Men Legends or its sequel, as those titles offer a much more fun and altogether accurate portrayal of how to turn the X-Men license into a compelling game. As for X-Men: The Official Game, the only thing A