X-Men: Destiny Review
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii
Genre: Action RPG
Developer(s): Silicon Knights
Release Date: September 27, 2011
MSRP: $59.99 (at launch), $19.99 (at time of review)
NOTE: This review is based off of gameplay of the PlayStation 3 version.
I really, really feel sorry for the X-Men. It’s not because they’re being berated by humans, are essentially in disarray after Professor Xavier’s death at the hands of Bastion, and are still struggling with the Brotherhood. They have far worse problems at hand, being that they’ve now been plastered all over a banal, ugly, and worthless action role-playing game that, instead of being a new evolution in the X-Men franchise, is one of the worst games the mutant heroes have ever had the displeasure of being a part of. Yes, it’s going to be one of those reviews, folks. Please, do read on.
As I stated, the X-Men are at their lowest as they are now in an earthquake-destroyed San Francisco, where a peace rally is being held by Mutant Response Division Chief Luis Reyes in order to relieve tensions between mutants and humans. This is where you’re prompted to select from one of three mutant youngsters: Aimi, who looks like a mix between a goth and a Japanese loli, Grant, a college football player, and Adrian, the son of a member of the Purifiers, which are anti-mutant extremists that serve as the primary enemies throughout the game. Who you pick has no real bearing on the overarching story and none of them are even remotely interesting. Once you select one, the rally is suddenly interrupted by an attack people believe is caused by Magneto. From there, you’ll be treated to a poorly-told story that tries to grant you the choice and depth of titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but fails miserably to do so. The conversations that you have with various members of the X-Men and Brotherhood try to wrap you further in the plot by giving you several topics you can ask them about, but you’re not going to give a rats ass what they’re saying as the plot never gets interesting, feels barren and thrown together, and is laughably predictable, granting you zero surprises nor twists. You’ll actually be more inclined to just end the conversations as soon as they begin, but unfortunately, dialog can’t be skipped, so you’re stuck listening to characters ramble. The voice acting is actually not half bad, but there are a couple poor performances, especially from the likes of Gambit, who sounds like a black man trying to give a poor French accent. Characters also tend to fidget while talking, almost as if they’re about to pee their pants, which makes conversations even harder to take seriously. Dialog also tends to run over each other, as one character’s voice won’t load while his/her mouth is moving, but will finally load as the other character starts talking. The unpolished presentation of X-Men: Destiny does absolutely nothing to get you to care about the plot and characters, two things that should be staples for any RPG, but were completely thrown together here.
As for “choices”, besides your powers, which I’ll touch on in a bit, your only choice in the game will be to choose either X-Men or Brotherhood at certain points in the game, which fills a meter that represents your allegiance to each side. The side you pick, as you’ve probably guessed, has no bearing on the over-arching story at all. The levels are all still the same, with the same enemies strewn about and the same objectives that need completing. The only real difference is that after picking a side, characters from that faction will help you with a mission directly afterwards. That’s it. Characters will generally treat you the same way no matter which side you choose, with very, very few pieces of dialog that actually differ, but again, have no bearing on the overarching story. This is yet another mistake X-Men: Destiny makes. In a choice-driven game, there need to be choices that actually impact the story, changing the world around you as well as your relationships with other characters. This game does none of that, and any choices you do make feel completely negligible.
As for those powers I mentioned, at the beginning of the game, you’ll get to select one of three: Density Control, which allows you to turn parts of your body into solid rock, Energy Projection, which lets you wield energy beams and the like, and Shadow Matter, which lets you wield what are essentially dark, shadow-like knives and blades. Each one of these powers is upgradeable over the course of the game at key moments, allowing you to learn new attacks and abilities. What you select, however, isn’t going to matter. Why? No matter which you select, the game is going to play out the same way. You’re going to run from point A to point B hammering on attack buttons and killing the same mundane enemies with some clumsy platforming and worthless dialog sprinkled in-between. That’s X-Men: Destiny in a nutshell folks. I love brawlers as much as the next person, especially with my love of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, but this game has no depth nor variety at all to speak of, making for a boring and bland experience that makes you feel like you’ve seen everything the game has to offer within the first five minutes of gaining control of your character. Across about four hours, you’ll be mashing away at the same enemy types over and over and over again. The worst part is that it’s not even challenging. As you gain new powers and spend experience points leveling them up, you become more and more powerful, rendering you almost completely indestructible. For instance, I chose Shadow Matter as my base power. I eventually learned a mutant ability that turned me into a hurricane of blades, making me completely invincible while eating away at every enemy within proximity. This makes larger, more intense enemies a walk in the park, as I just activate this power and sit back and watch as it eats away at them. It’s so mind-numbingly simple.
You do have some room for customization beyond the powers you select. You can pick up X-Genes, which are collectible representations of X-Men and Brotherhood members’ powers that can be mapped as Offense, Defense, and Utility genes. For instance, one of the more unique ones is Wolverine’s Defensive X-Gene, which can allow your health to regenerate just like Wolverine. There’s one of each type for each character, and equipping all three in a set (i.e. equipping Wolverine Offensive, Defensive, and Utility X-Genes), as well as the matching costume you can pick up will unlock X-Mode, which makes your already over-powered character even more over-powered. One large issue with X-Genes is that some of them are far too similar to others. A lot of Offensive X-Genes grant bonus powers to your attacks, but while the descriptions make them sound different, they all do the same thing, which is boost your damage. There are some X-Genes that simply give you more advantages than others, rendering the weaker ones completely useless. You’ll even get some late in the game that simply aren’t nearly as good as what you already have. The costumes are a joke, too, as they’re all the same suit, but with a different skin over it. You can’t customize your character’s looks at all beyond this, meaning your only choices are to stick to your streets clothes, or look vaguely like another character. Again, this is a choice-driven game and not giving you the ability to make your character truly your own is yet another failure to add to the pile.
To add insult to injury is the unfinished nature of the game. X-Men: Destiny clearly looks like it was rushed out the door just in time for the beginning of the usual Fall lineup of video games. I’ll just come out and say it: this game is atrocious-looking. The texture work is blotchy and muddled, environments are static and unremarkable, animations are stiff, and character models are just flat out ugly. This game could easily pass for a late-PS2 era, early-Xbox 360 title, and while I do realize graphics do not make the game, in this day and age, this is absolutely unacceptable. There’s a fair share of technical issues, as well, as the framerate chugs just from rotating the camera, enemies fall through the ground, and NPCs get stuck on objects. The sound is even poor, with a completely unmemorable and generic soundtrack and repetitive battle grunts that get old after the first two minutes.
If I haven’t swayed you away from this title by now, I have no idea what it will take to talk you down. The game has a solid premise, don’t get me wrong, as throwing Professor X’s death at you right from the beginning as an attempt at creating some sort of shock factor does manage as an attention-grabber. Its execution, however, is absolutely abysmal, with a poorly-told story that has barely any real choices to be made, terrible visuals, one-dimensional gameplay, and no real replay value, as the endings really aren’t worth slogging through this mess twice to get both very similar endings. It may have easy Trophies/Achievements, and if you want to bolster your count, by all means rent this and get it done in a weekend. For everyone else, including even the most vehement X-Men fans out there, X-Men: Destiny is a soulless and derivative experience that has absolutely nothing to offer you.