Review: X-Men: Destiny (PS3)

Title: X-Men: Destiny
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Silicon Knights
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
X-Men: Destiny is also available on Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 239 of the podcast.

X-Men: Destiny is set after the death of Professor Xavier at the hands of Bastion. A statue is being dedicated in San Francisco in his memory as a way to bring humans and mutants together. You start by choosing one of three characters attending the rally. The big, dumb football star who isn’t interested in the rally at all, the rich kid, whose (now deceased) father brought him up to be part of the anti-mutant Purifiers and the cute Japanese girl, whose mutant parents smuggled her out of Japan when a wave of anti-mutant sentiment boiled over. You’d hope that with the wildly different backgrounds, the story could go off in a number of different directions, but that just isn’t the case. Aside from some minor references, to their stories, there’s very little impact on the overall story binding this game together and that’s the first of many missed opportunities in this game.

Everything falls apart as the statue is brought down (apparently by Magneto), a massive earthquake hits and in the middle of the crisis, your mutant powers manifest. This is where you make your first, and most important, choice. You need to decide the type of mutant powers you want which will influence gameplay heavily. Your choices consist of Density Control, Shadow Matter and Energy Projection. Density Control allows you to play the game like a brawler (think Juggernaut). Shadow Matter allows you to summon dark energy forces for creating weapons and dodging abilities. Energy Projection puts the emphasis on ranged attacks, allowing you to shoot electrical energy at enemies from a distance. Each choice gives you a unique skill tree (albeit a small one) to build up your powers throughout the game.

The gameplay leans towards a standard action beat ’em up. You’ll enter an area and get confined to that space until you kill a set number of enemies. The combat itself can be fun depending on the mutant powers you pick which is why it’s important to go with the style you’re most comfortable with. Along the way, you gain XP which can be used to upgrade your powers. At predetermined points in the game, the action will crawl to a stand still and you’ll be given a choice between two different powers along the skill tree. These choices tend to be pretty good in letting you keep in line with your own play style. You’ll also pick up X-Genes either hidden around the environment or by completing the optional challenge rooms throughout the game. Each X-Gene unlocks a random character suit or trait. By equipping three traits and the suit of one character you’ll unlock X-Mode. This gives you access to a few of that character’s abilities. This is really designed for multiple play-throughs since the unlocks are random but favor whichever faction you’re leaning towards at the time. You’ll be lucky to unlock two or three of the dozen or so character sets available in one full game.

The story itself was written by Marvel veteran Mike Carey, and it isn’t too bad but it just feels a bit forced. You’ll meet up with all the major characters from the X-Men universe along the way and you’ll be given a number of choices. This brings us to the next missed opportunity in the game, the choices you make have very little effect on the overall story or your character in general. The choices you have are usually in helping the Brotherhood or the X-Men in completing a specific mission. Your loyalty meter will swing ever so slightly to one side or the other but you see no real effect of these choices. In a game like inFAMOUS, your choices towards good and evil gave you access to different powers and made NPC’s react much differently towards you. The sad reality of X-Men: Destiny is that after the earthquake, the city seems to have been emptied out of everyone except the Purifiers, who you fight no matter what side you’re on, and a private security force which you have very little interaction with outside of cutscenes. It’s a real shame, because with a little more effort, Silicon Knights could have given the player a very different experience depending on which side they decided to align themselves with.

You’ll also run into problems that just shouldn’t exist in a name brand property this far into the current console generation. Invisible walls abound, not just around the edges of the environments, but at times, right in the middle of them. See that open door and the entire room in the building beyond? Well you can’t walk through it. Same goes for that alleyway, or that apparent other half of the street down the side of that building. It’s doubly frustrating for someone like me who likes to explore the environments.

There are also inconsistencies all over the place when it comes to invisible walls around ledges. Sometimes you can’t walk too close to the edge of a building or drop off, other times you’ll fall right off and die. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and it detracts from the game.

The final bit of apparent laziness actually leads to some of the strangest stuff I saw in the game. Because you’re kind of locked in each area during battles, when you interact with other characters either before or after the battle and they try to leave, they’ll walk to the edge of the area, then just fade away. Talk about taking you out of the game.

When the game started, I thought it looked great with a unique visual style leaning towards a comic book. This, unfortunately, didn’t pan out. Some parts of the game look fantastic while other parts look downright terrible. It’s sad because in specific instances, lighting effects and textures look fantastic while in others they look like a late gen PS2 game. It’s the inconsistencies across the board that hurt this game overall.

Some environments are well thought out and have a great look and feel to them, most of Chinatown stands out as well as the U-Men labs. The rest of the game, unfortunately, looks like it was slapped together by a first year level editor. Scale is used to great effect at times where you’ll be traversing the landscape from cranes high above or fighting massive enemies, but it’s the little details that tend to suffer. The fact that the city went from completely normal to utter wasteland in a matter of moments doesn’t help.

The cutscenes are decent, but the lip synching tends to fall apart when it follows a major choice in the story. It’s really a mixed bag overall, but the graphics tend to fall more into the mediocre side of things, even with some great effects here and there.

This is actually one of the strongest parts of the game. The sounds of the battles and your different power sets are unique and varied, but they do tend to lean on the Wilhelm Scream a bit too much.

The music in the game surprised me. The instrument choices and arrangements were a genuine treat, and not always the standard frenetic action style during fights. It definitely stood out as one of the better parts of the entire package and I’d actually be interested in picking up the soundtrack at some point.

An unfortunate series of missed opportunities and mediocre elements mixed in with some potentially good ideas makes for an average game at best. I’m disappointed, because all the elements are there for a really great game but it felt like corners were cut either for budget, or time, or because nobody wanted to make the effort. It’s really a shame because this game could have been so much more.


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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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