X-Men Destiny Review
If you're a child of the 16-bit era, the concept of an X-Men video game most likely conjures up memories of old-school action platformers. Go a bit later, and the X-Men represent characters in a Capcom fighting game, or for an unlucky few, simply another soulless, licensed cash-in of a bygone era. The X-Men have had good times and bad times alike in the video game world. So, where does X-Men Destiny stand?
Destiny is a brawler with light RPG elements. It's the latest from Silicon Knights, whose last game was the divisive Too Human. The game puts you in the shoes of a new mutant--a teenager that hits mutant puberty just as the game begins. The destiny-part of the equation is left to you--what kind of powers will your character have? Which side of the conflict will you join? These questions are left for you to decide.
That sets the groundwork for a very promising game, and in fact, it's in the premise that the game gets the most mileage. The intro blends the opening cutscene directly into the opening menus, continuing the story while you start your game and choose which of the three characters you'll play as. You can't create a hero from scratch, but the three teens are set apart with unique looks and backstories.
The story begins at a peace rally intended to bring mutants and humans together. Of course, things go terribly wrong (earthquakes in California, who knew?), and an anti-mutant group known as the purifiers arrive to clean up the mess. Amidst the chaos, a flying police car careens towards your character, the game freezes, and you're left with a decision to make. Which power will you take into battle? Unfortunately, this will probably be the last interesting thing you do in X-Men Destiny.
While the three powers offer different benefits over the course of the game, it takes hours before you have enough options to keep the action interesting. By then, the game is nearly over. No matter how you spec out your mutant, you have the same basic combat moves. Light and heavy attacks lead into the typical string of combos you'd expect from a brawler. Where games like Bayonetta will create a combo for every mix of buttons under the sun, X-Men Destiny sticks to the very basics. On 360, your combos are XXXX, XXXY, XXY, and XY. El Shaddai got more mileage out of its one-button combat.
Within minutes, the limited scope of X-Men Destiny will wear thin. Yes, you get more powers as you go, and there's the occasional boss fight or platforming section to break up the action, but the core combat is so watered down and by-the-numbers that it's impossible to take the game seriously.
It's in the gameplay formula that Silicon Knights' efforts get a bit silly. It seems they took the popular “30-seconds of fun, over and over” concept a bit too literally. Every action you take, whether it's helping the X-Men or choosing to side with Magneto's Brotherhood, gets the same result. You're cordoned off into a boxed arena and told to defeat a certain number of bad guys.
God of War and Ninja Gaiden are the best examples of character action games, and even they are guilty of dumping you into closed arenas over and over, but at least they're fun and set up some sense of adventure to justify the arena battles. X-Men Destiny has the gall to call what you're doing an “objective,” even when that objective is sure to be “defeat X enemies” over and over again. The game even offers up hidden challenge rooms where you're challenged to defeat, you guessed it, a certain number of enemies.
The plot and setting are more or less an excuse to recycle environments and keep a similar sense of level design throughout the game, which makes it even worse. X-Men Destiny does not cut corners in its brief five hours of gameplay because it never supplies you with any corners worth cutting. It is the same, one thing, over and over and over and over and over again. XXXY, XXY, XXXY, XXXY.
You could call this a continuing downward spiral for Silicon Knights, but Too Human had more heart in five minutes of gameplay than X-Men Destiny has in its entire production. It's a cold, calculated exercise in squeezing water from a stone. For any game developers that may be reading this—please, play Destiny, and learn from Silicon Knights' mistakes.
To everyone else, avoid X-Men Destiny at all costs. It isn't the worst game ever, by any stretch. Its simplistic parts are assembled into a competent package that was obviously developed by a talented studio. That said, whether it was time, publisher pressures, or an intense desire to cash out, something happened, and I'd hate to see that something passed down to you.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]