reviews\ Nov 13, 2002 at 7:00 pm

X-Men: Next Dimension - XB - Review

The man named Wolverine is staring across at the vicious; snarling mutant with the razor sharp teeth and lengthy nails that can rip into flesh just as easy as a knife cutting into a stick of warm butter.  Suddenly, long sharp claws pop out of Wolverine’s hands and the growling mutant known as Sabretooth springs to life and attacks.  Their fight is as fierce as the two men themselves and both are very skilled at what they do.   Still, Wolverine knows that once he’s done with Sabretooth, he still has to deal with the hulking armored mutant that calls himself Juggernaut.  This is just another day in the life of the X-Men, the superhero team featured in its own Marvel comic book series, movies and now a game called X-Men: Next Dimension.


While the X-Men is no stranger to the video game world, fans of the series will be glad to see their favorite mutants take their fight to the Xbox.  Next Dimension is a fighting game with four different ways of playing the game, such as Story, Arcade, Versus and Survival mode.  Arcade mode allows you to use any character in a continuous battle while Versus is the game’s multiplayer mode for up to two players.  Survival mode pits you against all the characters to see how long you last.


There’s even a practice mode so gamers can get to know the controls and each character’s mutant powers.  There are twenty-five characters to choose from (seventeen playable at the start while the others you unlock playing Arcade or Story mode), each with his or her own mutant powers, fighting techniques and other abilities (e.g. strength, speed, etc).  Fans will find most of their favorite X-Men characters such as Cyclops, Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue and Phoenix (just to name a few) and a nice collection of villains such as Magneto, Toad and Mystique (just to name a few).


Most of the modes, of course, have been seen before in other fighting games so they’re not a big surprise.  The standout here just happens to be the game’s Story mode.  The story places you in the middle of a dastardly plot to wipe out all mutants by a humanoid mastermind known as Bastion.  In order to do this; he must capture powerful X-Men called Forge.  Upon his capture, Professor Xavier’s X-Men team set out to rescue their comrade and attempt to foil Bastion’s evil plan.  Knowing they cannot do this alone, the super hero team forms an uneasy alliance with their enemies, the Brotherhood of Mutants led by the powerful Magneto.


Story mode allows you to choose from six main characters and immediately takes you through a series of fights to advance the story.  After the set number of opponents, the option to switch characters becomes available again.  Unlike the Tekken series, where the game follows only one character at a time, Next Dimension makes full use of every member of the team.  Determining what team member is appropriate for what level depends on the enemies themselves.  For example, if the enemies are huge and powerful such as Sabretooth or Juggernaut, it’s best to use a swift yet powerful character with the ability of flight such as Storm or Rogue.


The fighting controls are a bit tricky to get use to but once a gamer keep playing, busting out with the combo moves and power attacks become simple.  Each character has his or her own style of fighting with various kinds of punches and kicks; you can also grab a character and perform devastating moves such as slamming an opponent against a wall or smashing them into the ground.  There is a Super Meter that fills up with successful punches or kicks that connect with the opponent.  Once the meter is filled and a level is specified, your character performs a signature attack.  For instance, as Wolverine you slash away in a berserker rage that really does damage or as Cyclops you shoot a continuous beam from your visor.


This game also borrows elements from Dead or Alive 3 such as throwing, kicking or punching a character off a ledge only to continue the fight in another location.  You can also interact with certain objects as well, such as tossing an opponent against a crate of an Egyptian column and watching it crumble to pieces.  


Graphics-wise, this game is not very different then the PS2 version with the exception that the textures in this version are just a tad sharper.  The game’s characters actually do look good during battle and the more bizarre the character, the more interesting it is to watch them move.  There are special effects found throughout the game as well, but nothing really spectacular, which is a real letdown considering the fighters have interesting powers.  Also, punches don’t look like they really connect with an opponent and some environments are better detailed than others.


The sound is not bad as well, with some really great music that fits the superhero theme nicely.  It compliments the voice acting of Patrick Stewart who narrates the story so masterfully while the other actors do a great job of bringing each favorite character to life.  The only problem is that the sound effects are not as impressive as they should be since the fighters use powers.  It would have been great hearing the crackling lightning come from above before Storm uses her power of the elements.


X-Men: Next Dimension is a superhero fighting game that shows a lot of promise but comes up short in so many ways.  And while the fighting mechanics are decent at best, the game fails to capture the raw excitement of playing as a favorite superhero or villain.  Next Dimension is definitely a good rental for fans of the comics and movies.  


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 6.9
In a way, the fighting controls are a lot more solid than its PS2 predecessor X-Men: Mutant Academy.  It is also so much easier to perform combos or unleash individual power attacks.  Also available are tech rolls that come handy after an opponent manages to get him or herself knocked down and the counter system allows you to block some attacks.  You can even break away from a hold if the timing is right.


There are also some characters with the gift of flight, making their attacks more dangerous and make them a target more difficult to miss since flying characters can sidestep in midair.   Double tapping the left trigger can just as easily bring the character down to the ground.


Graphics: 7.0
Visually Next Dimension does not take advantage of the accelerated graphics of the Xbox, but what is here isn’t at all that bad at all.  Some characters are neatly designed while others (like Phoenix, for example) have funny facial features.  Still, the bodies of each character move fluidly and realistically and its something of a rare treat watching the more bizarre-looking characters, such as Beast, in action.  Character move more life-like in battle then in the animated cut scenes.


The environments are also huge and neatly detailed but still nowhere near as detailed as, say, DOA 3 or Tekken 4.  While the jungle setting is alive with wild plants and gorgeous blue skies, the waterfall does not look so convincing and neither does any body of water. 


Sound: 6.9
Aside from the fact that actor Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men movie) verbally reprises his role of Professor Xavier, the voice talent here is actually okay.  Each voice truly corresponds with each individual character the way you would expect it.  Rogue is a southern belle so her voice contains a Southern drawl, while Gambit, the thief from New Orleans, speaks with a French Creole dialect.  Still, before each battle, you’ll be hearing the same phrases repeated over and over again.


The music isn’t bad either, with an intense score that brings the film’s soundtrack to mind.  The music becomes especially commanding during the cut scenes.  There are some decent sound effects that make each punch and kick sound like it would really hurt and the powers, such as Cyclops’ explosive beam, are pretty decent.  My only complaint is that there aren’t enough individual sound effects.  For example, when Beast slams an opponent into the ground, you don’t really hear the actual slam.


Difficulty: Medium
Depending on the game mode you choose, the game’s difficulty level is still pretty tough.  Each opponent can be really difficult to defeat depending on the character you choose to go up against him or her.  Fighting Mystique, who is fast and agile, with somebody as strong and a bit slower like Beast will make for a frustrating fight.  Of all the opponents, the most difficult to defeat is Magneto and Phoenix because they have the best of both worlds--power and speed.


Concept: 7.0
In the world of comics, no other team of superheroes is more loved then the X-Men which is why this is not the first (or last) attempt to bring them to the consoles.  Part of the appeal is that these superheroes have nifty powers and have interesting background and individual stories of their own.  Through the fighting genre we get to catch a glimpse of their powers in action.


Multiplayer: 7.2
Up to two players can take each another on in Arcade and Versus mode and there are enough characters to keep things interesting for awhile.  While these two mode are perfect for multiplayer play, it would have been even cooler adding a tag team battle mode.


Overall: 7.0
While not as solid as other fighters, X-Men: Next Dimension makes a great effort yet fails to immerse gamers into the world of the children of the atom.  This is still an entertaining enough game for fans of the Marvel comics.


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