Jeremy Jastrzab
07 Nov, 2005

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse Review

PS2 Review | They're back for another go and this time, it's one big happy family.
Games based on comics and comic properties have flourished quite nicely in recent times with some good and some very good games. One of these very good games was last year’s X-Men Legends. Taking the conventions of some of the best hack’n’slash dungeon crawls and combining it with the world of the X-Men turned out to be a stroke of marvel (pardon the pun). The winner was the ability to grab four friends and play through using your favourite mutant in an excellent co-op mode. Activision and Raven were obviously keen to build on the success of the original title and now we have X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse.

X-Men fans are in for a bit of a treat here. Apocalypse, considered to be the first and most powerful mutant of all, has mobilised a plan to take over the world and reshape it in his image. Anyone not on his side is in deep trouble. So what happens when your enemy’s enemy is your enemy as well? You join up! That’s right, the X-Men and the Brotherhood are forced to join together to stop Apocalypse and his world-dominating ways. It makes for a very amusing story with a lot of gags, familiar faces and muscle-flexing rivalry along the way. It manages to feel fresh while delivering the goods along the way.

That’s one of the two big new additions to this game from the previous title. There are now 16 mutants to assemble your team of four from and there are a further three that you can unlock. We’re sure that X-Men fans will get a kick a having the Brotherhood mutants to play as well. They add plenty of variety to the mix and guys like Magneto and Juggernaut can be super powerful.

The overall gameplay hasn’t really changed much from the previous title. The object is still to assemble a team of four mutants and crawl through several dungeons. Along the way you collect items, complete objectives and level-up your characters so that you can face the boss at the end. Interestingly the core gameplay can be traced back to dungeon crawlers such as Baldur’s Gate and Dungeon Siege. Even though there have been a few concessions, there isn’t any defacing of the genre. The beauty with mutants is that there will be outside-of-battle situations where you can use their powers to help circumvent situations. Not all are necessary, which is good because you won’t always have the right mutant in your team.

Kickin' up a Storm

Kickin' up a Storm
Basically, the four face buttons control basic actions such as strong and weak melee, jump and examine. Then, by pressing the R button/trigger, you have access to your four assigned mutant powers, again controlled by the face buttons. It’s a simple and very effective set up, as virtually everything you’ll need is at your fingertips. Even if you’re playing on your own, you can switch between each of the mutants by flipping their corresponding position on the d-pad.

The game’s structure is pretty good in terms of leveling, balance and encouragement of using all the mutants at your disposal. The game steadily builds, final bosses are unique and provide an enticing challenge and experience is spread nicely so there is never too much catching up for low-level mutants to do. However, even on the medium difficulty setting, we never were in too much danger of losing all dying.

For those who played the first game, they’ll probably be able to slip into the game without too many problems. Unfortunately, this game isn’t very kind in that regard for first time users. Things are very poorly explained and there is no real tutorial to ease a player into the settings. It is likely to be a lot of fumbling a round with the game before you figure out exactly what’s going on.

There were complaints about the first game that the action was broken up too much by character management. To try and circumvent this, the developers have given the option to allowing players to set an auto level-up system. Here, the characters will automatically level up according to their own stats. However, players are still encouraged to take control over the powers learned by their mutants. The best part is that you’ll have a chance to try out pretty much all the moves that have been crammed into the game.

What an odd team

What an odd team
While the management is very streamline by RPG standards, the developers have not done good job of it in terms of the design. Not only are there noticeably long load times between menus, the menus are poorly designed and construed in a virtually unreadable manner. They’re hard to navigate and it will take quite a while to get used to. Eventually you’ll manage to get through them but not after a lot of unnecessary head scratching.

This isn’t a big issue, as the heart of the game lies in taking the X-Men through five lengthy acts. It can be done entirely through single player and the AI is very solid but it is nowhere near the experience, as it is with three friends. In the single player, the AI of your partners is solid but lacks any human touch. They’ll get you through but sometimes you’ll wish for a bit more control. You’ve got this with the co-op multiplayer. There is so much more control and perceived freedom that you have over the game. You’ve got as many tactics as you can possibly imagine and if the four of you dig X-Men, you will dig everything this game has to offer. Still, the game only needs one person to love X-Men to work at its best.

On top of that now, you can take your X-Men online on both the Xbox and PS2, the second big addition to this game. The code is solid and works just as it should. However, players ought to be warned that they’re more likely to enjoy it with friends that you know are going to play against.

Overall, the game suffers the same ignominy that most of these kinds of games generally suffer. Especially in single player, these games drag towards the end as the action gradually wears thin. However, the pacing minimises this and most people will want to maximise the game’s worth by utilising all four players. That and the quest clocks in at about 15 hours with plenty of extras and fan satisfying unlockables along the way. It’s just too bad that unless one of the players knows their way around the world of X-Men, this game is almost lost to anybody outside the fan base.

Things can get pretty hectic

Things can get pretty hectic
Graphically, the game is a slight face-lift over the previous game but isn’t really that much of a dazzler. The X-Men and pretty much all mutants are very faithfully recreated and looked good in their cel-shaded suites. Then there are a couple of powers that look exceptionally cool. There are even a couple of excellent CG scenes that are well worth watching and some of the unlockable art is stunning. To offset that, there are some environments are dull and a lot of enemies are repetitive. The worst part is that it doesn’t look like a game that would push a systems limits but there are still framerate drops at some unlikely times.

In the audio department, the voicing is done reasonably well and they all at least sound somewhat authentic. A couple of emotions don’t come over well but in general it works. Sound effects are solid but the music feels non-existent. We can’t really say whether its good or bad, but it is barely noticeable.

X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse is a game that caters for X-Men fans and if you can gather three others, you’re going to have a great time. As a single player game, the experience doesn’t go as far as other more esteemd RPG’s and as an RPG it’s very light. The online multiplayer is unlikely to be utilised by most Aussies, despite being good and there are some design issues that hinder the game overall. Still, if you’re an X-Men fan or a fan of the previous game, you’re going to like what is on offer here. Everyone else and those with a lack of acquaintances, shouldn’t really go outside a rental.
The Score
If you like X-Men and have four friends that share that like, you are going to find that there's a lot of fun to be had in X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. It's just a shame that it doesn't really appeal to the rest of us.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse Content

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse launch trailer
22 Sep, 2005 Released today in the US, so we get a trailer.
X-Men Legends Review
08 Jun, 2005 To RPG or not to RPG? That is the question, Magneto...
8 years ago
I have this game and I really enjoyed especially with the co-op mode. I would have given it a higher score
8 years ago
the first one was crap i wrecken
8 years ago
I enjoyed the first one, it was a pretty mindless button mashing session but it was still a bit of fun. Both of them are a lot more fun if you can get a couple of mates together and play it in Co-Op.
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