The PSP has set a new precedent for ported handheld titles. X-Men Legends II Rise of Apocalypse was released in October for the consoles and was fairly deep for a hack and slash title. A few months later we've been treated to a portable PSP version. but is the experience lost on the small screen or is the game just as good (if not better) than the console versions?
Those not familiar with the storyline in X-Men Legends II will get a kick out of it when the game first begins. The story begins with a cut-scene showing Mystique, Magneto and Sabretooth teaming up with Storm, Cyclops and Wolverine to free Professor Xavier who has been captured. Even if you're only a casual fan you're likely to realise that this isn't something that normally happens in the X-men universe. By progressing through the level you'll reveal more of the storyline, and basically there is a new enemy in town, called Apocalypse. Apocalypse is one of the most powerful mutants ever and you're thrown right into the action with the game. There is a little more to the story, but it does take a bit of a backstep for what is really a hack and slash title.
This means there shouldn't be any problems getting into the game because it isn't too deep. Aside from Untold Legends (another Activision title) there aren't many games of this calibre on the PSP, so we're pleased that a port was developed. Before the PSP, a port was usually a scaled back game that only captured part of the original game's charm. X-Men Legends 2 is a very accurate port and nothing appears to be lost in the transition to the handheld. The extra development time has also allowed the team to add four exclusive characters and nine extra missions. The single player campaign was lengthy enough but the added characters and missions are definitely a appreciated bonus.
One of the most impressive technical aspects of the game is the multiplayer. X-men Legends II features full infrastructure support, allowing you to play co-op against anybody online. The game supports up to four players in co-op and works surprisingly well. Online integration into the game is pretty good as you can load into a level and get some help or start from the beginning of the game. The disappointing element of the online play though is that you cannot talk to your team-mates, which is a little frustrating because sometimes you will want to communicate with them. This may mean that some people prefer to play the Ad-Hoc multiplayer though simply because communication is much easier. The other problem we found is that there just aren't that many people wanting to play online co-operatively. We don't know why this is, but it's worth noting that there wasn't an influx of players ready to team up with you.
Whilst the game is best described as an action game, there are a few customisation options that keep the experience fresh. If you would like then the computer can manage your team including the attributes, mutant powers and equipment. If you prefer to customise the options then this is possible. There will also be times throughout the game where you can purchase items to enhance your powers. As well as this you're able to customise the characters, so some teams are actually better to use than others; and it is up to the individual player to find the combination that works best for them.
There are some problems with the gameplay though that hold the game back from being an instant classic. At times there can be an incredible amount happening on screen, and it's possible to get lost in it all. The loading time are high as well, but we assume this is the tradeoff for a near flawless console port. The camera is fixed which can be a bit of a concern sometimes, but isn't as problematic as it could have been. Sometimes the game will pause a little when it is clear that the game is accessing the UMD, there are also noticable pauses when you resume the game which is a little frustrating. The environments in the game are all pretty immersive, but some of them are noticably dark at times which is extremely frustrating. In fact, even in ideal conditions we still had some problems at certain areas of the game which was very irritating.
Graphically the game looks good, the environments are all well detailed and as we mentioned there is always a lot happening on screen. There is a large amount of variety in the environments so you'll be battling through the jungle, a factory and even a temple which certainly keeps things fresh. The interactive objects in the game are to be commended as well, it really doesn't look like much has been lost in the transition to the handheld visually.
The music isn't very epic, but nor is it extremely repetitive. In fact, it's the kind of music you aren't going to remember when the game is off but you'll instantly recognise as soon as the game starts up. The voice acting is surprisingly decent, with Patrick Stewart voicing Professor Xavier and sounding really good.
The main single player mode should last fifteen to twenty hours and then there is the multiplayer which should keep you coming back for more. We're unsure if the online mode will extend your gameplay too much just because we didn't find many people online now, let alone next month. Still, for a portable game there is a lot of content in the game and the extra characters and missions do extend the game even further.
X-Men Legends II is a good game that as carried over well from the console versions. The PSP version looks good, has full infrastructure support and bonus characters and missions. If you could only have one version of the game then it's worth working out if you would use the portable version or the console version more, because the game's are fairly similar, which is a testament to how good the port has turned out. Not quite legendary, but not apocalyptic either.
PS2: X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse