Last time we saw Wolverine on our desktops it was a horrible, horrible experience - X2: Wolverine's Revenge was an abortion of a game, akin to repeatedly smashing your own teeth in with a large hammer. So you'll be forgiven for being even slightly tentative of X-Men Legends II, a game in which you command both the X-Men and the Brotherhood (those are Magneto's guys, Magneto is the bad guy... Didn't you watch the movie?) in a top-down beat 'em up with smatterings of RPG elements to keep you interested.
In case you're wondering, Apocalypse is a mega-supervillain, the likes of which cause good guys and bad guys to form unwilling communions in an attempt to defeat the greater threat. This gives the respective allies (mainly Wolverine, that masterful aficionado of fine wit) a chance to exchange bad insults with mutants of the opposite group and repeatedly express that they don't like one another very much while waving their claws about angrily. But combine their mutant powers they must, for Apocalypse really is a twat of truly epic proportions.
Enlisting a team of four mutants from either the X-Men or the Brotherhood, the game typically gives you a list of objectives to complete around a certain area, and then throws a constant stream of enemies at you before you successfully complete your tasks, defeat a boss and continue the story. It almost feels like Freedom Force, in that you control one character at a time while the others are controlled by the AI, and of course it's a superhero RPG - but it's around about there that the similarities evaporate.
Pick up a joypad and it's immediately obvious that X-Men Legends II is just as much a console beat 'em up as it is a statsdriven RPG adventure. Each character has special powers, which can be unlocked and improved through levelling up; individual stats which can be increased as you progress; and enemies who drop loot and equipment to improve your mutant army.
It's possible to bypass the entire RPG half of the game by allowing the game to automatically assign powers, stats and equipment to your teams, but doing so ruins what little enjoyment is on offer here, reducing the game to nothing more than a mindless button-mashing exercise. Allow yourself to wander into the stats menu and get your hands dirty however, and you'll find there's some depth to learning the effectiveness of different character combinations and powers.
Every now and then you'll come across glowing blue X-Men symbols, which are indications that you can use one of your team's mutant powers to do something especially impressive - Iceman can put out a fire, for example, and Magneto can summon lots of bits of metal to construct an impromptu bridge (nothing Paul Daniels couldn't do if he tried). There are many touches like this that keep you playing, but the truth is the good stuff is spread far too thinly over achingly long missions and a predictable, clichéd plot that gives no incentive to continue playing.
X-Men Legends II doesn't make much of a departure from the original X-Men Legends (unreleased on PC in case you're confused). It's about time somebody grabbed this licence by the proverbials and created something special. Sadly, this game isn't it.
Not quite legendary
- Lots of superpowers
- Lots of X-Men
- It's quite long
- It's quite long
- Can get repetitive