You wouldn't be wrong to avoid movie licences like you would dog turds, because they have a tendency to stink. But X-Men: The Official Game mixes face-smashing brutality, super-teleporting acrobatics and flying together with lush visuals to create one hard-hitting mutant romp. Movie licence or otherwise, this is not a game you should turn your nose up at.
To begin with, X-Men: The Official Game is actually a prequel to the third movie, not a direct adaptation. As you progress you'll experience the intertwining plots of the three playable characters, although the stories take a bit of a back seat in what is essentially an all-out action game. You'll punch your way through armies of soldiers with Wolverine, teleport and flick acrobatically around intricately designed environments with Nightcrawler, and swoop through the skies shooting frozen lasers with Iceman. It's good fun.
You'd expect, in typical lazy movie-conversion style, that you'd be playing through samey levels with almost identical characters, save for a few different attacks. But not here - what you'll find are three vastly different experiences, with unique levels designed for the specific play-style of each character. Wolverine has always been a brawler, so his missions are of a traditional hack-'em-up style. Very little thought is required - soldiers charge at you with bats, electric stun batons and even machineguns, and you run at them to pound their faces hard until they don't move any more.
Wolverine can charge his health back as well, so there's even less need for thought - if your life bar is looking low you can hide for a moment to allow it to replenish itself. Of course, later levels will throw so many enemies at you that the opportunity to rest becomes a rarity, and when things get desperate you'll have to make use of Wolverine's Fury attack. The Fury attack bar charges as
Wolverine rips chunks out of his foes. When it's fully charged, a tap of the Right trigger will send him into a fit of psychotic rage, increasing his speed and strength for about ten seconds. So when you're getting your head kicked in, you can turn the tables and smash through groups of enemies with ease, grinning with satisfaction as you do so.
But slashing enemies to death is all Wolverine's missions ask of you, and endless hammering of the X and Y buttons can get pretty dull for anyone not into simplistic Gauntlet-style brawling. Thankfully, both Nightcrawler's and Iceman's missions are a little more inventive...
Nightcrawler is basically the Prince of Persia with the added ability of teleportation, and thanks to some brilliantly designed controls, his missions are fantastic fun. Leaping from thin ledges to poles and spinning off pipes is fast, yet so easy you won't even need to think about it. And teleporting to the exact place you want is made easy by a clever little blue dot that hovers over the platform or pole that your camera is focused on. Hit R and Nightcrawler will disappear in a puff of hazy purple smoke, to materialise where the blue dot was positioned.
With these cool powers, Nightcrawler's brilliantly designed missions will have you snooping stealthily around enemy installations, using his agility to get around on the intricate piping systems above the heads of patrolling guards. Not that you really need to hide, though, as he's an awesome fighter too. You can lock onto enemies with the L trigger, then tap the R trigger to teleport behind them and unleash a lethal flurry of punches and kicks the instant you materialise. You'll feel invincible when gun-brandishing guards desperately try to shoot you as you teleport rapidly to different platforms, then appear behind them to kick their dirty ass before they can even react.
Then Z-Axis changes the flavour of the game completely with Iceman's missions, which take you to the open outdoors to swoop around fighting aerial battles with various flying foes. Iceman doesn't fly himself, but casts his own personal icy path in mid-air directly ahead of him, then slides along it like a crazy person.