2011-10-06

X-Men Destiny – Destined For The Bargin Bin

by Yo Snyder

X-Men Destiny is packed full of interesting ideas. You can
play as an all-new mutant who’s just discovering their powers and how to
handle them. That’s a neat idea; one that hasn’t been done before. You
can choose if you’ll join the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Mutants.
That’s fun, games with a “morality system” like Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect
are a lot of fun. Your choices will help shape your destiny, which
certainly sounds like something cool, especially in the universe of the
X-Men. So yeah, this game definitely had a lot of potential,
unfortunately, the x-ecution (see what I did there) has much to be
desired. When it came to the destiny of this game, I’m sure no one
envisioned it sharing space with Superman 64.

The biggest
grievance I have against this game is that it doesn’t deliver on what it
promises. I never really felt like my choices really changed anything.
No matter what you do, you’ll pretty much play the same game. Now, it
might be said that regardless of what you do, you mostly get the same
ending in Mass Effect. Perhaps. But there are enough subtle
changes shaped by your choices that my experience in that game can be
quite different from someone else’s. Regardless of whether or not it’s
true, I at least bought the illusion that my choices were shaping the
destiny of my characters in the game. X-Men Destiny, however,
doesn’t even give me the illusion that my choices matter. I see little
to no impact from what I decide to do, and for a game that’s all about
shaping one’s destiny, to have it pretty much mapped out is
disappointing.

I suppose that might have been forgiven had the
gameplay been stellar; but again, the X-Men fall short on that. It’s
basically a button masher that requires little mastery. I see shades of
the combat from Batman: Arkham Asylum (how cool would that be with mutant powers instead of gadgets?),
but this is no where near as satisfying. You can upgrade your abilities
in various ways, but none that was really of any consequence; I pretty
much played the game the same way regardless of my powers. It’s also
interesting that depending on what suits or genes you equip, your power
set can change. While I suppose that could add some variety to the
combat, it mostly made me feel like my mutant lacked identity. Instead
of upgrading my specific power set that I choose at the start – which
you can do if you want – I could use different kind of powers if I so
desired. Considering the fact that over the course of the game I could
pretty much emulate the powers of just about any mutant I encountered, I
found it curious that no one ever commented on that. None of the X-Men
seemed interested in the fact that my power set and the ability to swap
that power set should pretty much make me the most powerful mutant on
earth. It should, but apparently in Destiny it doesn’t; which is another disappointment.

You’ve
probably noticed that a lot of this game centers around the idea of
destiny and choice, or at least it’s supposed to. Fortunately things are
little more clear cut in life. The fact is you do have a destiny to
fulfill; the Bible is very clear about that (see Jeremiah 29:11 for
more). However, it’s also entirely up to you to decide whether or not
you will fulfill that destiny. I know some people rankle at the idea of
an overall plan being laid out for their life; they’d much rather forge
their own destiny. Well that’s all fine and good, and you’re certainly
free to do that. However, it just seems to me that if we have a loving
Creator who knows us far better than we know ourselves and who as given
us the gifts and talents we have and who has a plan for how we should
use those things so we can reach our full potential; well, why wouldn’t
we want that? The bible reveals that there is a purpose and meaning for
our lives, that we do indeed have a glorious destiny bestowed upon us by
a loving God; but it’s one we have to choose to fulfill. And unlike
this game, God will honor our choice and let us experience every
consequence that results from that choice.  That’s how it’s supposed to
work, even in video games.

Now some of you may think it’s a little harsh to put this game in the same league as Superman 64
(which I must admit I actually played and tried to like). Well, the
only reason I do that is because I had the same feelings with both
games. I could see the potential and I desperately wanted this game to
let me experience being the hero, but strange design choices, terrible
graphics, and not delivering on the experience promised, combined with
simplistic and repetitive gameplay coupled with a non-compelling story,
just led to frustration in both instances. There are some good ideas in
this game, but the execution of them leaves much to be desired. In the
shadow of great games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and really good games like Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions, both of which capture the essence of what it is to be a superhero, X-Men Destiny
merely reminds us of the fact that, for some reason, making a really
good superhero game is a rare feat indeed and not all superhero games
are destined for greatness.

Score out of 7:

Graphics:
4 – There’s no way around it, this is not a pretty game. Environments
look muddled and blurry at times. Character models are decent, but
flawed (I thought Emma Frost has some sort of skin fungus). Despite
having amazing mutant powers, there’s nothing amazing about how they’re
displayed. And the menus are actually kind of ugly, and confusing.

Sound: 4 – The voice acting is not stellar, at times almost
campy. None of your powers sound like they have any oomph, and the same
is true of the combat. The music is forgettable at best and annoying at
worst.

Controls: 5 – The controls are fairly simple and easy to
pick up. It’s basically a two button attack system, and you can block
(not that you’ll need to). Accessing extra powers is easy with a pull of
the trigger, so all in all, it’s well laid-out and intuitive.

Gameplay:
4 – Repetitive, uninspiring, tepid, I don’t know, take your pick. The
X-Men are an interesting group, this game makes them boring.

Story:
3 – Honestly, I didn’t care about anything going on, and considering
it’s supposed to be about shaping the destiny of my character, that’s
pretty sad.

Content: 5 – Violence without any gore or brutality
reigns in this game, and Emma Frost doesn’t wear much, but aside from
those mild offenses, it’s an easy going game (but that’s not a reason to
play it).

Final: 2 – I think the fact that I could see the interesting ideas and the potential behind them in X-Men Destiny makes
the fact that none of it is achieved that much more egregious. This
could have been a unique take on an X-Men video game, but instead it’s
destined to join the pantheon of super hero games that weren’t all that
super.