6.5 / 10 Banzai!s
Up until, and even after, the game’s release in September 2011 in North America, and October in Europe, X-Men: Destiny was saturated in scandals, reminiscent of the infamous Duke Nukem Forever.
Silicon Knights, the developing team behind X-Men: Destiny and founded by Denis Dyack, was drowning in lawsuits and counter-lawsuits with Epic games over the Unreal Engine 3 licences. Shortly after X-Men: Destiny was released for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and Wii, and receiving fairly harsh reviews, Silicon Knights lost the counter-suit, resulting in its founder to leave and start up a new company: Precursor Games. Then, an article in Kotaku claimed the reason behind X-Men: Destiny‘s poor quality was a lack of funding, after Dyack had diverted money towards other projects. Denis Dyack, now an Executive at Precursor Games, posted a video online stating that the allegations weren’t true. He also apologised for the game’s quality, stating that Silicon Knights had tried to give it their best and make a great game, but “sometimes it doesn’t happen.”
But scandals and lawsuits aside, what’s this game about, anyway?
Based on a story written by Mike Carey, the creator behind the X-Men: Legacy comic series, X-Men: Destiny takes place in San Francisco. Professor X is dead, Magneto is missing, but the X-Men continue to find peace between mutants and humans. This dream is quickly shattered when, during a peace rally, everyone is attacked by anti-mutant Purifiers possessing a high-level of technological weaponry. But why are the mutants being captured alive? What do the Purifiers have in mind, and from where did they get this super technology? You’ll need to play the game to find out.
Players select from one of three characters, each with their own backstory, and one of three powers. As a mutant newbie, you begin by assisting members of both the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants, but eventually make your way to joining one of the two sides. As a third-person action title, X-Men: Destiny also includes RPG elements, such as upgrading both your character and powers by collecting X-Genes.
What I Liked:
I have to admit, sometimes I’m in the mood for a simple button-masher. Reminiscent of DC Universe Online, you’ll spend the majority of your time hitting the square button (on the PS3) as you progress through the levels, while occasionally jumping, climbing, and using another button which activates a special power.
Now, I’m not praising the game for being a button-masher. Some people aren’t into that, just like some people aren’t into RPGs or first-person shooters. But sometimes when I come home after a rough day at work and want to play a game, but too tired to play anything complicated, then a simple button-masher is the ideal choice. If you ever find yourself in one of those moods, then X-Men: Destiny is the game for you.
The story is well-written, and heavily targets avid X-Men fans. If all you know of the X-Men universe comes from the movies, then you won’t be familiar with over half the characters in the game. Mike Carey did a great job of immersing the player in the X-Men world, with a story as though straight out from the comic books, filled with mystery and surprises, and even interesting back-stories for the three playable characters.
What I Didn’t Like:
Again, reminiscent of Duke Nukem Forever, the game felt unfinished. There were cutscenes which looked fantastic, and others that seemed forgotten to be rendered – such as buildings exploding in large polygraphic shapes surrounded in digitalised pixilated smoke. Occasionally, you’ll be watching Cyclops or Wolverine talking to your player-character, and all of a sudden, for a quick second, they spasm as if electrocuted. Or you’ll be moving the camera, and something white will flicker on the wall. This last bug wouldn’t be so annoying, if the collectibles didn’t happen to be small white markers. Each time you think you’ve found a collectible as you move the camera, you’ll waste a few minutes scouting the area, only to realize it was a flaw in the imaging.
Also – and this is more on a personal note – I wasn’t a big fan of the whole “choosing sides” thing. It was cool when you first experienced having consequences for your actions, like back in the days of Fallout 3 with its karma system, or choosing either the good or evil path in Infamous. But it feels to me this whole choosing light or dark sides has been done to death, to the point where it now feels like a cliché. Like anything else in a game, if it’s done well and creatively, then great. If not, then I’d much rather play a game from start to finish without worrying about two different endings to watch.
In the case of X-Men: Destiny, you make choices which either link you closer to the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s as though they took this cliché, and made it the whole point of the game. It’s even in the title: “Destiny.” Okay, so there’s these two different teams among mutants with different ideologies, that’s fine. But at the end of the day, your choices don’t matter. If you side with the X-Men, all it means is there are certain missions you can’t clear with the Brotherhood, and the final 2 minute cut-scene is a bit different. Otherwise, your “destiny” has no bearing on the game. In Infamous, for example, your character begins to look different depending on your choices, and the environment gradually becomes filled with either civilians rooting for you, or throwing rocks at you. But in X-Men: Destiny, nothing really changes depending on whether you side with the X-Men or Brotherhood. You appear the same, your powers are the same, and your enemies are the same. Now, I’m not saying they should have taken this “choosing sides” out of the game – rather, they should have integrated it more. Maybe have you battle one side or the other. Ironically, there’s a boss fight with Magneto – and it doesn’t matter which side you choose; you’ll still be fighting Magneto with Cyclops at your side.
Much like Duke Nukem Forever, X-Men: Destiny is an average game with the potential of being more. Interesting concepts and a great story, but clearly left unfinished – and I don’t just mean the bugs. Yes, it’s basically a button-masher, and yes it will get repetitive. If you’re in the mood for that, then great. But if you’re looking for something a little more challenging – particularly mentally – then you might want to pass on this one.
On the plus side, if you’re an avid fan of the comics, then there’s plenty to entertain you, from the story to the vast number of character cameos. Overall, the game isn’t as bad as many other online reviewers stated, but it’s not that much better than Duke Nukem Forever. In the future, X-Men: Destiny will perhaps be remembered as the last game developed by Silicon Knights, and for the scandals surrounding it.