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X-Men: The Official Game

Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision

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Xbox 360 Preview - 'X-Men: The Official Game'

by Rainier on April 14, 2006 @ 2:48 a.m. PDT

For the first time ever, the game enables players to truly command the powers of popular characters from the X-Men movie universe by allowing players to assume the roles of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Iceman as they wield and upgrade their signature powers and maneuver through unique environments designed to showcase their Super Hero abilities. Assisted by other X-Men characters, players will use an advanced control scheme to master and control the characters like never before as they unleash Wolverine's combat rage, experience Nightcrawler's acrobatics and teleportation powers, and glide through the air on Iceman's ice slide.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Z-Axis
Release Date: May 16, 2006

The storyline for X-Men: The Official Game is situated between the second and third movies of the trilogy, "X-Men 2" and the upcoming "X-Men 3: The Last Stand." Set to debut at the same time as the film, XTOG features three playable characters: Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler. Gamers may initially be puzzled by the character choice, but Activision intentionally chose these three for the divergent gameplay experience that each would introduce. Wolverine is the brawler, Iceman allows you to fly around and will require quick reflexes and precise aim, and Nightcrawler is rather acrobatic and athletic, with fancy kick combos, laps, and the ability to teleport all over the place.

The entire game will feature 31 missions and will offer six to eight hours of gameplay. We were able to try out six different missions – two for each playable character. It was suggested that fans who want a deeper theater-going experience should play the XTOG game and then watch the movie. The game's storyline does not have much of a connection with the film, but it does explain Nightcrawler's absence from the X-Men 3 movie.

One of the levels we tried has you playing as Wolverine, with the objective of taking out Lady DeathStrike in order to rescue Storm. That particular boss map was an arena fight; the perimeter was confined by a spiraling hurricane, while you fought in the eye. If you got too close to the perimeter, the hurricane sucked you in, spun you around a few times, and then smacked you back to the ground, with damage taken accordingly. The goal is to attack Lady DeathStrike and push her into the hurricane, which will result in her being unconscious for a few seconds after slamming back into the ring, which is the perfect opportunity to smack her around a bit. The arena is littered with debris that you can use to your advantage to either block attacks or shield yourself.

Wolverine has a feral meter on the HUD, which fills up as you take out enemies. Once the meter is full, you can activate the feral attack, which goes into an outrageously aggressive berserk mode and gives you additional attack moves, such as the lunging forward with claws outstretched and pinning down enemies for a thorough beating.

In XTOG, Nightcrawler's tutorial level was set in what looked like the bombed-out Alkali base from the "X-Men 2" movie. The location lends itself nicely to helping you get familiarized with your acrobatic character; you jump from ledge to ledge, pipes, hang from chains, and teleport from one spot to the next over an otherwise-insurmountable gap. Nearby areas to which Nightcrawler can teleport are highlighted by a floating blue indicator. The action starts when you are tasked with disarming a certain amount of bombs placed on a bridge by Multiple Man and his henchmen. What can either be seen as tedious or challenging is the fact that only one bomb is visible at a time, and they randomly appear on the bridge, so you have to go back and forth across the bridge to defuse them. Nightcrawler's fighting controls are extremely innovative; you can mix in teleportation with the punches and kicks to keep your enemies on their toes. One of the signature moves is to land a few jabs, teleport behind the enemy, and renew your assault from there. They never see you coming.

Iceman's tutorial takes place around the Statue of Liberty in New York. You get acquainted with the flying mechanic by completing a short track, navigating through markers and putting out fires on several boats with your ice beam. Once that's completed, you face off against Pyro, who has created a huge fireball-spitting serpent. It's your task to kill it, of course, but once you begin the attacks, it starts spitting out little flying creatures that attack nearby nuclear reactors. You must alternate between attacking the serpent and destroying the fireball creatures in order to defeat Pyro and keep the radiation leaks to a minimum. If you don't, the game's over.

Iceman seems to be the weaker character, which is emphasized by him being the only one whose cooldown/feral meter is replaced by a speedometer, which serves absolutely no purpose at all. Initially, the developers had this meter linked to a temporary boost in his flying skill, but it kept running out in mid-chase, so they changed it to one of his weapons, which also met with the same result. It was finally decided to make the speedometer a gimmicky device, free of any consequences.

All three characters have the ability to heal themselves. While Iceman auto-heals slowly over time, Wolverine and Nightcrawler need some downtime in order to do so manually. NightCrawler has the Shadow Aura, which makes him invisible while healing, but he cannot move while using it. The more you need to heal, the higher your cooldown meter goes, and once filled, you will be unable to use it. The same goes for Wolverine with his feral meter – if you use it too much, you'll need to let it go back to normal levels in order to activate his berserk mode.

While you can only actively play as Wolverine, Ice man or Nightcrawler, certain levels allow you to call in backup from either Storm or Colossus. You cannot control these secondary characters, but you can direct their actions. Your HUD has a reinforcement button in the lower left-hand corner, which, once filled, allows you to call upon their services. Storm usually hovers above the player, usually out of sight, and can kill enemies with a lightning strike barrage, while Colossus joins you on the ground and helps you take out enemies.

As you progress though XTOG and complete objectives, you can upgrade your character via mutations, which allow you to customize your character to your style of play. For Wolverine, you can increase his strength, blocking, and get additional attacks. Iceman can improve his balance, fly faster, and upgrade his health, while Nightcrawler can also get additional attacks, faster health regeneration, or improve his teleport abilities.

Throughout the game, you will find various folders which can be collected. While they have no relevance to gameplay or objectives, they allow you to unlock skins and other goodies once you've collected enough of them.

The replay value is pretty slim, as you are not dedicated to a specific character and must switch between the three heroes as the missions dictate. Once you finish the game, you don't have the option of replaying it as one of the other characters. XTOG is a strictly single-player affair and doesn't have any multiplayer or co-op modes, which severely restrict the replay value.

The only tweakable setting is the difficulty level (novice, hero, superhero), which throws a larger amount of enemies at you. They will act more aggressively and have better AI, thereby ramping up the difficulty level. This, in turn, rewards you with a higher amount of mutations per completed objective, so you can upgrade your characters faster than at an easier gameplay setting.

Graphically, XTOG looked quite good on all platforms but was most impressive on the Xbox 360 on an HDTV. If you put a regular household television next to the high-def screen, it almost looked like you were playing two different games.

The game has the Havok physics system in place. Ragdoll effects make enemies fly up in the air, tumble off ledges and buildings, or have them collapse realistically once they have been killed.

The levels had a decent variety to them, from brawling with Wolverine on a high-rise construction site, to Nightcrawler defusing bombs on the bridge, to Iceman flying around the harbor and battling a serpent. The playable characters are, of course, the high point, as they are quite detailed and accurately depicted. Nightcrawler comes out on top, as his coat flails nicely during his acrobatic moves, although it is a pity that none of the moves make use of his tail. The levels we played were mostly set in outside environments, so the backgrounds are mainly an urban landscape with high-rises and lots of street lights, while the actual playing field was nicely detailed and richely filled with all sorts of items,

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the event, the actual sound could not be properly tested, but the little that we did hear was pretty solid. Some music was taken from the previous movie, and the sound effects for weapons and environmental mayhem got the job done without any problems.

With its limited playtime and replay value, X-Men: The Official Game is hard to recommend, unless you're a die-hard fan of the X-Men or Marvel comics. The title is nothing like its most recent licensed relative, X-Men Legends 2 and more closely resembles X-Men 2: Wolverine's Revenge. If you liked the gameplay style of WR, you'll probably like TOG. While the game itself is well-executed, looks good, and handles fine, its limited repertoire might make it difficult to justify a full-price purchase.

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