If you've watched TV for any period of time recently you probably have heard of the X-Men 3 movie which is being highly promoted at the moment. Of course with their lucrative deal with Marvel, Activision had first option on making the official game of the movie which they jumped at. Their partnership has been highly successful, but to be honest, the X-Men games have been rather uninspiring, aside from the excellent Legends series of course. Unfortunately it's probably not going to change with this title, despite making improvements and adding a higher level of variety to the gameplay, it just still doesn't feel as polished as it could be.
X-Men: The Official Game, as expected, follows the movie of the storyline quite closely although in essence it is a prequel to the film. Those who play the game will get more out of the film according to Activision and Fox. Picking up after Jean's death, Wolverine and the others are in a depressed mood, fighting hard to promote the fact that the politicians are wrong and mutants can co-exist with humans in a peaceful world. Of course there are the enemies you come across to deal with but other than that it's a fairly cliche 'us vs them' mentality to the storyline, much like the movie.
However what is interesting about this game is that there are about three different types of gameplay, one for each character which you are playing as. This is great but at the same time a shame, as the game does not allow you to choose which character to play, or feature squad based combat, as seen in the popular Legends series. With that said, there is a heck of a lot of fan service Activision has included with the game which we won't spoil for the X-Men fans.
The three gameplay types are broken into a fighting third person action sequences with Wolverine, a third person shooting game on rails with Iceman and a sneaking action mode with Nightcrawler. Each character's missions are interspersed with each other and each have about the same star time throughout the game, where the story begins to branch a little and you often have a choice of which characters mission you want to complete first. Once you complete one, the other of course has to be completed before progression. This mixes the gameplay up a little and offers some respite if you manage to get stuck, although considering the ease we breezed through this game, that is unlikely to happen.
Each type is played from a third person perspective but obviously offers significantly different gameplay mechanics. Wolverine's is probably the easiest to pickup, but the developers have done an excellent job in making the somewhat complex abilities of Iceman and Nightcrawler easy to use. For instance to teleport with Night Crawler, all you do is press one of the shoulder buttons. One thing we did find interesting was the decision to focus on what most fans would agree are the lesser known X-men. That's not to say that Cyclops and Storm don't make appearances, they do but only in a supporting role to complete boss fights.
The one problem we have with the game is that it is rather easy to breeze through and complete. On top of this, the game feels a little incomplete. It by no means feels rushed and is probably the best X-Men game in a very long time, aside from Legends of course, but it just doesn't have the depth to not only extend the game longer, but offer replay value. Also while the variety has allowed the game to avoid many pitfalls of film based games, the creative limitations have again bitten hard on this one. While making it a prequel has allowed the developers a bit more leeway, they still had to lead into the main movie and this dictated how the story was developed.
The levels will be instantly familiar to those who have seen the film and unsurprisingly each level is catered to each character's abilities, which unfortunately makes it impossible even with an unlock code for Wolverine, for instance, to play Iceman's levels. One minute you will be jumping a bunch of pipes and infiltrating buildings with Nightcrawler trying to keep hidden, the next, in the middle of New York, blowing stuff up and protecting innocent civilians from the Mutant war. The levels can seem a bit bland and again the creative limitations come to the fore. This is more prevalent than ever on the premier Xbox 360 edition of the game where some of the textures look more at home on a Playstation 2, than the world's most powerful console currently on the market.
Which leads us to the graphics of the game and to be honest it's not worth jumping to the 360 version of the game if you can find the other two cheaper by a significant margin. While Activision has used higher resolution textures and the game does look better, in general the gameplay remains the same and the graphics are not that far advanced that the extra money is justified. However one area where the game definitely shines is the sound. Signing up the real actors such as Jackman was a masterstroke and it adds to the atmosphere of the game significantly.
X-Men: The Official Game was built for fans of the X-Men and the movie but also offers some excellent third person action for the more casual fans of the series. It does have a lot of fan service and fans will be able to look past many of the games flaws, but for those who aren't fans per se, the flaws will become glaringly obvious quickly, especially on the 360 edition.