Marvel’s beloved “X-Men” finally get the
videogame treatment they deserve in Activision’s “X-Men
Legends.” While previous attempts to electronically capture
the mutants have met with varying success, no title has ever
captured the feel of the comic book. By combining hack-and-slash
action with role-playing elements, “X-Men Legends”
encapsulates the teamwork and storylines that make the comics so
memorable.

Rabid fans will be pleased to know that 15 of their favorite
superheroes are selectable for play. From Iceman to Gambit, almost
everyone is there. The player controls a team of up to four mutants
into battle, primarily controlling one hero while executing
commands over the rest. Each X-Man features his trademark mutant
abilities and specialized skills — Wolverine heals and is
stronger in melee fighting, whereas Cyclops shoots optic blasts and
has superior leadership skills.

The framework of the game centers around a new mutant named
Magma. Players take her through the X-Mansion, where she encounters
the various team members, takes lessons in the Danger Room and
meets in the war room to go on missions that propel the
game’s storyline.

The story itself, written by former “X-Men” writers
Joe Kelly and Steven Seagel, features an unfolding mystery that
involves almost all of the principal villains and locations. Ever
wanted to brawl through the Morlock tunnels? Fight against
Sentinels in the streets of Manhattan? It’s all in there.

The most satisfying missions for longtime fans occur during
conversations with teammates in the mansion. One character will
begin to tell young Magma about an old battle, but instead of
simply listening to the story, the gamer gets to relive the fight.
To enhance the authenticity of the classic tales, the X-Men team in
the flashback wears its old uniforms.

Unfortunately, the design of the X-Men in “Legends”
is borrowed from the “Ultimate X-Men” line of comics
— a stripped down version of the team that bears a striking
resemblance to the design of the films. So instead of the classic
uniforms, the X-Men wear nondescript, leather outfits.

Furthermore, though the combat and puzzle-solving can be fun, it
grows tedious if played for too long. The RPG aspects —
leveling up, collecting gear — increase the replay value, but
some characters become so powerful, it becomes unnecessary to
rotate team members. The worst offender is Wolverine, whose healing
factor makes him almost unstoppable.

Activision’s take on the “X-Men” mythos
incorporates the best aspects of the source material. Fans take to
the heroes not only because of the action, but also because of the
story. “Legends’ ” emphasis on plot and character
creates a three-dimensional version of the world so often depicted
in the comics. Technology has finally caught up with the X-Men, and
the inevitable sequel should be able to work out the final kinks.

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

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