Giant Bomb Review

42 Comments

X-Men: Destiny Review

2
  • X360

As mediocre as it is half-finished, X-Men: Destiny’s rare glimpses of something better make it all the more disappointing.

For comic book fans, there’s really no shortage of listless, mercenary dreck like X-Men: Destiny. There’s an overwhelming sense that contractual obligation trumped whatever ambitions Silicon Knights--a developer of checkered consistency--might’ve had for this action RPG centered on cultivating your own mutant persona. Although, with the way player-controlled customization and progression has methodically crept into just about every genre of game, calling X-Men: Destiny an action RPG is probably granting far too much importance to its barely noteworthy role-playing element. This is, more essentially, a beat-’em-up game of limited dimension, populated with repetitious enemy fodder and driven by monotonous three-tap combat where the notion of player agency couldn’t seem more superfluous. That it was developed by Silicon Knights, and then quietly swept onto store shelves with little fanfare by publisher Activision, are probably the most noteworthy facts about this otherwise disposable experience.

As someone who, over the past decade, has had most of my exposure to the X-Men through avenues other than the actual comics, X-Men: Destiny opens bewilderingly enough. An entire game’s worth of fiction is blown through before you even pick your character, with massive events like inexplicable, global natural disasters, the death of Professor X at the hands of supervillain Bastion, the subsequent disbanding of the X-Men, their reformation in San Francisco, and the rise of an apocalyptic anti-mutant hate group known as the Purifiers being skimmed over in a minute or two. It’s an overload of information delivered in a careless, over-compressed cinematic sequence that seems to assume you already knew all this anyway. The story continues on this way, tossing around third-string X-Men and springing clandestine plot twists with little explanation. Not that these machinations of the X-Men, the Brotherhood of Mutants, the MRD, the U-Men, Bastion, or the Purifiers are of much consequence. Regardless of where the story leads, "go here, punch all these guys” is the only meaningful directive in X-Men: Destiny.

Also of little consequence is the whole character creation system. Superficially, you can choose to play as one of three, freshly minted young mutants with disparate personalities and backstories, sculpting them into the mutant of your dreams armed with a melange of trademarked mutant abilities, while striking an alliance with either the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Mutants. Beyond simple aesthetics, fostering a sense of consequence and allowing the player to approach the game with different abilities are two of the fundamentals of role-playing in video games, and X-Men: Destiny unilaterally fumbles both.

While the character customization system lets you earn and cultivate a whole host of active and passive powers, many of your choices are redundant, and none of the wildest deviations have that fundamental an impact on how the game is played. Whether you choose the energy blasts, density modulation, or shadow blades abilities, and whether you choose to align yourself with the X-Men or the Brotherhood, you’ll still be tapping out the same basic combos against the same crowds of gas-masked thugs while being funneled down the same deserted streets and generic facilities.

Even on the game’s highest difficulty, enemies are cut down thoughtlessly, to the point that hastily introduced subsystems like lock-on targeting and blocking prove needless. The side benefit of the easily dispatched foes is that you never stop moving forward, though in a game that can be easily beat in less than five hours, with no meaningful reason to play through a second time, maybe that's not so much of a benefit.

While the X-Men have invited a variety of distinct stylistic takes over the years, Silicon Knights chose to go with “awkward cosplayer” in X-Men: Destiny, with all three player-character choices feeling particularly like Brand-X-Men. The environments are small, bland, and generic, and on a personal note, I find it irksome when a game chooses a specific, real-world locale like San Francisco, and then proceeds to spend the majority of the time in nondescript corridors, as X-Men: Destiny does. A lumpy art style is done no favors by the technology behind it, which struggles regularly with frame rate. It’s telling when the frame rate drops to single digits in a prerendered cutscene, as it does in one occasion here.

Top to bottom, this game feels rushed, a supposition backed up by Silicon Knights’ history of protracted development cycles, from which X-Men: Destiny did not benefit. While politics of why that’s the case, as well as speculation on the impact more time and money would’ve had on the game, are ultimately irrelevant to the game’s failures as they are, it’s not that hard to see how it could’ve been something great.

42 Comments
Posted by CrunchbiteJr

Unsurprising, Silicon Knights don't deliver anymore.

Posted by Moloney

Yip. No surprises there.

Posted by Anwar

So why not one star? There is not one redeemining factor according to this review. Strange... Is it supposed to be broken and making you angry to get one star? It's apparently just bland, generic and not a lot of fun.

Posted by BulletproofMonk

@Anwar: The 1-star rating is for the really bad shit. This just seems incredibly mediocre.

Edited by mrangryface

My list:

  • Weirdest moment: When the head from the statue comes flying at you- for a moment it looks like some persons head. Freaky.
  • Best moment: Magneto/Juggernaut fight.
  • Worst moment: Checkpoints before the long chat cutscene before the fight you died in.
Posted by EchoEcho

@CrunchbiteJr said:

Unsurprising, Silicon Knights don't deliver anymore.

While it's true that Too Human was a very, very (very) mixed bag, it had its positive points, and I likely enjoyed it more than the average gamer did. I'm willing to give Silicon Knights the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had loftier ideas for this game that they simply weren't allowed the budget or time to expand on, and thus had to settle for shoving only the barest bits and flecks of those ideas into a by-the-numbers brawler.

Posted by Cybexx

Its really disheartening to see Silicon Knights slip more into mediocrity with each title. I mean with Too Human they at least had the excuse of needing to switch engines mid-development. Then again Activision has been publishing some pretty mediocre to bad Marvel games for the last decade so there is probably a decent amount of blame to be placed on them. I mean remember how awesome Neversoft's Spider-man game was, man they screwed that up.

Posted by Blueman

I actually believed that this game would mark the successful return of Silicon Knights. The concept was great, but, just like Too Human, they've failed to execute it properly. I am very, very disappointed.

Posted by kollay

Two extra stars just for Denis Dyack.

Posted by Krummey

So...how are the points?

Posted by Metal_Mills

2 is generous.

Posted by ComradeCrash

Oh well that sucks.

Posted by iAmJohn

@Cybexx said:

I mean remember how awesome Neversoft's Spider-man game was, man they screwed that up.

Still one of my favorite games of that late-PS1/Dreamcast era. Such an awesome game. Then they made Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro and it all went to shit. :\

Posted by Roodog

Well crap. The quality coming out of that studio is sad. The next headline will be them closing up shop.

Posted by Summoboomo

@Roodog said:

Well crap. The quality coming out of that studio is sad. The next headline will be them closing up shop.

I doubt it. Silicon Knights has been given a lot of Canadian dollars to keep themselves afloat, make games, and create jobs. If they managed to fuck that up after a government bailout then they probably deserve to close.

Posted by sirdesmond

Remember when Silicon Knights made Eternal Darkness, one of the best games of all time? What a shame that they have sucked ever since...

Also, that's a game that needs an HD remake.

Posted by GeedAwesome

Should have been XBLA. Certainly nowhere near worth the $60.

Posted by PSB_Vam

was going to rent game but looks like it's not even worth renting.

Edited by rmanthorp

I really wish this was more than it was...

Moderator
Edited by Sooty

I find it shocking this game gets the same score as Catherine. There's not liking a game, and there's a game being terrible. They're not necessarily the same thing.

Posted by SiN13
@PSB_Vam: Rented from gamefly, played one night and sent it back. It's not a horrible game it's just extremely boring to play.
Posted by WorldDude

@Sooty: I don't get that. Both games were reviewed by two completely different people, you can't really compare the two games even if they have the same score. Maybe Jeff would have given this a 1/5, you have no idea.

Posted by l4wd0g

Great review Ryan. I'll be passing on this one.

Posted by SiN13

I wonder how much life Silicon Knights has left in it. They certainly haven't had a stellar track record recently. Does anyone know if are they publisher owned?

Posted by Zamir

i called it

Posted by Sammo21

This review is honest to God correct. Hell, Gambit even has what sounds like a freaking Jamaican accent. WTF Activision/SK? Ryan might have even been too kind giving this thing 1 stay as with as many bugs, glitches (I feel through world geometry 6 times in 4 hours), and just plain bad game design this game is full of.

Posted by sanzee

@Sooty

They were reviewed by two different people.

Posted by solarisdeschain

Kind of a shame. There was a time when Silicon Knights was one of the best in the business. You don't want to say that the Gamecube games were only good because Miyamoto and Kojima were on as producers, but it's increasingly looking that way.

Posted by DHunter329

Damn shame what the game had become. If you said to me "Hey X-Men RPG", my reaction would have been "yes please". Unfortunately, it turned out to be utterly mediocre shit. Damn shame indeed.

Posted by RoyCampbell
@DHunter329 said:

Damn shame what the game had become. If you said to me "Hey X-Men RPG", my reaction would have been "yes please". Unfortunately, it turned out to be utterly mediocre shit. Damn shame indeed.

The suckiest thing about this is the publisher will think "Welp, X-Men RPG: A failure" instead of labeling the quality of the product itself a failure.
 
That is if the game doesn't sell.
Posted by baron_calamity

This is so disappointing. I guess I should have seen this coming. Remember the teaser? It was awesome. It seemed like this was going to be something really different.

2017 is when Activision loses the rights to X-men and Spider-man. It can't come soon enough.

Posted by bybeach

Saw the ql, quite understand the review. This kind of game doesn't appeal to me anyway. Batman has been the only comic book hero to really grab my interest in any genre, which is for me still unusual.

Posted by Slag

Nice to see there are honest and fair reviews to be found out there still. Been looking for a place since ye olde netjak went down for what seems to be the last time.

You would think the X-men franchise would lend itself naturally to great games, but that seems to happen only occassionally.

Posted by Tebbit

More like X-Men Density.

Posted by Skald

My taxes paid for this game, apparently.

Posted by Frumpa

Knew I would'nt like this game from the so-called flying. Hovering 3 feet above ground and still following the linear path - they must be on drugs if they think thats satisfactory.

Posted by Applekid

I actually like Too Human too.

Posted by RecallBerserk

@Applekid: me too. Loved both the loot and combat system of Too Human.

Posted by Eyz

I'll go back to play X-Men Legends :P

Posted by SHADOWINFINITE

I just got it to play the game, DC Universe online is a lot like this. Soon to be free to play like DCU Online and others

Posted by Gordo789

@Sooty said:

I find it shocking this game gets the same score as Catherine. There's not liking a game, and there's a game being terrible. They're not necessarily the same thing.

I would get over it if I were you. I thought Jeff's review was ridiculous, as did many in the comments. Clearly you can't compare Catherine and X-Men: Destiny directly. Catherine is a great game that's just not for everyone, and this X-Men just sounds like an abortion that somehow made it to market.

Posted by Shady

Way too high.