It's hard not to sound like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons when reviewing X-Men Legends II, purely because the most appealing thing about this action title is the fact that you can team up members of the X-Men with the evil Brotherhood of Mutants. Best superhero team-up ever.
Sure, I can talk about the excellent game mechanics that have survived largely untouched from the first game, or the interactive and destructible environments, or the wealth of gameplay and secrets on offer. But what will keep X-Men fans coming back again and again is seeing Magneto side by side with Cyclops, or Toad acting as back-up for Gambit, or Juggernaut doing the ol' fastball special with Wolverine. It's enough to send comic book fan into fits of apoplexy.
That's not to say, however, that the actual gameplay in X-Men Legends II pales in comparison to the storyline. This game is as chaotic, as addictive and as much fun to play as the first X-Men Legends, but it doesn't go much further than that. There are few notable additions to gameplay, meaning veterans to the series will feel like they're playing the first game all over again, albeit with different characters and settings.
The impetus behind the X-Men joining forces with the Brotherhood of Mutants is Apocalypse, the near indestructible ultra-bad mutie who has once again hatched a plot for global domination (insert evil laugh here). At the beginning of X-Men Legends II, Apocalypse has kidnapped X-Men leader Professor X (once again voiced by Patrick Stewart) and has laid waste to Genosha, Brotherhood leader Magneto's island base. The two teams are then forced to work together to free Picard -- I mean, Professor X -- before turning to the bigger problem of how to stop the rampaging Apocalypse.
After an excellent opening cutscene, players are thrown straight into the action. As in the first game, players traverse levels in a group of four mutants, although you only have direct control of one character at a time. Switching characters is done via the controller's directional pad. Each character has basic punch and kick attacks, as well as their own individual mutant powers that can be used. These powers can range from offence, defence or team support, with more than a dozen to choose from for each mutant.
The roster of available characters is one of the game's strong points, with a healthy mix of styles and powers from both the X-Men and the Brotherhood. The best thing is you have a large selection to choose from right from the start -- 15 are initially selectable (in the console versions), with three hidden characters that need to be unlocked. The cast list is impressive, and features favourites like Wolverine, Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman, Storm, Rogue, Magneto, Juggernaut, Toad and more. Teams can be mixed and matched to suit a player's moods, with each of the game's levels having several checkpoints where you can swap team members.
X-Men Legends II retains the original's RPG leanings. Characters gain experience points as they battle enemies in the game, and will receive points as they level up that can be allocated to increasing their stats (such as strength, stamina and more), increase the effectiveness of their mutant powers or gain access to completely new abilities. Those who want to concentrate on the action can choose to let the game allocate level points.
While this automatic allocation may seem unattractive to keen RPG players who like to customise every aspect of their characters, X-Men Legends II's clunky menu system will force them into it eventually. Menus in the game's PS2 version take a noticeable amount of time to load up, as does switching from screen to screen. And with the game's characters leveling up seemingly ever few minutes, traversing the menu system quickly becomes labourious.
Thankfully, there's plenty of action to be had in this game. Finishing the main campaign should take close to 20 hours, plus there are tonnes of secrets and hidden objects to find. If you're an X-Men fan, you'll undoubtedly want to play the game again to use different characters -- all in all there's plenty of replay value here.
The look of X-Men Legends II isn't that much of a step up from the first game, although keen eyes will notice more detail in the character models and surrounds. While the game generally runs smoothly, we did notice some slowdown during particularly chaotic fights in the PS2 version. The voice acting is suitably over the top for a comic-based game, but Patrick Stewart sounds distinctly bored in his role as Xavier.
X-Men Legends II's adherence to the fun gameplay of the original is sure to please fans, as will the ability to play as both members of the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants. But if the first game left you cold, there's little here to tweak your interest.
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