The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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The Guildhall at SMU

“X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse” is detailed, exceptional RPG

“X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse” (Xbox, PS2, GameCube, PC), developed by Raven Software and published by Ubisoft, is an exceptionally enjoyable game to play. With 16 playable characters, including both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil (Magneto’s crew), you battle through five distinct landscapes to defeat Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen in this action/role-playing game.

With outstanding voice-acting (Lou Diamond-Philips as Forge and Patrick Stewart as Xavier, among others) and unlockable original art by the comic’s creator Stan Lee, this is a keeper for fans of the comics.

Anyone familiar with the Marvel universe is bound to be impressed by the look and content of the game. The game has recognizable lands like Genosha and the Savage Lands, and all the characters behave just as they should – Wolverine crouches down and slashes everything in sight, Lady Deathstrike is swift and devastating in combat and Xavier, though non-playable, is the quiet but determined leader.

The game uses a comic book-shading style where all the characters have a thick, black outline reminiscent of the way they are drawn on paper. Although noticeable at first, you quickly ignore the effect, but it adds to the feeling that you are playing the comic.

You work with a team of four characters, starting with Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and Magneto, but you can swap them any time throughout the game by using an Xtraction Point, a big blue “X” on the floor. This turns out to be a powerful feature, because you can tailor your party to upcoming situations: scout ahead, determine if you need more ranged attacks (Storm, Cyclops, Bishop and others) or more melee fighters (Juggernaut, Wolverine, Colossus, etc.) and alter your team makeup accordingly.

The single-player storyline is suitably epic. Apocalypse is trying to take over the world, and he can be stopped only if the X-Men and the Brotherhood work together. This leads to humorous interactions between the team members, since they are natural adversaries, but it is satisfying to have both sides working together. Some of the Brotherhood are downright deadly. Toad and Juggernaut, for example, can be vicious fighting machines if they are leveled enough.

Inherent to any RPG is the concept of leveling-up. You gain experience points through combat, and these experience points allow you to customize and improve your character stats. Maybe you want more strength or speed or the ability to withstand magic attacks. People who play RPGs will love this feature, as it allows you to really personalize your character. The only problem with this system is it can take a long time to decide what to improve – even semi-experienced RPG players can become lost in the wealth of character stats available. Developer Raven has eased this problem substantially by introducing an auto-level feature that is works surprisingly well. For those players who bought this game because of the Marvel label, you don’t have to lift a finger to improve your characters – the game does it for you. Characters also can be auto-equipped with gear such as belts, armor or gloves you pick up along the way, and again, this is very intelligent. It won’t swap out your hard-earned good stuff for bad.

Controlling your team is very easy. When I learned that you lead a team of four characters through the game, I was concerned about how well the other team members would behave. Would they follow me? Would they help me attack? Or would they stand back and watch me get killed, then make a pithy comment? Again, Raven’s good design sense is shown here; you can assign default behaviors to your team members, letting you control how they react to a situation. If you attack, they can attack, defend or stand around and watch you. If they aren’t doing what you want, press the “Call Allies” button, and they come running to your aid.

That leads me to the control scheme. On the console controller pads you have two attack buttons, a jump button and a button for throwing. Hold another button down, and you have access to four of your character’s powers. Four seems a little limiting, but you have the ability to select which four you need. Besides, this is a controller restriction; the D-pad on all three console controllers uses this method of accessing powers.

Raven has added some neat little touches. The addition of a trivia game, which awards experience points for each correct answer, is a great way to relax after a tough mission. There have to be at least 50 questions, since it took me around 20 minutes to go through them all, and I leveled up Wolverine quite nicely by doing this. However, each subsequent time I played the game, I gained no further experience points for correct answers – so it’s a one-time piece of fun. All the answers are from X-Men folklore, but clues and answers are given by talking with the game non-player characters.

Each character has three different uniforms available from the “Ultimate,” “Astonishing” and “Classic X-Men” series. This seemed a little gimmicky at first, although Wolverine in yellow spandex is a treat, but I discovered that it’s not merely cosmetic; attiring your team members in different uniform combinations gives extra abilities to the team – increased strength, speed, magic attacks and so on. This isn’t mentioned anywhere in the game manual, and it was a very nice surprise to learn it on my own – again, an example of the care and attention to detail that Raven has lavished on this game, rewarding players for customizing their characters.

An exceptional game, this should appeal to anyone who ever wished they had adamantium on their bones.

The Guildhall at SMU is an intense 21-month graduate program in digital game development. The Guildhall offers a Masters of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development degree or a professional certificate. The curriculum was designed by expert teachers working with leaders in the gaming industry to provide students with a solid foundation in game development. Visit http://guildhall.smu.edu.

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