|X-Men: The Official Game (2006)
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC
ALSO! Click here for our film review of "X-Men: The Last Stand."
As a rule of thumb when judging games based on movie licenses, it’s generally a good idea to expect disappointment. Nine out of ten times you’ll be right, and when you do come across that rare exception, it’ll only make for a more enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, “X-Men: The Official Game” – Activision’s latest soiree with the Marvel supergroup – doesn’t fall into that category. The action/adventure title, which is being released 10 days before the theatrical premiere of the franchise's third – and possibly last – installment, is modeled much in the same way as 2003’s “Enter the Matrix.” It’s a marketing tool meant only to lure rabid fanboys into experiencing “the whole story,” and though the writers (Zak Penn and Chris Claremont) have promised hours of new material, it doesn’t detract from the simple fact that this may be the worst game adaptation in recent years.
Taking place between the second and third films, “X-Men: The Official Game” drops you into the shoes of three particular mutants (Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler) and hopes to answer questions like, how is the team coping with the death of Jean Grey? And, why is everyone’s favorite blue transporter missing from the upcoming film sequel? Along with their own unique storylines, the three playable characters also have very different gameplay aesthetics. Wolverine, for instance, is a beat-‘em-up button-masher whose levels pretty much include killing anything and everything in your way. Along with a handful of useful combos, the player can also take advantage of Wolverine’s healing factor and a special fury mode that offers a palate of new moves. Iceman plays out more like an arcade racer, skating along town on your ice track and blasting away baddies with a hailstorm attack. His levels also appear to be the most limited of the three, and rightfully so, since they’re far and wide the least enjoyable. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ll already be bored by the end of the opening training mission.
Finally, there’s Nightcrawler, the German-speaking fan favorite for whom this game was most likely designed; one needn’t think any further than the infamous White House sequence in “X2: X-Men United” to know what to expect. Playing as the blue mutant is an absolute blast, whether it’s swinging around on steel beams, teleporting between platforms, or just beating the crap out of your enemies by *poof* surprising them from behind. The fun never stops, and while the gameplay is just as absurdly repetitive as Wolverine and Iceman’s, you won’t mind going through the movements over and over again. Nightcrawler is also joined by fellow teammates Colossus and Storm along the way, but aside from controlling when the weather queen strikes with her lightning, there’s not much else you can do.
Following the completion of each mission, you’ll also receive vials that you can then use to enhance specific character traits like health, attack power and special abilities, but instead of giving you the upper hand in later levels, they only prepare you for much harder challenges. The purpose of applying these enhancements seems rather pointless, then, since doing so will only keep you at a level equal to the competition. Even more infuriating is the shoddy camera angles that you’re forced to deal with on the Wolverine levels. Nightcrawler can look 360˚, but for some reason, Wolverine can’t, and must deal with running into walls and dying without cause. His levels are also overloaded with enemies, and because there are no checkpoints throughout, you’ll quickly find yourself playing a majority of these missions more than once.
Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), and Patrick Stewart (Professor X) have all lent their voices to “X-Men: The Official Game,” but the unwarranted absence of Halle Berry (Storm) and Daniel Cudmore (Colossus) is a serious disappointment. If Activison was attempting to build a smooth bridge between “X2” and “The Last Stand,” then why didn’t they secure all of those involved? The voice actors replacing Berry and Cudmore are, frankly, an embarrassment to the franchise, and if game developers aren’t going to put forth the required effort in creating a solid movie-to-game experience, then we’re just going to stop playing them.