One year ago X-Men Legends was released, to the appreciation of X-fans everywhere, after years of poor attempts to translate the famous mutants into a video game medium. Legends was quickly regarded as inarguably the best console X-Men game ever and its sales reflected that. One did not have to have mutant powers to predict that a sequel was surely on the way. i>X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is a game that carries with it many coveted adjectives; it is an action, dungeon-crawling, online, multiplayer, X-Men RPG. The story follows where the first game left off; after their fight, both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants are weak and vulnerable. Seizing the opportunity, Apocalypse appears to strike both teams and take control of the world by enforcing his "surival of the fittest" ideology. Apocalypse is a nearly omnipotent being, so the only hope for survival for mankind is for the X-Men and the Brotherhood to put aside their differences and join forces to reclaim the Earth from Apocalypse and his forces. This sets the stage for X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse which promises more X-Men action and excitement than ever before.
But the burning question that has fans most excited about this game is, "Which new X-Men will be included as playable characters?" There are sixteen available at the beginning, eight X-Men and eight Brotherhood, but no one knows how many will be unlocked by the end. Raven has released a roster of playable characters including: Cyclops, Wolverine, Magneto, Storm, Nightcrawler, Bishop, Colossus, Sunfire, Rogue, Iceman, Sabretooth, and Juggernaut. But a dozen more appear -- either as playable characters, villains or NPCS -- such as Gambit, Toad, Mystique, even unexpected surprises like the Scarlet Witch, Cable and Deadpool. The PSP version is expected to include two exclusive playable characters. Raven has stated that there will be so many, including two surprise playable characters that will have X-fans thrilled. And what super villains could a game possibly have that has a being as powerful as Magneto as a starting playable character? Archangel appears as a villain first; recreated by Apocalypse to be "Death" as one of his Four Horsemen. The other horsemen -- Pestilence, Famine, and Plague -- can be expected to make an appearance. Apocalypse's main man, Mr. Sinister, will show his ghastly face along with Abyss, Omega Red, Stryfe, Sauron, and Lady Deathstryke. Even villains from the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline will make an appearance, like the fiery Holocaust and the freakish Sugarman. That's all one should rightly say at this point, without giving away too many surprises and rumors. For a more complete discussion of the characters check out the discussion board for this article. The Dangeroom option has also returned; where you can choose from any character in the game, hero or villain, and control them against chosen enemies in a limited environment. So even characters that are exclusively villains be playable in this feature.
|"X-Men Legends II fleshes out the X-Universe unlike anything ever before with intense action, exotic environments, and an enormous cast of mutants."
Unlike the first edition which had you begin the game as a single X-Man, Wolverine, sixteen characters are available off the bat. This means your friends aren't forced to wait impatiently on the couch until you acquire more characters before they can join in; and you can immediately begin experimenting with character combinations for the best X-team. The gameplay is very similar to the first title. With four mutants, either controlled by players or AI, you will crawl through dungeons using melee, ranged, or extreme powers to hack, slash, or blast through enemies. This time around, Raven has been more generous by giving each character around 8-12 superpowers, twice as many as the first game. Also, powers are more diversified so that some characters don't feel like copies of each other. Bishop can shoot away enemies with guns or use his energy absorption power to reflect blasts back at his aggressors. Magneto's "Death Trap" encases an enemy in metal shards for extra damage while Juggernaut grows in size the longer he pummels an enemy with "Crimson Rage." Sunfire can create an "Ion Shield" to form a barrier of intense heat around him so anyone who walks into it is burnt to a crisp. Iceman can even summon an ice minion to fight alongside the party and absorb damage.
Combos have also returned. If two characters use their superpowers on a target at the same time, they can create a combo power. For example, Magneto and Bishop can create "Metallic Devastation" when they use their powers together. Juggernaut and Wolverine team up for the "Fastball Special", where Juggs uses his strength to toss Wolvie, claws flying, into a group of enemies. Raven has tweaked this aspect by extending the time frame for both characters to use their powers, making the combos easier to pull off and also increases their bonuses.
Levelling and upgrading your characters has also been simplified. As before, you can manually enter the menu screen to decide how to distribute bonus points and strengthen your characters, but it can be tedious to break up the action. Also, if there are three friends waiting on you to do this, you are risking getting whacked with a controller. Now, you can automate your levelling bonuses so they are distributed automatically and cooperative play can continue on smoothly. Also, there is an option for characters to automatically equip their best items as soon as they are picked up, again cutting down on menu accessing time.
Multiplayer works very conveniently, players can join in and hop out at any time during the story-based co-op mode. Online play, which is available in all versions except GameCube, works the same way. Once you host a game, players from across cyberspace can join in on your game by playing as your mutants, or you can join in on and play as theirs. This prevents players from transfering outrageously high-level characters to another game and creating an unbalanced play. There are also six skirmish modes that offer head-to-head vs. action, side-by-side battles and more. Raven promises exclusive online content, such as new maps, gear and skins, but we will have to wait to find out details.
These are necessary features, as you won't want to interrupt the action when fighting against 100 different types of enemies. The AI has been improved upon in this iteration; enemies attack you in groups with a leader commanding them. The leader will send his troops to attack and use power-ups on them. The X-Men will fight these baddies in a wide range of environments including the Savage Land, the Weapon X Facility, Infinite Factory, the South Pole, and an Egyptian Tomb. Environments are even more destructible than before, allowing you to discover hidden items, paths, or just have fun blowing the heck out of things. Also, you will have more opportunities to use your super powers to solve puzzles and interact more with the environment.
Boss fights are also more complex. You will have to do more than hack and slash a boss; some require puzzle solving. In order to take down a monstrous villain like Holocaust, you must take out the magic mirrors that surround him and give him his powers in addition to pummeling him with attacks. To defeat the terrible tendrils of Abyss from on top of two zeppelins, you must toss bombs at the blimp where Abyss is to knock him out of the sky. The Archangel fight requires you to destroy devices to keep him from teleporting and creating confusion for your team.
Unlike the first Legends, there are more places than the X-Mansion to return to between missions. There are now around 70 free roaming zones where you can regroup, begin new missions, complete unfinished missions, gather information, play trivia, and buy new equipment. The available items and gear has been greatly expanded. Equipment vendors won't always sell the same stuff, their inventories will be randomly updated. That means if you pass on an item the first time you see it, you may not get another chance to buy it for a while, or something better may come along. These zones are also easier to navigate because the game will point you toward the next NPC to speak with in order to proceed to your next mission.
Characters can now find and switch between costumes from Ultimate, Astonishing, and different time periods of X-men history. Changing your characters' skins is only part of the fun; in fact, a new gameplay feature will give group bonuses, such as a 15% helath bonus, to teams of mutants that share the same fashion style. The graphics of Legends II use the same "comic book-shaded" graphics technique as in the first game, although it too has been improved upon. All the versions of the game reportedly have the same quality, even the PSP version is holding its own, athough the sharper resolution available on the PC game gives it an advantage over the rest. The five game chapters are connected through theatrical quality FMV sequences created by Academy Award nominated Blur Studios.
Legends II also contains solid voice-overs by Patrick Stewart as Professor X of course, and Lou Diamond Philips as Forge. Rogue is back with her southern drawl, as well as Colossus and his hearty Russian accent. During battle, characters will joke, banter, and even argue with each other, and with X-Men teaming up with Brotherhood, you can be sure they will find things to argue about.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is being released on GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC on September 20 and on PlayStation Portable in October.