The X-Men have been one of the most popular parts of the Marvel Universe since their creation, and over the decades that popularity has continued to grow. At one point Marvel was running the risk of going under completely, and it was thanks to the dozens of X-Men books printed per month that the company was able to continue. With how popular this slice of the comics are it’s kind of shocking that there has never been a really great X-Men game. This was something that developer Silicon Knights tried to rectify in 2011 with X-Men Destiny, but sadly fell far short.
The game, originally released on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, and the Nintendo DS, doesn’t have you play as any established X-Men character. Instead, players take on the role of one of three characters that begin the game attending a peace rally/memorial to Professor Xavier, who was recently killed. There’s Japanese school-girl Aimi, who is the closest Jubilee fans will get to play as her; Adrian, who’s part of an anti-mutant hate group; and Grant, who plays football. If these character descriptions seem vague don’t worry, they don’t get the chance to develop at all.
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Whichever character you choose they find their latent mutant powers activating when the rally comes under attack from the anti-mutant cult The Purifiers. This is where you get another choice, of which powers you want to take on. There’s super strength, speed, or energy projection to pick from, each of which can be upgraded and altered over time as you play and unlock different upgrades. From here you have to fight your way to safety, meeting a handful of characters from both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants. Come the end of this first mission you get to choose which faction you want to join up with.
Before the game’s release there was a lot of talk about how player choice will matter in X-Men Destiny, how your choices affect the game, and how each player would be able to craft their own experiences. Whilst I suppose it’s true that which character you pick, which power you go for, which upgrades you use, and which side you join do add a lot of variables, it by no means makes for big moments of player choice that alter the game in any real way. In fact, most of the game is very similar no matter what you choose.
You get sent to the same places, get given the same mission objectives, and the story advances in the same way no matter what choices you make, with the only real difference being who gives you your orders, and some tiny dialogue changes that don’t mean anything come the end. Perhaps Silicon Knights were trying to be too ambitious in their story, penned by comic writer Mike Carey, but at least they could make the game play good to make up for it, right?
Sadly, no. The game ends up being nothing more than a button masher, with players having to engage in uninspired and dull combat over and over again against waves of ever more pointless enemies. There are a few boss fights thrown into the mix, with a few of them actually being quite enjoyable – but then I’m not sure if they were really any good, or just good in comparison to the rest of the game.
The graphics of the game were also something of a letdown, with many outlets at the time comparing it unfavourably to games from the previous generation. There are blocky character models, badly made animations that make everything look stiff, dull and flat environments, and explosion effects that could have come from the PS1.
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It’s a shame that the game was as bad as it was, not just because as a fan of the X-Men I was hoping that the game would meet the hype that was being built around it, and that we’d actually get a decent X-Men game. The biggest part of the disappointment was that this was yet another failure for Silicon Knights, a company that had shot to acclaim with titles like Eternal Darkness and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, two absolutely amazing games. But thanks to this and the huge failure that was Too Human, it seemed like Silicon Knights’ time had come to an end.
And it seemed like others felt this way too, as thanks to a lawsuit with Epic Games, Silicon Knights were made to destroy all games they’d produced using code from the Unreal 3 Engine, meaning that Too Human and X-Men Destiny were removed from digital storefronts, and all unsold copies recalled and destroyed. Because of this, both games have become something of rare finds on the pre-owned markets thanks to the destruction of the unsold units and the initial low sales. As such, if you come across a copy on your travels it’s going to be a rarer find, though probably not one you’d want to pick up to try out.
X-Men Destiny was released on 27th September 2011.