Activision went all out at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego, providing not only a star-studded panel featuring voiceover actors like Jamie Chung and Val Kilmer, but also plenty of hands-on opportunities with its upcoming comic book games "Spider-Man: Edge of Time" and "X-Men Destiny." Comic Book Resources has already provided a detailed report on how Spidey's next adventure is shaping up, but now it's time to step up and see what the X-Men can deliver.
Or rather, the would-be X-Men. In "Destiny," you don't take control of familiar characters like Wolverine and Cyclops, instead playing as one of three new characters -- the young, feisty Aimi Yoshida; the big, powerful Grant Alexander; and the ill-tempered Purifier descendant Adrian Luca. Each one has mutant abilities that are unique to their characters, though at the start of the game, you don't see the extent of said powers.
"Destiny" starts out in typical beat-'em-up fashion. The demo opened with San Francisco slightly in ruins. This comes on the heels of a huge war between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, with a few other enemies scattered about for good measure. These kids could clearly use the mentorship of Professor X, but he's already been killed, leaving disarray between the two mutant factions.
For the demo's sake, we decided to stick with Aimi, since she was the main character available at the time. She's quite durable in battle, able to chain together effective combo attacks and earth-shaking ground pounds to clear the playing field. These moves are more powerful than you might think -- not only will they damage any enemies in their wake, but they also eliminate pop-up text that appears after you complete each successful move. (That was part of the kitschy, comic book-style flavor that the developers at Silicon Knights were going for.)
Aimi utilizes electricity with her moves, almost in the same way as Cole McGrath in "Infamous 2." But where Cole has the benefit of powerful moves right away, Aimi has to establish them by picking up X-Genes over the course of her adventure, and also leveling up. There's a unique system at play here, letting you enhance your abilities over the course of the game before mapping yourself with a particular superhero's DNA to supercharge them even further. Even though we didn't get a full opportunity to do this in the demo, the idea is quite promising. We can't wait to see what Aimi does with a little Wolverine implanted into her talent pool.
Within the demo, Aimi uses both light and strong attacks which are properly mapped onto a game controller, practically right next to one another. Playing around with the combat, we found a number of cool-looking moves to clear away Brotherhood agents with, even when we found ourselves surrounded. And once you're juiced up with extra abilities, you should be able to clear areas even quicker. (Granted, by that time bigger and badder boss enemies will try to take you down, so stay on your guard.)
We ran into familiar characters throughout the demo who felt like chatting. This included the visually stunning Emma Frost (complete with vivacious outfit), the laser-shooting Cyclops, the super-speedster Quicksilver and the slippery, untrustworthy Toad. All of them have something to say, and over the course of your conversations, you have the option to make choices. Some of them will help you lean towards either working with the X-Men or the Brotherhood, others will provide pieces of information to help you move further along in the level. During the demo, these choices didn't have much impact, but over the course of the full game, you'll see how much your character changes after they choose a side.
Fighting alongside these heroes in specific battles is a nice touch. For instance, in a prison cell surrounded by madmen, Aimi is able to hold up well in battle while Emma occasionally lends a hand. Other parts of the game will have you fighting alongside many familiar characters, including Wolverine and possibly even Magneto, depending on which side you take.
Along with the action sequences, "X-Men Destiny" also allows plenty of room to explore each area and includes a few platforming segments, as your character can jump to and from beams and ledges to access new areas. The platforming seemed a little loose here, as we had to be pointed out which ledges we could grab and where to go next. The final game, however, should include guides to help direct you towards your next location, so don't sweat it.
As far as how "X-Men Destiny" performs, Silicon Knights has done a solid job with it thus far. The San Francisco stage, in both indoor and outdoor form, looks like something taken straight out of a comic book (following a post-apocalyptic event, of course). The animation is a little hit-or-miss at the moment, but the developer's still hard at work on the finer points, so the finished product should look better once it hits. And the cool little comic-style effects, like the breakaway text and the charge that comes from your more powerful moves, light up the screen effectively.
Audio-wise, some of the voice actors are quite good, especially Jamie Chung, who gives Aimi a great deal of pathos as a girl just trying to figure out what to do next. The actors for Emma Frost, Toad and Cyclops don't sound half bad, either. Sadly, we have yet to hear Scott Porter (as Grant) and Milo Ventimiglia (as Adrian) work their vocal cords, but we'll likely get another crack at the game before its release.
Though the demo came to a conclusion far too soon, "X-Men Destiny" feels like a quality superhero game thus far. The X-Genes will really go a long way toward expanding replayability, and the comic book tone is better than most licensed games we've run across. We'll see how this "Destiny" fares overall when the game hits stores September 27 in the U.S. (and September 30 overseas).