X-Men Destiny gets a lot of things wrong. It’s only four hours long. It’s ugly. The platforming is a joke. The story is absurd. All of which could be forgiven, to a certain extent, if Destiny wasn’t also mind-numbingly boring. If I’m idly wondering what’s new on Netflix as I’m fighting giant robots and shooting lightbeams from my hands, something has gone very, very wrong with your game.
Destiny begins shortly after Professor X and Magneto came out on the losing end of a showdown with an AI named Bastion. Xavier is dead, Magneto’s missing, and a series of natural disasters have the human population on edge. A group called the Purifiers wants to wipe mutants off the planet, which is unfortunate for you, since you just came into your powers. You play as one of three characters, and begin your adventure by selecting one of three kinds of power you’d like wield. Though each character has their own backstory, they all play pretty much the same, except for the source of their individual angst.
Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants is believed to be behind the disruption of the peace rally that opens the game, but the main enemy you’ll face in Destiny are squads of Purifiers, ordinary humans who consider it a moral imperative to rid the world of mutants. You’d think, given the relative difficulty of that particular goal, they’d come armed with more than shock batons and their bare fists, but apparently they’re not the best tacticians. Though a handful of Purifiers bring flamethrowers to the party, for the most part you’ll just be bashing your way through wave after wave of poorly-armed thugs.
You start with just a basic attack based on the power you chose when you selected your character, but you’ll earn new abilities as you progress through the game, and the experience points you earn can be used to give your powers some extra oomph. The more advanced powers are interesting and feel like they were pulled right from the pages of a comic book, but you’ll hardly ever use them. Mashing away on your two combat buttons is all you’ll need to make it through the game. You can dodge or jump if you want to spice things up, and even do a ground pound if you’re feeling sassy, but you don’t really have to. Just keep hitting those two buttons, and unless they get stuck on the architecture, the Purifiers will line up to let you kill them.
You have your own mutant powers, but you’ll also find mutant genes as you investigate the conspiracy at the heart of Destiny. The ability to mix and match powers from characters like Juggernaut, Emma Frost, Avalanche, Cyclops, and Northstar is a fantastic concept, but unfortunately once you actually collect a few genes, you realize that they do pretty much the same things. Almost all of the utility genes make you run faster; whether you’re doing that by making the ground vibrate or jumping like toad, the end result is the same. Your attacks don’t behave any differently if you equip Psylocke’s psi damage or Gambit’s kinetic damage, which makes choosing one less about strategy and more about personal taste. If you equip a suit and three genes that match – all of Wolverine’s, for example – you gain a character-specific superpower with a great description but that actually achieves very little in practice.
The game also boasts some impressively pointless platforming sequences, which consist of jumping up to a cross beam, shimmying along faster than you can actually run on the ground, and then dropping down to your destination. I guess they’re meant to add some much-needed variety to Destiny, but they’re so fast, easy, and dumb that you’d be forgiven for forgetting they even exist.
Making the gameplay even more tiresome is the camera, which apparently feels very strongly that you should be playing something else (it’s right) and so refuses to behave in a way that might make the fight sequences more enjoyable. It’ll zoom in on your forehead, or closely examine a corner, or stubbornly stare at the floor. In the camera’s defense, however, Destiny isn’t something you really want to look at all that much. The environments are forgettable and the characters are ugly. Bad visuals are always regrettable, but especially so when the material they’re supposedly meant to evoke are the color-drenched panels of comic books.
You’re totally neutral at the start of X-Men Destiny, but at various points in the game, you’ll be given the opportunity to accept missions for either the X-Men or the Brotherhood. These choices theoretically nudge your meter towards one group or the other, but that’s not really how it plays out. I didn’t turn down a single Brotherhood mission yet still ended up a meter full to bursting with X-Men love. That’s not the only reason it’s pointless to turn anyone down, either. Even if you say no, you’ll end up doing whatever it was you were asked to do anyway, you just won’t get any credit with that particular faction. And it’s not as though the choices present any kind of moral dilemma; the Brotherhood isn’t asking you to do anything particularly evil and the X-Men aren’t asking you to be overly noble. Everyone just wants you to help the helpless and punish the bad guys, so turning them down makes absolutely no sense.
What really got me about X-Men Destiny was that despite the fact you’ve only had your powers for about five minutes, everybody – Mystique, Cyclops, Colossus, everybody – is more than happy to let you call the shots and boss them around. Sure, they’ve got years of training and experience, but clearly you’re the best choice to go head to head with the giant robots.
Bottom Line: With a running time of just about 4 hours from start to finish, it seems obvious that you’re meant to play X-Men Destiny with all three characters, but there’s no reason to. It’s repetitive, ugly, stupid, and boring.
Recommendation: If you’re morbidly curious or just want some easy Achievements and Trophies, go ahead and rent it. But you’ll feel a little ashamed afterwards. Just a little.[rating=1.5]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.