Wednesday, November 16, 2005

VG REVIEW: Marvel Nemesis and X-Men Legends 2


"MARVEL NEMESIS: RISE OF THE IMPERFECTS"
Electronic Arts
for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube
Rated T for Teen
$49.99

"X-MEN LEGENDS II: RISE OF APOCALYPSE"
Activision
for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube
Rated T for Teen
$49.99

You'd think that superheroes and video games would be a match made in heaven. Particularly the Marvel franchise of heroes, with their blend of dynamic action and soap opera melodrama.

But, of course, such is not the case. For every decent game involving Spider-Man or the X-Men, there's a landfill full of ill-conceived games taking up space in a scrap yard somewhere.

Throw onto the pile "Marvel Nemesis," a new fighting game from the folks at Electronic Arts. Nemesis allegedly had an untouchable pedigree, with a story by noted comic book scribe Mark Millar, character designs by artist Jae Lee and overseen by one of EA's finest studios. With such high expectations, perhaps it's only natural that the game would turn out so poorly.

Problems are apparent right at the outset. Most fighting games map out a variety of attacks on the controller's buttons, but "Nemesis"only gives you one button for attacking, relegating the other buttons for jumping, throwing and so on.

The result is that every single character in the game plays exactly the same. Regardless of whether you're playing as Wolverine, Daredevil, Iron Man or The Thing, you simply mash the attack button while occasionally blocking or jumping out of the way. You can pickup a variety of items lying around to throw at your opponent, but that takes time that your opponent will use to get the drop on you.

In order to unlock more than the paltry number of characters given at the outset, you have to complete the lackluster story mode. This is a rather shallow beat-em-up that has you plowing through a seemingly endless array of identical alien invaders, along with some rather odd villains created especially for this game.

Sadly, all the story mode does is reveal how superficial and repetitive "Nemesis" really is. And the inability to lock on an enemy or see where a particular foe is until it's too late results in a good deal of frustration.

Much more successful is "X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse," the sequel to last year's popular role-playing game involving everyone's favorite band of mutants.

Activision and developer Raven wisely decided not to alter the basic formula too much for this outing. The most notable addition is the ability to play as bad guys like Magneto in addition to heroes like Storm and Cyclops.

It seems that the X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants have a common enemy in the ruthless Apocalypse, who seeks to make the planet over in his image. In order to defeat him, they must join forces. Thus, the added roster.

The game is broken down into a series of missions, with you controlling a team of four heroes. You can easily switch between characters on the fly by pressing the D-Pad up, down, left or right.

Each character has a variety of powers at their disposal, and you garner new ones as you level up. And the ability to have three of your friends join in for some multiplayer action only adds to the fun.

My only quibbles are that the interface has too many menus and way too much text, making it hard to navigate around. The game also tends to favor the heavy hitters over the more subtle, less muscle-bound characters. You may love Nightcrawler or Scarlet Witch, but chances are you'll get a lot more satisfaction out of playing Juggernaut and Magneto.

"Legends II" doesn't do anything it's predecessor didn't achieve, but it's just as much fun as the first game. Considering the abundance of games like "Nemesis," we should be thankful for that simple accomplishment.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005

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