I was a big fan of the X-Men growing up. As a kid, I watched the cartoon series, and I briefly collected issues of them in junior high. I enjoyed the first 2 film adaptations when I was in high school as well. While I experienced the X-Men in all different forms as a young adult, I had trouble finding a good video game that included them. The closest I had ever seen to a decent rendition was in elementary school when I would spend hours playing X-Men 2: Clone Wars with a friend of mine on his Sega Genesis. Many years passed, and I did not find a game of equal amusement until I came across a review for X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse posted on one of my usual websites. I had never played the first game or heard of the sequel before. Out of curiosity, I read the article and decided to purchase the game for $27.99 at Circuit City in December 2005.
There are many parts of X-Men Legends 2 to like. The review that I read described the gameplay mechanics as being similar to Diablo, and I would have to agree; it definitely has an action RPG quality to it. You go through the game with 4 heroes/villains, fighting enemies and gaining experience points until you reach a certain cap and level up. Leveling up gives you access to more powerful abilities and the opportunity to increase your characters' stats, such as health and energy. I really liked Diablo 2 when I was in high school, so this game suited my preferences.
Fans will appreciate the amount of lore and references included in the game. The story of X-Men Legends 2 is not a faithful storyline from the comic book, but it borrows from existing ones to create a unique experience. Places like the Savage Land and characters like Emma Frost make their appearances, making the game that much more enjoyable for loyal followers. In addition, there are many extras to be found in the game; you can collect artwork, find Danger Room discs that add training exercises, discover exclusive PC and hidden playable characters, unlock multiple costumes to customize your characters' appearances, etc.
The amount of playable characters is another positive feature. I was excited to play members of the X-Men, but I was also given the chance to play members of the Brotherhood, the team led by their nemesis Magneto. Mixing characters in different combinations ensures multiple possibilities to play through the game. Even though you can only play 4 characters at a time, you can easily switch a person out for another one and continue your journey.
Although the formula of the game is familiar and not terribly complex, the developers added impressive details. For instance, much attention was given to the visual and sound effects of the game. The powers of the X-Men and Brotherhood are given their proper treatment with each ability possessing a distinct animation. It is an awesome feeling using Wolverine to slash opponents or using Gambit to toss explosive cards. The makers created highly destructible environments too, encouraging the player to let loose their inhibitions.
Despite all these positive aspects, there are downsides. Replayability is a bit limited. Although you can play through the game several times with different characters, some people may not enjoy going through the same levels over and over. I liked using different teams in my playthroughs, but I did feel bored after a certain point.
There is a multiplayer feature that could potentially increase its replay value, but I have never used it. It supposedly is the same as the single player mode except that you play with another human-controlled character. I did not see a significant reason in playing the game with someone else, so I did not. As far as I can tell, there is no community for the PC version that plays online regularly, making it probable that you will not find people to team up with even if you wanted to.
The difficulty of the game is also suspect. I did not find the game to be too hard at all even at the highest difficulty level. Rarely did one of my characters die, and when they did, I was able to revive them without much of a penalty. In addition, many of the major bosses will tell you their weaknesses and how to defeat them while they are fighting you. It is a function meant to guide new and inexperienced gamers, but it is annoying for advanced players, who may not appreciate the condescending tone of the game.
The PC control scheme could require some time to get accustomed to, depending on the player. Powers are assigned to the number keys 1-9 while one of your hands is occupied by the mouse to move your party. The layout becomes slightly complicated when encountering enemies that must be defeated by a specific sequence of punches and kicks that can only be done with the number pad located in the lower right of your keyboard. Generally, you have to coordinate the hand that presses the power keys to switch between keys at the top of your keyboard to the number pad. It is not too difficult to understand or master, but uninitiated gamers may find it confusing at first.
Existing technical bugs have not been fixed. I have encountered a common one where my game would crash and lose my progress. This problem is avoidable by reducing the number of items you carry and the number of items you leave on the ground when playing X-Men Legends 2 on the hardest difficulty level; if you have too many items, your game will exit without your permission. I was inconvenienced several times because of this and had to reload my game from a previous save. The game was released 4 years ago, so a patch is probably not going to be created to fix these kinds of bugs.
Incompatibilities arise when running the game on Windows Vista 64 bit as well. I have installed and played the game on a Windows XP 32 bit OS without any hassles, but Vista 64 bit is not as agreeable. For example, when the game loads up, I have to wait until it goes to a black screen and hit the escape key (Esc) in order to proceed. If I hit the Esc key before the black screen, it will not load; if I do not hit it when the black screen appears, it will not load correctly either.
In addition, when the game ends, I have to allow the credits to run all the way. If I hit a key to skip the credits, the game freezes, and it does not register that I have completed the game. When I played on Windows XP, none of these troubles existed. To be fair, the game was made in 2005 and likely was not designed to accommodate Vista, a relatively new operating system. Still, it should viewed as a negative point.
Though it has some problems, X-Men Legends 2 is an entertaining game for casual and hardcore followers of the X-Men or for people who like action games. I for one still play it from time to time and do not regret buying the game at all.