Full Review: Greater than the sum of its parts.
Once known only to the "geeks" and "nerds" that read comic books, the X-Men have become household names. With two wildly successful Hollywood films and a few iterations of Saturday morning animated goodness it is easy to see why that transition took place. The obvious next step in their media conquest is video games. Now, X-Men Legends from Activision is not the first X-Men video game. However, Legends is the first game to successfully capture some of the feel of the comic books.
In X-Men Legends, you get the opportunity to play as almost all of your favorite mutants. Wolverine to Cyclops. Gambit to Colossus. When all is said and done, 20 members of the comic book cast are available for you combat evil with. In Legends, Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants are on a worldwide rampage, collecting various technology tidbits and the occasional mutant to further their cause. In a step seemingly taken from the first X-Men movie, the brotherhood start out the story by attempting to abduct Alison Crestmere, Magma from the comic books. As Wolverine, you tear through legions of soldiers and thugs on your way to rescuing the dear damsel in distress. Later, you add Cyclops to your team and take on the enemy in Tandem and, after rescuing Alison, you lead a team of four super-powered freaks.
From the onset, X-Men Legends ups the ante for action-rpg games. While combat is easily accessible to even the greenest of game players, it also has a depth to it that will satisfy the most hardened vidiot. This depth is derived from the combination of three separate things: 1.) A wide variety of unique characters available for you to control; 2.) Each X-Man that you can control has their own set of mutant powers for you to power up and rain down upon your enemies; and 3.) A melee combat system that you must exploit in order to succeed in later levels of the game. At the heart of the gameplay is a control system that is, generally speaking, intuitive to pick up and play with. However, the GameCube version of this title does suffer minutely from the lack of buttons on the GC controller. Specifically, turning the map function of the game on and off must be handled from the menu screen, not from the controller during play.
As I mentioned, once the game gets underway, most of your actual missions allow you to control a team of four mutants. Using the d-pad you can switch between your characters at will to either maximize the damage you can inflict, fly to areas unreachable by the rest of your team, or to simply mix things up a bit. X-Men Legends makes this whole team-based system immensely rewarding through a combination of powering up your mutants and combining their talents to super-destructive results. Let me give you an example... Storm uses her whirlwind attack to lift a measly little grunt high into the air, making him twirl and twirl and twirl. Then Cyclops comes along and blasts the twirling stooge with his optic blast, almost doubling the damage that the two attacks would have accomplished on their own.
If you find that combos aren't your style, X-Men Legends lets you throw your enemy. I have spent a solid extra two hours playing this game then the objectives called for simply because I like throwing enemies into each other. Sure, the damage isn't as vicious as in the power combos, but you will find yourself laughing with glee every time it happens. You can also throw enemies at your teammates for yet another combo variation or throw them into benches, tables, and chairs, off cliffs, through windows, and even the occasional wall. The best part is that this is all in the interest of saving the world.
Perhaps the most welcome addition to the X-Men Legends formula is four-player cooperative play. Grab one, two, or three friends and each of you can control a member of your mutant strike force. Amidst the chaos that this creates, you can still switch back and forth between free characters at will, maximizing your collective impact.
Of course, no game with such a rich background could possibly exist without some form of collectible or unlockable extra "stuff." X-Men Legends doesn't disappoint here either as there is a plethora of flashback missions (complete with retro uniforms), comic book covers (that increase character stats in addition to being a neat collectible), and conceptual sketches to gather.
Unfortunately, X-Men Legends does have a few significant flaws, the most bothersome of which is the clumsy camera system. There are worse camera systems out there but this one has a tendency to get stuck on the environment when riding elevators or going through tight corridors in the forest. Another frustrating quirk is the occasionally atrocious pathfinding that the AI uses. I mean really, these mutants are out saving the world. The least they should be able to do is walk across an ice bridge without falling to their death. Luckily, X-Men Legends has so much to offer that these flaws, even as irritating as they can be, are easily overlooked.