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Game Review

High-flying super guys and gals have long been a part of our collective imagination. But it seems that we're now in a superhero-saturated age like no other. From reborn comic book titles to movies, games and TV shows, we're constantly being challenged to wonder what ordinary life might be like if we had extraordinary powers. And it's that tantalizing super-duper what if that Activision's new action/beat-'em-up video game hopes to capture.

As with other X-Men tales, the world of X-Men: Destiny has been in turmoil ever since a small group of humans began developing genetically mutated superabilities. Anti-mutant sentiments are running high amidst the non-evolved majority, and it feels like the world could be on the brink of a human-vs.-mutant showdown. Which is something roving gangs of human Purifiers and Magneto's angry Brotherhood of Mutants would actually love to see happen.

In the face of all this tumult, the upright X-Men are trying to hold off the conflict and find some common ground for an orderly coexistence. But it's not looking good. During a peace rally in a San Francisco park, an unknown force starts ripping up the ground and smashing things, and the chaos soon spills into the city.

It's high time for a new mutant to join the struggle. A mutant like … you. The game lets you get a taste of what it might be like to suddenly realize you have superpowers as you slide into the average shoes of one of three normal-looking bystanders: Aimi, a young Japanese daughter of mutant parents; Adrian, the son of a martyred Purifier; or Grant, a college freshman who wants to be a pro football star.

In the midst of life-threatening danger, your hero suddenly gains some bad-guy-clobbering oomph. But unlike most mutants, you get to choose your special ability. The possible powerups include a density-control force that cocoons your fists in a heavy rock-like material, a shadow ability that lets you phase in and out of time and space while swinging a dark energy blade, and an energy-projection power that gives your attacks and defenses a bit of free range.

From there you walk down the game's relatively thin storyline of finding out who's to blame for all the earthshaking trouble. You can decide to fulfill quests for either the X-Men or the Brotherhood and thereby affiliate with one group or the other. And as you gather up special suits and glowing bits called X-Genes, you can adopt a few abilities from other mutants—such as Wolverine's health regeneration or Colossus' superstrength.

In the midst of all the powered-up battling and bashing there's really no bloodletting of any kind. Even when Wolverine slashes at adversaries with exposed metal claws, there are no visible wounds or gore. There is a lot of pounding and pummeling, however. And there are a few cutscenes that give the thumping violence a closer camera angle. But for the most part, fallen foes simply drop to the ground and fade away.

Also: A genetically deformed rampager jams a drug-filled object into his arm and chest. We hear a handful of uses of the words "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "a‑‑." And a couple of spandex-clad female characters sport bare midriffs and/or low-cut tops.

But in spite of that fairly limited amount of messy content and the heightened expectations that come along with all of those mutant give-and-takes and superpowered choices, X-Men: Destiny doesn't quite live up to its heroic promise. Instead of swooping in with creative gameplay and challenging interactions, the action ultimately boils down to you simply bashing away at wave after wave after wave of enemies who charge at you from all directions over and over again.

The idea of flexing heroic supermuscles may sound cool, but in this case it's little more than seven to eight hours of repetitive and sometimes tedious button-mashing. Which, frankly, is a less than super way to spend your day.

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Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS




September 27, 2011

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Bob Hoose

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