X-Men: (insert clever game title)

About two weeks ago we saw the unfortunate release of X-men Destiny. Activision's new attempt to make a relevant X-men game. And like nearly every attempt before it, it failed. (Some may consider the two games for ps2 a success but they weren't much more than a button mash-fest that fell flat after the first few chapters.) In a little more than a week the video game and comic book community will unite int he release of what is shaping up to not only be hands down the best licensed property game in existence, but one of the best games of this year (possibly multiple years). That game is Batman: Arkham City. I would go out and say that the snippets of video we are getting of Arkham City look collectively better than the entire game of X-men Destiny. Arkham Asylum broke out huge and set the bar to which any licensed property game would be judged. Frankly a bar that, so far, will only be matched or raised by it's own predecessor. The thing that makes these Batman games great is what makes any game in the same genre (action/adventure) great. It's not just a button mash, wave of easy bad guys after wave of easy bad guys til you get to the boss and win the game. In between the spectacular combat are challenging puzzles, stealth missions where you have to use strategy, side missions to better evolve the story and experience. Arkahm City is reported to take around 20hrs for just the main story itself, I believe that is excluding the side missions (which include villains like Riddler and Deadshot). Between the release of Arkham City on the horizon, the launch of the new 52, and the X-men event going on I have been loosely putting together plans for how the end all be all X-men Game could work.

My favorite game (franchise) of all time is Uncharted, followed by Legend of Zelda. Both games that really define action/adventure for their respective consoles. The place where they succeed is they don't try to do too much. I just watched a video for Uncharted 3, where Nate breaks into a village and has to disarm a couple of baddies before he can even fight the rest and it's paced well, the number of enemies isn't huge but presumably like the first two games the harder the difficulty the weaker you are and the stronger they are. That's one thing that EVERY X-men game has ever failed at. They just send in 10 or more guys at once then you move onto the next room, same thing and so on. I think in order for the action to really make an impact you have to sandwich it between moments where you aren't being shot at but trying to figure out a puzzle, or investigating something that still takes attention, but it allows your adrenaline to slow down some (basically the opposite of most FPS). So THAT is the basis, the absolute foundation that I start with. It is important to allow some one on one time with the player and the main character. Lets do more than just blast through the level's.

Now some of you may be thinking "What about X-men Origins: Wolverine the game?" and again that game was solid but it was basically God of War re-skinned with Wolverine Characters.. well more or less. And I do still prefer re-skinning a great game as opposed to making a completely bad game. I would really prefer if X-men could do something that feels like it's own creation. A game that feels like nothing else out there. That can't be said of Origins Wolverine, that said though, that is the only X-men game to really accomplish good storytelling and that is a huge key.

Story:

Like any comic property, X-men are RICH with backstory. I mean 50 years, a lot has been told with these people. I mean from Inferno, Phoenix, Dark Phoenix, Fatal Attractions and my personal favorite Age of Apocalypse and many more plus some awesome stand alone stories. That said, I am not fully confident that simply adapting one or more of these into a single game story would do justice to the story or the game. Arkham Asylum, amazing but it was more or less an original story that observed the history of Batman. There weren't any real changes to the characters themselves, it just didn't follow a direct story. You can't go into back issues or find a trade that this was inspired from. Same is said with Arkham City. Though they did write a comic inspired by the game, the game wasn't directly inspired from anything other than using these iconic characters in a new and fun way. I think for purposes of the game, that's the route to go with this X-men game. Create the story using everything we know of the characters thus far. Now I will be the first to admit I can't think of anything cooler than a full game in the universe of Age of Apocalypse because there the rules are a little different, there is even more freedom to make whacky ass decisions because it's not cannon and there's no one to say otherwise. Alternate realities are cool that way. But again I think especially for the first game we need to have an original plot with a clear beginning, middle and end to build around. Perhaps something like Magneto and his brotherhood have taken a major part of New York hostage, perhaps throw in some political figures since X-men is a very political property, and it is your job to stop him. Simple. The complexity arises when you ask yourself, how do you get into the situation without Magneto knowing, perhaps there are people you have to seek out to get further into the game, people with answers.I haven't really sat down to think of what the specific missions would be but I mean that's a great start really. Arkham Asylum, Joker and company took over Arkham, Batman goes through Arkahm finding clues and beating foes until he squares off. You fought Bane, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow and a couple hundred no-name inmates all while sneaking around and looking for Riddler Clues and such. X-Men, Magneto takes over a part of New York or particularly someone hostage, X-men track them down, look for clues, etc.

Game Play:

Now Batman is easier because he is a solo act. X-men have on a bad day 5 members (usually it's like a 100, lawlz). I would go with the classic lineup of Cyclops, Jean, Ice, Angel and Beast. For the main story I would obviously make Cyclops the main character with a few chances to play as Beast, Angel and Jean. I think one of the big speed bumps for X-men games is the fact that they are a team and game developers think that you have to be a 4 person team at all times. In a situation like this it's extremely plausible that the members are off doing their own assignments. So while they are working as a team they aren't all right there fighting the same people at the same time. In a way that really opens itself up for to have perhaps 3 or 4 different playthroughs as different characters which tell different parts of the story. THAT would be unique. I've even said that about future Arkham games and including Robin and Nightwing, to not include them in Bat's action but have their own part of the story to tell, instead of it all being behind the scenes. I don't think that is a stretch especially since Catwoman is playable in Arkham City story mode along with challenge room additions of Robin and Nightwing, each and everyone with their own feel, so it's not like re-skinning Batman four times. This is very similar to War For Cybertron. You could chose to play as an Autobot or a Decepticon and as the story for Decepticon ended the Autobot picked up right after. I think that is the key to getting the team dynamic to X-men down without over crowding the experience or the generic Marvel Alliance feel where you can interchange four characters at any given moment. I mean Marvel games and Activision can't really get these games down with ONE character should they really be trying to do multiple ones at the same time?

An alternative to the multiple story game is to simply tell it through Cyclops' point of view, allow interaction with the other characters the same way Oracle, Alfred and Jim Gordon do in Arkham Asylum (reserve options for post-Arkham City) That way you can have a pre-battle with each of the brotherhood mutants then for the finale the rest of your team joins you in a battle royale so you do get the moments of fighting side by side with other mutants but that doesn't overstay it's welcome. I personally like that idea a little better. I think the multiple playable character option is best reserved for a sequel as it get's expanded with the inevitable inclusion of Wolverine. But I really think it's a start. It's really something I want to add more thought to because I think if there is any potential for a successful X-men game it's in something like this. I think adopting the key parts of what makes the Arkham games great is fine because when you throw in the element of it being X-men will allow it to stand on it's own.

What do you guys and gals think? Would you be interested in playing an X-men game where you play through the story more or less on your own with periods of teaming up and then for the finale grouping up as a whole? Or is playing as a team the entire time essential to X-men? My response to that is why be a team if all four or five of us are all going to go do the same things any way, services are best rendered when you can let people do what they are best at, that still is a team and it's more realistic to how a team would function. But that's why I am putting this up I want input to know if anyone thinks there is something here.

I know I for one am tired of a game that wont let me play as one of the X-men members themselves. So I open it up to you, what do you think?

2 Comments
2 Comments
Posted by xerox_kitty

It's funny, jut the other day I was tweeting with CV's friend Ray Carsillo about this. He said some similar things about X-Men: Destiny which made me lament that there aren't any X-Men (or Marvel Universe in general) games on a par with Batman: Arkham Asylum/City. Like you, I was stumped on the idea of how do you turn a single play game into something with a team. I was thinking of choosing an X-Man/Woman and running around, and swapping characters where & when necessary... or allowing team play for multi-player/online action.

And obviously using the "Danger Room" as a training facility to learn each character's moves etc ;)

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Posted by djshok

I like the game quite a bit but, yeah like you said the biggest problem with it is you can't play as the X-Men... kinda of a big deal for an X-Men title. Other than that I still had fun with it and it was nice to see the X-Men in a next gen game. I thought the voice acting was very well done too. But goddamn this game is short, considering how long it takes to install this thing onto the PS3 I was expecting it to be a long game like Infamous, with a branching storyline and a good 40+ hours of gameplay... not something that can be completed in one sitting.

What I would really like to see is a Wolverine game that plays something like Batman Arkham Asylum with a well developed combat engine and intricate stealth system.