X-Men: Next Dimension

X-Men: Next Dimension

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/14/2002 for PS2  

A couple of years back Capcom released an excellent fighting game called X-Men: Children of the Atom. By injecting the Marvel franchise with a heavy dosage of Street Fighter, they made a highly successful 2D fighting game that eventually spawned a sequel. Recently, Activision acquired the rights to make games based on some of Marvel’s most prominent franchises including the X-Men series and went on to release a 2D fighter titled X-Men Mutant Academy. While it received mixed reviews, it apparently sold well enough to spawn a sequel that went on to garner some more mixed results. Now the third entry steps up to the plate in the form of X-Men Next Dimension and not surprisingly, it too arrives with mixed results.

The character selection is huge as nearly every single character in the X-Men franchise is represented. Mainstays like Cyclops, Wolverine and Storm are here as well as less notable characters such as Forge and Phoenix. Instead of just throwing the gamer into a boring single player experience against the AI, Activision instead opted to go with a story mode that has a structure and purpose. It features some pre-rendered sequences to go along with some top-notch voice acting. It’s not exactly the best thing to ever happen to fighting games but it does give the single player experience a direction and a goal. Oddly enough the main focus is on a character named Forge as opposed to one of the core X-Men, oh well.

You’ve got the usual assortment of modes available at the start, Vs. Arcade and the aforementioned story mode. In this game, two combatants duke it out on X-Men themed battlefields. Battle takes place on 3 planes and the control is very much akin to Tekken. You’ll have two punches, two kicks as well as a counter and throw button as your disposal. There are Street Fighter-esque moves at your disposal such as projectile attacks that require you to input the fireball/quarter-circle motion. Control is pretty bad, however, as it often proves to be far too sluggish to keep up with the action. It’s often difficult to perform moves such as Cyclops’ eye-beam (which requires the fireball motion) because the timing of the game always seems to vary.

Same goes for general combat in the game, large combos can be performed with minimal effort. The game requires very little skill or precision when it comes to inputting commands. If there was ever a game that could fit the bill of the stereotypical button masher then it would have to be Activision’s X-Men Next Generation. Everything just seems to happen on an entirely random basis, combos occur just by pressing every single button at your disposal. To test this out I had my friend’s three year old nephew try his hand at the game and surprise, he was pulling out 5 and 6 hit combos simply by smashing all the buttons on the controller. Most of the combat in the game seems to fall into this trap.
To make matters worse, the moves seem to have little to no impact on your opponents. Everything (with the exception of the super moves) is entirely under-whelming and too often, yield some depressing results. Contact of the moves just seems horrid and blows just don’t seem to have enough weight to them. Most likely it’s just a result of rushed animations but the action often looks and feels like it has been lifted out of a cheap B-Movie.

The super moves are the compete antithesis of what has been stated above, they are far too powerful and at times, can deplete as much as half of your life bar. At times you may come to depend on them far too often than you should be in a fighting game. Their usage in combos is negated because it simply is counterproductive to the game. Why waste your time trying to perfect a combo when one move will take away half of your opponent’s energy?

There are some nice ideas introduced into the game such as the counter system and the super meter allocation system. Super moves are different in accordance with the level that you are at on your super meter with Level 4 being the highest. The bar fills whenever you land an attack on your opponent. You can select whether you want it to fill to level 1, 2, 3 or 4 simply by pressing a button in the midst of combat. The counter system is nice a nice way to mix things up in combat.

The levels are generally large and expanse, featuring multiple levels and a multitude of destructible objects. Each of them are varied and the next one will provide a unique experience than the previous one in terms of not only looks, but also feel. You can interact with them in various ways, sometimes you can hit your opponents throw them and some characters can actually use them as weapons. They are rendered quite well and are very faithful to the Marvel licensing.

Again, the audio department yields some mixed results. The video sequences are accompanied by some excellent voice acting that really fits the characters. Each of the characters will yell and scream in a voice that fits the bill. The character voices themselves are quite nice but the audio suffers when it comes to actual gameplay. The contact noises are quite weak and there isn’t even announcer to tell you when to begin the fight. It just says it on the screen and you’re thrust into the battle. The music is just standard forgettable fare.

There are some huge problems with the camera system. Because the levels often take place in confined areas, they’ll have walls and extreme ends to them that can block the view of the camera. Well if you end up bashing your opponent against a wall, the camera has this huge tendency to become caught in the environment, successfully blocking your view. This happens because the game wants to preserve the orientations of the characters, if your character is facing left the camera won’t take the initiative and change the perspective so that you’re facing to the right, even if that means you can’t see what’s going on.

Some of the game’s largest problems arise from issues with character balancing. Some characters are simply way too powerful while some are simply far too weak. An experienced Wolverine player will be able to dominate any other character with proper usage of his healing maneuver. Likewise, some players are far too weak and will have a hard time taking down their opponents in the 99-second time limit for each round. There isn’t enough variety in the combatant’s move sets either; characters feel too similar to one another. Most of the characters feel entirely too generic with the exception of their super moves.

X-Men does a few things right but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. There’s not enough here to warrant a purchase and there’s just enough to qualify it as a rental. It’s too repetitive and the entire game just feels rushed. Pick this one up only if you’re desperate for a fighting game and if you have kids, stay away from this one, your kids will love you for it.
It’s absolute mutant mayhem and while it’s decent enough, it’s not really as good as it could have been. Those desperate for some 3D fighting action might want to check it out but others should stray away from it.

Rating: 6.4 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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