When I initially had heard about this game, the concept sounded really good. An X-men game that gave you choices, allowing you to side with the X-men or the Brotherhood in battle, and also gave you the chance to upgrade your powers in an RPG fashion. But then the reviews started coming out and most of them were lukewarm to negative. So while I didn't rush out to buy this one at full price, when I saw it on sale I decided to approach it with an open mind and see what my own personal thoughts were on the game.
First off, the graphics look pretty good. While there was something a little odd about the way Cyclops looked when he talked, all the characters look like their comic counterparts and are animated well. There's also a good amount of detail in the backgrounds and not a huge difference between the actual game and the movie clips, which is always a plus. But of course this is a modern game so you really shouldn't see any less than that at this point.
I played through the game as Aimi, a Japanese girl whose parents put her on a boat to America without warning because apparently bad things were happening in Japan. Fortunately for her she speaks perfect English, and even says "Akuma" like an American would. No, seriously, at one point in the game Nightcrawler's Japanese pronunciations are more authentic than hers. Anyway, we're never told who her father is, but both Nightcrawler and Wolverine know him, and we see him walk away from the docks exploding into flames, so I'm not sure if he's supposed to be Sunfire or not. It certainly seems like a possibility. Once in America we witness a rally that is supposed to promote peace between humans and mutants after an attack by Bastian has resulted in the death of Professor Xavier. The rally is disrupted, seemingly by Magneto, and a large earthquake (which I think we're supposed to believe Avalanche might have caused, despite the fact that we never see him in game) rips up San Francisco. From there on you're fighting through the ruins, running into both X-men and Brotherhood characters who urge you to pick a side while you fight off the Purifiers (humans who hate mutants) and U-men (humans who extract mutant powers and apply them or sell them to others).
You have a choice of what your main power will be as you start the game. I chose an obsidian rock based power which allowed me to both hit harder and at later points in the game increase my defense. This is almost entirely a beat em up game, where you're mashing the weak attack and occasionally using the strong attack to knock down enemies again and again and again. Of course this really isn't all that different from what happened in the fantastic X-men Legends games, and really what I expect from the action RPG genre. As you progress through the game you gain more powerful attacks, the best of which is the Obsidian Titan, where you basically turn into this huge rock creature and pound enemies to death while not taking any damage. Once you finish the game you can start again and keep all your powers as well as suits you've collected, and my second run through was largely me turning into this creature over and over again, and I have to admit it never stopped being satisfying. The only limitation of the power is that you move pretty slow and you have a time limit to using it.
The suits you collect are both costumes that make you match the styles of various X-men and Brotherhood members, as well as items called "X-genes" which give you bonuses, usually to increase your mutant power meter or help you dodge attacks. They're basically like the items you equipped in the X-men Legends series but specific to a certain mutant. I was able to collect all 4 of Northstar's items, and once you equip all 4 you can activate X-mode in battle. It's a very powerful form of attack, but like the titan mentioned above does have a time limit. My one frustration is that while I searched pretty thoroughly on both of my playthroughs, I was unable to complete any of the other sets. And in one case I should have had Gambit's but I died on a challenge and the item disappeared from my inventory and was no longer in the space I had picked it up before. Very annoying.
Storywise, I felt that nearly all the character portrayals felt authentic, with the one exception being Colossus. Unless he's gotten really angry in more recent issues of the comics and I'm just not up to speed. I'm used to a more easygoing portrayal of him anyway. Aimi's story is fairly thin, but I think it works - she's initially upset about her father essentially dumping her off, but she finds her purpose in the end. In terms of the overarching story, it's okay and it makes sense. I was a little disappointed personally. They mentioned mind control and someone who was trying to start a war between mutants, and I was really hoping for some Mr. Sinister/Apocalypse involvement but I guess that's just the 90s X-men fan in me. This is definitely a more modern story and I can understand why they would choose that instead.
The boss battles do a decent job of mixing it up a little, forcing you to think strategy rather than just pounding on enemies. However they also feel borrowed from other games. The first one you fight is a mech, making me think of the Metal Gear Solid series. The second is a U-man who keeps feeding himself a serum highly reminiscent of Joker and his goons in Arkham Aslyum. You get the idea. I also found that switching from "New Mutant" (easy) difficulty to "X-man" (normal) on my second go through made the boss battles much harder even with my upgraded powers. But I am not very good at video games so take from that what you will.
Speaking of me being not very good, there are some platforming elements in the game, mostly related to you hanging on to ledges and jumping from place to place to climb structures. I had very little trouble with these sections at all, and I'm usually absolutely terrible at 3D platforming. Of course the fact that all useable structures are flashing the whole time takes out most of the challenge...
I would guess that a lot of modern players would find this game too easy, and nearly all of us will find it too short. If I can defeat a game twice in two weeks, then there isn't a whole lot to it. There's also barely any difference at all whether you choose the X-men or Brotherhood. Both will offer you challenges that will lean you one way or the other, but all that really means is that when you keep picking Brotherhood factions the X-men will beg you to reconsider, then ask you for help anyway. The perfect example of this is that about 3/4 of the way through the game, Northstar walked up to me and asked "Brotherhood? Well, I guess it doesn't really matter since we're facing a common enemy." When you do pick your side, the only thing that changes is who is fighting beside you at certain points of the game, and the ending. And the ending isn't much more than "Welcome to the X-men/Brotherhood." I also felt pretty dirty choosing the Brotherhood side. There wasn't much to support their case but nothing they do is all that evil either. I mean, sure, they want to take out the Purifiers, but the X-men fight them too, so...
I'll admit I'm curious to play the game as the other two guys just to see more about their stories. Grant seems to be the neutral character, or at least his origin has nothing to do with mutants and is about the fact that he wants to be a football player. Adrian, on the other hand is the son of a Purifier, so I would think that would have potential to be a little more interesting. I'm also curious to try to play with the other powers. I'm not expecting too much difference though. I noticed in a lot of places people were addressing me in gender neutral terms, clearly as a way to avoid having to change dialogue depending on what character you picked.
Overall, if you enjoy action RPGs or are an X-men fan, I do think this is worth picking up on the cheap. While it's disappointing that some characters just aren't here (Storm and Rogue are two I definitely missed) I do think this is a decent X-men tale and not a horrible way to spend 5-8 hours of your time. There's a whole middle section dedicated to Gambit, and his accent doesn't suck! That makes it worth it right there. The main problem with making this game so similar to X-men Legends is you remember just how much more rich that game was in terms of content and wonder why they couldn't have put the same effort into this one.