Review / Test:
If you read Samurai Nintendo (bet you don't...), you might remember we disliked Activison's Spider-Man much. Whether we are masochist or not, who knows, but we decided to give a try to X-Men: Next Dimension, produced once again by Activision. The funny part is that here too we didn't see the movie and don't care so much about it. (Hey, why am I writing "we" when I'm just talking about me ?)
Unlike Spider-Man, Next Dimension is not adapted from the movie and is a one-to-one fighting game. It's a kind of tradition to put some Marvel characters together for a big brawl, Capcom did it succesfully and then Activision pursued. The latest result of this popular but discreet idea is today before us and, we can honestly say: it's really not worth it. If the large number of modes is quite appealing, the first thing you'll notice at once is how bad the graphics are. No matter you watch the stupid videos or play the actual game, the graphic style is poor and ugly. It's far from the really nice 2D visual from Capcom's Marvel fighters.
The characters in the videos are so badly done that you hardly feel like playing. Yeah, the videos are a total waste, it's ugly, boring, ugly, boring, can't think of any other adjectives. Fortunately, when playing, it doesn't feel so bad. The girls got strange mutations though, they all have big ass and huge breasts, the game designers really needed to unleash their perversion. The main (and only ?) reason for buying X-Men: Next Dimension would be for the characters, the game has an impressive cast of mutants: 24, including Wolverine, Magneto, Nightcrawler, Juggernaut, Tornado, and a few to unlock. They also have different suits... err, yeah, great for Barbie dolls addicted. Nah, come on, it'll make the fans happy. Seriously. It will. I guess. Once you made up your mind and decided it's more fun to kick each other's ass than dressing it, you can go for a fight with all these funny people with blue skins and weid abilities.
Everyone has multiple attacks, so far so good, but most of them are not very impressive, oops. Disappointing, indeed, you would expect better from a X-Men game. Some attacks are cool but not many; once you saw them a couple of times, that's enough: they lack of visual impact. The GameCube power, with particles for instance, is not used, neither here nor anywhere else in the game. I also noticed some big bugs with Phoenix's and Nightcrawler's attacks. In the case of Nightcrawler, the whole background disappear, leaving the characters surrounded with darkness, how clumsy ! The graphic style, as said before, is ugly and it's plain obvious when looking at the characters. They have some weird face, very synthetic, very robot-like, like some 3D faces from the 90's. At least they move better than they look, though here too it's repetitive and makes it quickly tiring.
The control is definitely a problem. Fighting game... control trouble... could it be because of the GameCube controler ? Well, no, it's the fault of the makers. They had the strangest idea: to move sideways in the 3D environnements, you have to use the control stick, but it is not possible to jump; the jump is only possible when pressing up on the cross pad, however, in that case, it is not possible to move sideways ! What kind of morons programmed and tested this game ? Really wonder. So, you have to make a choice, jumping and using the cross, or moving sideways and using the stick, unless you take the risk to shift between the two during the match. Next Dimension is a thumb killer, as you will most likely privilege the cross pad. The game is fast-paced, too much to elaborate techniques, so you just rub your finger on the cross pressing buttons as the same time. It works pretty well this way, although the computer's most irritating and used technique is to block and to counter attack so you spend most of your time attacking for nothing.
It's a difficult game, even in easy mode you feel the pain. The computer is too efficient, enemies for instance can easily block your super attacks, you feel powerless in comparison as it is hard to strike efficiently. There are many modes but nothing really thrilling: a classic arcade mode, a story mode, versus, practise, survival, time attack and team. If the game was more interesting, it could be more interesting too. As we highlighted before, Next Dimension has many bugs: you will sometimes fail to see the action, because of an obstacle in front of the camera which hides the scene; in pratise mode, the second controller rumbles even though you can't use it, and there are regular problems with the characters facing in the wrong direction. Even the simplistic credit titles (white letters on black background) do not scroll well at all ! What a shame.
Maybe it's time to think of a few qualities, huh. There are some. I can think of two at least, the music and the levels. The levels are quite low in polygons like the characters, but there's a nice diversity of locations, some interesting interaction (destruction mostly) and they have multiple floors to visit, generally by smashing a door or throwing your opponent down below. The levels are well chosen I think like this Egyptian-style room, a subterranean cathedral revealed after a crashing subway car, the training room of the mutants becoming a colisseum and a war field, some devastated streets, etc. The music, or rather the soundtrack is fine, maybe a bit too pompous. Well, actually, only two tracks seem worth listening, from Xavier's villa and from the treasure room. Fine ones indeed, but should we really praise Activision for them ? When you check the credits, it's simply written: "soundtrack: PCB Productions". Hmm, that sounds like the work was delegated to some other guys, that could explain the difference with the sound effects. They are not so good, the voices especially are bad, although some are from the actors of the movies. Xavier's speech is really boring for instance. Who cares about having an ugly picture of an X-Men and some tedious comment when finishing the game ? Voices don't fit well in the action, some sentences are said during some attacks which seem to come from anywhere but the characters, the lip-synch also is failed, and the same things are said over and over until you get totally sick of hearing them.
That's all the problem with X-Men: Next Dimension, when you can finally think of a quality like music, you end up talking about a drawback like the sound effects. The game will entertain X-fans for some time, it might be more difficult to convince the others. I always liked the old X-Men comics, I'm not what you can call a fan, but from my view, this game is a failure to recreate the universe of these characters, except for a thing or two like some levels and powers. Character models are ugly and some have really disappointing attacks like Juggernaut and the Beast, the game is too difficult and too demanding, the control sucks, the voices are lame. Despite three companies working on it (!), it's really not a nice X-Men game, but if what you want is quantity over quality, it might make you happy enough to select from 24 mutants and several levels. In these times of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Soul Calibur 2, X-Men: Next Dimension should be the last of your priorities though.
Samurai Nintendo thinks this game is not suitable for children