GAME REVIEW: X-Men: The Official Game

An unavoidable annoyance today: the obligatory movie tie-in game. It's my worst nightmare, because no matter how much love I may have for the movie, the game almost always sucks.

Which brings me to X-Men: The Official Game (Activision; Xbox 360; also GameCube, PS2, Xbox; Game ••, Graphics/Sound ••½). It's a prequel to X-Men: The Last Stand (and I certainly don't have that much love for that movie). The comic-book series' legendary scribe, Chris Claremont, provides the story here, but the plot is disjointed, and it's dosed with cheesy dialogue by X2 and Last Stand screenwriter Zak Penn. Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, and Patrick Stewart snore out some so-so voice-acting performances. And of course, there are some playable mutants - but only three, as opposed to the 16 of last year's excellent X-Men Legends II. What do the three do? Iceman blasts frozen projectiles into the air and surfs on a twisting, turning bridge. Nightcrawler teleports behind his enemies for some "surprise" moments that dull fast. And Wolverine, who gets the most play, stabs everyone furiously ... a lot.

Beyond being repetitive, the game is also bleh visually. High-def, sure, but in the quick-and-easy way: added sheen to everything, overtextured textures, and almost-but-not-quite-photorealistic renderings of our fair actors. The sound, meanwhile, can be impressive when you hear a gigantic Sentinel stomping in your rears. If only such a thrill weren't so rare.

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