Special 6/13/06 Supplement

X-MEN bounds to Xbox 360
Andy Reviews The Latest Film-To-Game Adaptation!

Since many of you know the Aisle Seat nearly exclusively deals with home entertainment these days, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that I’m excited to add yet another film-related critique to these pages (after all I’ve covered film and TV in addition to music over the years): video games! 

Now, I’m not about to just cover any game out there (there’s not enough time in the world to do so, as much as I’d like!), but rather games that share a connection with the cinema: be it the involvement of creative talent from movies, or a film-to-game adaptation.

Video games have become more and more cinematic as the years have gone on…directors, screenwriters, and of course actors of all persuasions have participated to various degrees in the creation of gaming product, and it seems each year their involvement only increases. Even composers like Michael Giacchino have used the gaming industry as a launching pad to success in TV and, more recently, film itself.

That all bring us to the first Aisle Seat game review: X-MEN: THE OFFICIAL GAME (Activision for Xbox 360 and Gamecube).

Now, if you happen to have played even just a bit of video games over the years, you’re aware that games based on movies usually are…well, let’s just say disappointing. Often times those titles are assigned to software companies with the mandate that the game be released at an exact, specified date to cash in on the release of the film.

It’s not just a tie-in but a byproduct of marketing itself, and it’s nothing new: just go back to the days of the Atari 2600 with “Superman” and the Intellivison with “Tron”…gaming and movies have gone hand in hand.

Activision’s “X-Men” isn’t a disaster in any capacity, but it does show the limitations most movie-based games often have: using a story line intended to bridge the gap between “X-Men 2” and the recent “Last Stand,” the developers have you play various levels as Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler (who sadly doesn’t make more than a fleeting appearance in the new sequel), utilizing a mix of play styles for each character.

Wolverine’s stages are simple button-mashing, mindless brawlers, with you taking out wave after wave of routine bad guys.  Iceman’s utilize the character’s flying ability for basic, but breezy, levels that come as a nice change of pace when compared to the fighting aspects of the other characters. Finally there’s Nightcrawler, and the blue guy’s teleportation and gymnastic moves are the most satisfying of the three -- there’s a bit of the recent “Prince of Persia” games (highly rated by players and critics alike) in Nightcrawler’s movement, and while the game doesn’t have nearly the depth as those Ubisoft titles, these levels are by far the most enjoyable to play through.

Since we’re only entering the “next generation” (the Xbox 360 has been available since November and the Playstation 3 is due out at year’s end), it goes without saying that not all “next generation” games have embraced the potential of the medium. The Xbox 360 graphics of “X-Men: The Official Game” are crisp but only occasionally does the title display any true “wow factor” as I call it; textures and character models look crisper than the Gamecube version which I also sampled, yet it’s not the night-and-day difference that you might expect. Sound wise there’s plenty of surround effects on-hand and appropriately rousing orchestral music that captures the franchise. 

“X-Men” isn’t the worst movie-based game I’ve played and I’d have to say it ought to provide a few hours of fun for Marvel fans. The downside is the price: the Xbox 360 version retails at $60 and it’s certainly far too exorbitant a price for a game that one could finish over the course of a weekend. The Gamecube and PS2 versions are more reasonably tagged at $40, but even then I’d hesitate to recommend the title as a purchase. More over, this is the kind of fun but quickly forgotten title one would find satisfaction from as a rental…or in the bargain bin some 6-12 months from now.

Don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards, direct any emails to the link above and we'll catch you then. Cheers everyone!

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