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ups: Nice action-RPG gameplay; strong X-Men story; home console quality version in portable format; online multiplayer.
downs: A little stuttery when reading UMD; gameplay not really designed for handheld.

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X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse
game: X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse
four star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Activision
developer: Vicarious Visions
date posted: 09:20 AM Fri Nov 11th, 2005
last revision: 01:30 AM Fri Nov 11th, 2005

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Click to read.X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse has been getting great reviews on PlayStation 2 and Xbox. It offers the same kind of fast-paced action-RPG experience as the first X-Men Legends title, and it\'s the perfect fix for any fan of games like Baldur\'s Gate: Dark Alliance. So how does X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse for the handheld PSP system compare? Well, it offers the same gameplay, on the same levels, with the same great theatrical audio, the same cool extra unlockables, and the same robust online multiplayer modes. In short, the PSP version of Apocalypse is just as good as any other version, so if you\'re in the market for a decent game for our PSP (and who isn\'t?), then you should definitely give this one a spin.

X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse covers the story revealed in the popular comic series, and is the sequel to last year\'s X-Men Legends. If you have played Legends, then you know what to expect from Apocalypse, and most likely you will not be disappointed. Legends was one of the big games of 2004, crossing genres between comic fans looking for a quality comics-based game and RPG fans looking for an action-RPG fix. Both of the Legends titles deliver on these counts, making the Legends franchise a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry.

The story of Apocalypse centers on a new evil force that threatens Earth, the big-time baddie and titular, Apocalypse. The appearance of this new threat forces the X-Men to work with The Brotherhood, their long-time rivals led by Magneto. The uneasy alliance makes for some interesting exchanges and tension, which is what made this movement of the comic series so popular. In the game, the alliance means so many more playable characters, which is good news for gamers putting together their dream team of X-Men and mutant supervillains.

As a player, you control four characters at a time in a party. You can switch on the fly between the four characters to take direct control and use special powers or techniques. The level of complexity this time out has been ratcheted up. There are many more special powers and more options for upgrading. RPG fanatics who love to micromanage their characters will love twiddling with their characters\' stats, but for those of us who want more smash, less think Apocalypse features a very nice auto-distribute mode which will make decisions about equipment and abilities upgrades for you. This flexibility in gameplay serves to extend the appeal of the game to a much broader audience, satisfying the beat-em-up fans as well as the RPG fans.

Gameplay is mostly linear, focusing on tracking down Apocalypse and defeating him. The cutscenes that come regularly look gorgeous on the PSP\'s powerful screen, and the game includes a lot of spoken dialog. The voice acting is excellent and is set off by a wonderful musical score that really enhances the action. By all accounts, even on the little PSP, Apocalypse feels like a triple-A quality title with very high production values.

In addition to the missions, you can train up your characters in the Danger Room, which provides lessons, tutorials and challenges to help advance your skills. Completing Danger Room challenges rewards you with money, items, or both, and is a good way to level up characters if a portion of the game proves too difficult. Throughout the game you\'ll collect a variety of objects that unlock bonus media and elements. Comic book covers, fancy artwork, and concept art are all unlocked in this manner, and provide some real attractors for fans of the X-Men comic books. They also provide more reasons to replay the game for the obsessive gamer who must collect every last item.

Although Apocalypse is mostly a stellar achievement, there are a couple of minor hangups on the PSP. The most noticeable is how he game stutters when it reads from the UMD. Usually that doesn\'t cause a problem in gameplay, but if one is commuting and putting the PSP into sleep mode often, it is a bit annoying to have to wait for the UMD to read before resuming play. Most PSP games jump right into the action after sleeping with no stutter.

The biggest drawback is inherent in the game design. In remaining true to the console version, the game retains the spaced out save points which sometimes do not come soon enough. Although the game can be paused for a long time by putting the PSP into sleep mode, it is frustrating to be able to save so little. A minor change to the save system could have optimized the experience for portable playing. This same factor comes into play with general level and mission design: Playing a multi-part mission can be a bit confusing when you have to put the game down for an hour or two between play sessions.

But the PSP does have some beneficial effects on the game, too. The graphics, which are often criticized in reviews of the console versions of Apocalypse (and Legends for that matter), are much better looking on the PSP\'s screen. Shrinking things down makes them pretty, that\'s for sure. The game does look and sound wonderful.

Of course, the inclusion of robust multiplayer facilitated by GameSpy matchmaking technology is just the kind of thing to push Apocalypse over the edge. Internet multiplayer works well, and Apocalypse is just the kind of game to play with three of your closest friends. One downside of Apocalypse online is how everyone\'s game is paused whenever a character levels up, which causes some hiccups in the flow of online play. And the lack of a voice chat is unfortunate, but not unusual. Voice chat for handheld online gaming is certainly in the future, and it will greatly enhance the online experience.

If you\'re even considering a purchase here, then go forward with no hesitation. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse is an excellent action-RPG with plenty of appeal for either RPG or X-Men fans. This is a great big game fit into a tiny little package, and is just the thing to get me to blow the dust off my PSP.

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