We're a little worried about X-Men: Destiny. Not because it's being developed by Silicon Knights, the developer behind disappointing 360 exclusive Too Human, but because it's scheduled for release in just a few days time and both its developer and publisher have been uncharacteristically quiet. It's very unnerving.
But being die-hard Marvel fans we can't help but remain optimistic. The idea of an X-Men action RPG where you're able to interact with the universe's colourful cast of characters while etching out the legend of your own hero is far too enticing.
X-Men: Destiny takes place far in the future, at a time when fear of mutants has reached its peak and tensions between the two sides are at an all time high. Professor X, the spiritual leader and moral compass of the X-Men is dead, and without the voice of reason representing the mutant populous relations between the two species have become extremely strained.
Our hands-on demo starts off during a peace rally where humans and mutants are being urged to put their difference aside and unite. We're asked to pick a character and given a choice of three individuals in the crowd.
The first is Grant Alexander, a run-of-the-mill jock with dreams of being a pro football player. The second is Adrian Luca, the unfortunate son of the lead of The Purifiers, an anti-mutant group.
Lastly is Aimi Yoshida, a young Japanese girl who is spared a future of being imprisoned at a mutant confinement camp and smuggled into San Francisco. We opt for with Aimee, purely because there's already enough butch males in the Marvel universe.
Things quickly take a turn for the worst when a large metal monument on stage is surrounded in bright purple energy and yanked into the unsuspecting crowd. This sets off a series of explosions and all hell breaks loose. The crowd burts into a frenzy as fires rage and the streets slowly crumble around them. It doesn't take a genius to figure out which mutant dissident is behind that unfortunate event.
At this point the game jumps into its character development suite and asks us to select from a list of base abilities. On offer is energy manipulation, shadow abilities and brute strength. Since this selection dictates Aimee's skill progression for the rest of the game we spend a few moments picturing which of the X-Men is most bad ass. Turns out it's Nightcrawler, so shadow powers it is...
The crux of the upgrading system is based around acquiring and developing X-Genes. This is the strand of mutant DNA that gives all the heroes in the X-Men universe their powers. These genes can be earned from characters or found hidden around different environments.
Additional X-Genes can be equipped to augment your chosen character's standard set of powers, allowing the player to mix the powers of other heroes and create an all powerful hybrid. For example it's possible to take Nightcrawler's powers and mix in Quicksilver's super-speed and Wolverine's healing factor.
Aimee's powers fully manifest just as a nearby civilian finds himself knocking at deaths door, she springs into action, disappearing in a wisp of thick black shadow and grabs hold of the helpless civilian before he can fall to his untimely doom. He isn't exactly overflowing with gratitude, in fact he's revolted and takes off without so much as a word of thanks.
Our heroics draw some attention and we find ourselves surrounded by a gang of enemies. They seem intent on throwing down and we're more than happy to oblige. In this demo the 'action' part of the action RPG equation seems disappointingly basic and doesn't stray too far from the uncomplicated God of War type blueprint.