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Fanboy Rant: X-Men Games Need A Reboot


X-Men: Destiny has been released to little fanfare, and early word is that the game is terrible. Given the short development time, the lukewarm press reaction to early builds of the game and the troubled Silicon Knights studio behind the game the game's apparent failure to launch is hardly a surprise. It's very disappointing to see such a rich and dynamic franchise not get its due. But even if the game wasn't rushed out of development and played decently, I truly think it'd still be missing the point. I've been reading X-Men for years, and I don't think it's a secret that the mutant struggle can be seen as a metaphor for any minority struggling to find a place in the world. I recently read X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, a graphic novel about religious fundamentalists targeting the X-Men (The film X2 was based on this story) and I realized that the X-Men are NOT about the X-Men fighting the Brotherhood of Mutants. They're about a group of outsiders trying to find their place in a world that doesn't want, or understand them. An X-Men game that explored these themes could be brilliant.

Hit the jump for more.

Mutie.jpegThe plot of X-Men: Destiny is not in touch with the current tale the comic book is telling. Currently, Cyclops and Wolverine, two of the team leaders, are fighting over whether or not the mutant community should establish themselves as a militant, separate group from the rest of society or attempt to live in peace as normal human beings. These two notions have divided the mutants in half; Wolverine hates that Cyclops is turning young mutant kids into soldiers, while Cyclops thinks Wolverine is naive and that the mutants are fighting a war against the world for survival. There are no longer millions of mutants (a convoluted chain of events resulted in most mutants losing their powers); as a result, even longtime villain Magneto has joined Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men in their 'fight' for survival. The X-Men vs. the Brotherhood saga is long over. Like the LGBT community, the X-Men have a vision of being accepted, but not everyone agrees on how to gain that acceptance. There are LGBT people that want to live their lives as "normal" people whose sexual orientation and identity is just one aspect of their lives, and there are LGBT people that believe that being "queer" is a completely different lifestyle than that of the heteronormative world. Neither of these perspectives is wrong, but the conflict that can arise from the differing beliefs can make for fascinating storytelling - and in this case, for fascinating gaming.

X-Men: Destiny allows the player to choose between three new characters with different backstories who can then choose to be on the "good" X-Men side or the "bad" Brotherhood side. Imagine instead an X-Men game with two possible playable characters with predetermined scenarios and paths: one whose adventure begins on Utopia (Cyclops's mutant state) and one whose adventure begins in Westchester (where Wolverine just relocated in the new series Wolverine and the X-Men). If the player chooses to start the game on Utopia, the player is tasked with missions ordered by leader Cyclops that involve fighting anti-mutant sentiment with brute force, using the player character's mutant gene to fight with immense power. If the player chooses to start the game in Westchester, the player goes about the game differently, utilizing their mutant gene powers in more varied ways that may not be as strong but are more balanced and controlled.

Our hypothetical game could have the same villain in both scenarios. The mutants have always had common enemies; even X-Men: Destiny knows this, with the anti-mutant terrorist Purifiers being a typical enemy. But how the enemy is dealt with could vary wildly based on which character the player chose at the beginning of the game. If the player chose the Cyclops faction, the character may be a little more feared by NPCs and use intimidation tactics to achieve his or her goal. If the player chose the Wolverine faction, the lack of militant action and attitude could make the character be looked at as more of a hero to NPCs. The game's two scenarios would allow for a more engrossing storyline that actually invokes the same themes as the comics.

Like the best comic book games (think Batman: Arkham Asylum), this imaginary game would succeed because it drew from the source material. It's a novel concept, no? Well, I can keep dreaming. Right now, comic book games are where comic book movies were in the '90s, which is to say, bad. The X-Men films were some of the first comic book films to incorporate deeper themes and meaning into their narrative; there's no reason a game can't do the same.

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