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The astonishing lack of X-Men

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WELCOME TO DIE X-MEN

Okay, so just so you know, I’m an X-Men fan. I like the characters, love how nicely they tie into American culture and society (with focusing on the ostracizing of the way people were born, you can almost literally apply their plight to every major social movement in US history), and for the most part, like how well they translate into different mediums. X-Men is both an entertaining property, and one that addresses both the good and bad parts of human nature. Plus, a dude uncontrollably shoots lasers from his eyes, which fucking rules.

Hey Singer, notice all the color in this image?

That being said, I didn’t read much of the comics growing up; so most of what I know stems from X-Men: The Animated Series and video games. I could go on for ages about the cartoon and how super awesome that theme song is (rivaled only by the Spider-Man cartoon from the same era), but instead I’m going to focus on video games and how they’ve employed Xavier’s gifted youngsters, and ways to do so in the future. We’ll start by taking a trip down memory lane; I’m going to list out the X-Men console games from the year 2000 to now and give a brief review of each. For brevity’s sake, I’m only including games focusing mostly on the X-Men themselves, rather than any Marvel super team-up games (we can do those later, if you’d like). So, let us begin!

X-Men: Mutant Academy (2000)—Imagine X-Men vs. Street Fighter, minus all the fun.

X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (2001)—The “Oops!… I Did It Again” of the X-Men video game franchise.

X-Men: Next Dimension (2002)—Why do the regular members of the X-Men need to fight in boot camp for a third time? And who on Earth invited Forge?

X2: Wolverine’s Revenge (2004)—Kind of like a wet fart, but less fun to play with.

X-Men Legends (2004)—FUCK YEAH!

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (2005)—DOUBLE FUCK YEAH!!

X-Men: The Official Game (2006)—Brett Ratner is wanted in 12 different states. If you see him, you are under legal obligation to subdue him in a citizen’s arrest..

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)—QUINTUPLE FUCK YES!!!! This is how you make a Wolverine game.

X-Men: Destiny (2011)—I actually forgot to add this one initially, but after remembering it and reading up on it again, it seems that forgetting about it was my brain’s way of protecting me from trauma.

When drafting this article in my head, I thought there’d be way more entries to use—but this is it. There have been two-hundred and seventeen Call of Duty games since 2000, and only nine X-Men games since 2000. That is…something. As it stands, however, I’d really only ever go back and play three of the nine games released in that window. Legends is fantastic, and sets a great precursor to Marvel Ultimate Alliance; Legends 2 makes everything bigger and better from the first (and adds in more than just X-Men characters, but doesn’t descend into a full-fledged Marvel Universe game); and Origins is essentially the perfect Wolverine game due to the awesome procedural damage and hyper-violence (plus, it’s just plain fun). As much as I’m against games getting constant sequels and being ran into the ground, it strikes me as odd that so little effort has been put into making games based on the uncanny mutants. And you know what? I’m tired of it. I’m tired of great opportunities going to waste because Activision wants to shit out a new Tony Hawk or Skylanders game every week (does Activision even have the rights to X-Men anymore?). I’m tired of some of my favorite characters sitting on the sidelines while lesser machinations get theirs.

Let’s make it right, gang.

I’ve been thinking on how to do just that. Below is a small list I’ve generated on ideas on where to take the X-Men into gaming. It’s not breaking any new ground or anything, but gosh darn it, it’s a start! And game studios, if you’re reading this, feel free to steal my ideas. Just give me a spoken-line cameo and a brief thanks in the credits. And maybe a paycheck.

A VR Game Starring Cyclops

Actual image of me writing this article.

C’mon, everyone, this one’s easy. You’re already wearing that ridiculous shit on your face, you might as well roll with it! I’m imagining a first-person game where Cyclops leads a group of new recruits through some trials in the Danger Room. As the leader of the pack, you watch as the new mutants battle their way through the simulated dangers presented to them, free to move about and inspect their technique. But then—oh shit, MODOK hacked the Danger Room! Or something! Who cares! Shit goes awry and you’re stuck with a group of inexperienced mutants as the dangers of the simulation come to life, and it’s up to you, as Cyclops, to figure out how to stop it. I envision a VR experience where you have a reddish haze over the whole world to simulate what it must be like for Cyclops looking through his visor. You can run around and throw punches, but of course, your optical blast is your main means of offense. How do you trigger it? You move your hand out of the field of vision toward your temple, just like ol’ Scotty, himself, would! You can blast anything in any direction, but can wear Cyclops out my over-using the optical blast. As an added bonus, there will be a scripted event where your character’s visor gets knocked off, and you must rely on the help of the other mutants as keeping your eyes open without it would result in chaos. Audio and haptic feedback would really go a long way during this sequence. In addition, there are moments where you must save the young mutants with your skill and precision with your abilities. For that little extra oomph the young mutants can actually die in the game if you don’t help them make it through (think something like Dead Rising where you have to save as many as possible for a better ending). Wolverine got his own definitive game tailored to his abilities—let’s give Cyclops one, too!

A Hitman-like Tactical Assassination Game Starring Mystique

This disguise only works in Alabama.

Agent 47 is cool and everything, but you know what he can’t do? Literally transform into people. This style of game would be lots of fun for Mystique as she can really get into character for the targets she’s after. Now, just being able to turn into anyone with no real means of tempering that power isn’t exactly conducive to a fun game; therefore you would need to initiate physical contact with the target in order to morph into them. And since having two of the same exact character roaming around would sort of pose a problem for the mission (or maybe even lead to some hilarious events), you either have to eliminate the target or complete the mission while they’re distracted/away, depending on the mission, in order to pass. Say you had a pose as a security guard to get past a checkpoint—you could totally eliminate him/her without much penalty to the mission. But if you had to pose as a Senator to make a speech decrying homo sapiens and their treatment of mutants? You probably wouldn’t want to off him, as it would 1) exonerate him from blame/responsibility for making the speech, thus lessening its effect, and 2) point out the hypocrisy in the Brotherhood’s ideals. For this, I want more than assassination missions—I want her to steal stuff, to free mutants caught in captivity, to plant evidence on political foes, TO START FUCKING WARS BETWEEN HUMANS! Gosh, the possibilities here are endless, and the writers could really do some silly and over the top shit with this. Video games tend to be non-canon, anyway, so go wild, gang!

An X-Men Musou (Dynasty Warriors) Game

Imagine this, except with Rogue and a stop sign.

One of my earliest and fondest memories of my PlayStation 2 was playing Dynasty Warriors for hours on end, slaying the shit out of waves of feudal Japanese soldiers. I didn’t (and still don’t) know dick about the lore or history driving the plot, and I didn’t care; all I knew was hitting Square, Square, Square, Triangle never really got old. I think much like Zelda and Dragon Quest in the past year, X-Men would benefit greatly from a wave-based game that lets the mutants’ powers shine through. Do anything you want with the story—robots, clones, Multiple Man starts doing crack, it doesn’t matter; cutting down waves of enemies with your awesome mutant powers would be damn fun. You can have Wolverine and X-23 as the quick-attack heroes, Beast do crazy pummeling and grapple moves (maybe like Zangief?), Cyclops blast fools from afar, Colossus just straight-up punch people… hell, even put Juggernaut in there and let him bowl through waves of enemies like a human wrecking ball. You can do an awful lot with the different characters of the series, especially in an over-the-top kind of game like this. Throw in some multiplayer and I think you can pretty accurately recreate the classic arcade game from the early '90s.

A Real RPG With The X-Men

This, but turn-based! *orgasms*

I have something along the lines of Super Mario RPG in my head right now, but I’d even be happy with a western RPG like The Elder Scrolls or The Witcher. Basically, I think having a game where you start out as either an established character or an original mutant and have to go out doing quests and stuff for the more major players in the universe would be totally rad, and is a really huge missed opportunity. I want to level up my stats and get new equipment, and develop powers over time into stronger ones (think shouts from Skyrim wherein your powers evolve). I want a giant map of some kind—whether it be a city or something cool, like Savage Island—that you can explore the nooks and crannies of (double points here for flying or teleporting characters!). I want this game to be what X-Men: Destiny could have been: An action-RPG that puts you in the shoes of a young mutant trying to find their place in the hateful world around them. Set it up where you can either align yourself with the good guys or the bad guys, or even work as a mercenary-type for both! Screw picking sides, just get out there and use your powers!

A Game That Is Basically Earth Defense Force With Sentinels and X-Men

This is almost cheating on my part, it’s so obvious.

For those not in the know, Earth Defense Force is a silly B-movie-like game series where you play as soldiers defending Earth from giant aliens come to colonize. What are these giant aliens? Ants, spiders, wasps, robots—all sorts of dumb shit meant to play out like a '50s invasion horror film. It’s silly and repetitive but damn fun, and I’d like this formula for an X-Men game. Think about it—you can replace the giant bugs with sentinels, occasionally throwing in giant-sized Apocalypse for a boss battle. You can choose any of the X-Men to take on the foes, using your powers indiscriminately, since, you know, they’re not people. The real fun here would be co-op; just think of all the fun you’ll have using Colossus to throw Wolverine onto the back of a hulking sentinel! And since they’re huge, you get to see them stomp all over buildings and plow through bridges and civilization and shit. The scale of this could be really something else, and with current console hardware, we could see some really neat battles going on with the normal-sized mutants against the humongous robots.

An Endless Runner Starring Quicksilver

At least we know where Xavier gets his funding for the school.

Lol.

A Military Shooter Starring Cable

Alright, Cable is bad as shit. This could be lots of fun.

This is another one of those games that can go really off the wall, really quickly. Since Cable is basically a soldier in the future, he would have the military training necessary to have a first-person shooter make sense. Add that in with his robot eye and half of his body being cybernetic, and you can create some interesting weapon combinations to take out enemies. It doesn’t end there—since Cable has access to all that goofy-ass time travel garbage, you can make this a military shooter unlike any other! The writers can get nuts here and send Mister Sinister back to the Civil War to try and influence the outcome of the war, altering American history, leaving it up to Cable to chase him through time—turning the game into a Civil War shooter. Let’s say, also, that it was Cable all along who prevented the death of Erik Lehnsherr during the Holocaust, so oh shit now the game is a WWII shooter like Call of Duty! Do some stuff with the future timeline and weird advanced technology stuff, and you’ve got a first-person shooter that spans across both decades and genres. Maybe you even see Logan in the past…

The X-Men license is a veritable treasure trove of good ideas and creativity, making the lack of quality X-Men games truly astonishing. I don’t know who has the license these days, but what I do know is that they’re squandering it by just letting it sit there to rot. There are plenty of weird and interesting directions the right developer can take the series (are you listening, Rocksteady?) and it’s about damn time somebody at least tried.


This is a repost of a blog I contributed to Maintain 55, the companion blog to my Podcast, Nerd and Long. The original can be found here.

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