No matter the pedigree of the company or the quality of the license, it's impossible to approach a move licensed video game with anything but caution. Games like King Kong may be carrying the torch for the genre, but unfortunately Ubisoft's effort is the exception to the rule. With X-Men 3 hitting cinema screens this month it was inevitable that a game would be released to coincide with it; the quality of the game is no more surprising.
Rather than a blow by blow account of the movie, developer Z-Axis (the people behind the rather excellent Aggressive Inline) has created a game that sits between the second and third movies. While this might be disappointing to anyone wanting to relive the movie, it does have a few upsides; namely the inclusion of Nightcrawler - who's absent from the third movie - and a plot that won't ruin the movie if you're yet to see it. For a licensed title, the game lacks the usual gloss you'd expect, with cutscenes simply being animated static images, missing voice actors and a rather disjointed storyline.
The game sees you taking on the role of Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Iceman. Each character gets his own selection of levels and is often helped by other X-Men who can be called upon to give a hand. Wolverine is the most basic character to control, with a number of slash attacks and a set of special powerful attacks that inflict more damage on enemies. Ice man uses his ice powers to soar through the air, and he can also throw ice at enemies and put out fires. Nightcrawler is the most interesting character, as he can teleport from place to place, but his hand-to-hand combat feels a little sluggish in comparison to Wolverine's.
No matter how unspectacular the combat, the game would have been plenty good enough for fans to get some enjoyment from, but some stupid design decisions have made a game that is an absolute chore to play. The biggest problems come when you're playing as Wolverine. Without any ranged attack or the ability to teleport to enemies, he's incredibly vulnerable to gun fire. So, in order to make the game as frustrating as possible, these are the enemies that you seem to encounter more than any other. His health system doesn't help much either. A recharge system for small amounts of damage is a nice enough idea, but if your health drops too much you need to stand still and wait for it to replenish. This is next to impossible during the many five-minute plus fights against endless hordes of enemies, and a few health pick-ups certainly wouldn't have gone amiss.
On current-gen systems the game isn't stunning, but it's hardly a travesty, which is more than can be said for the Xbox 360 version. Had it been released for the same price as the other versions it would have been the version to recommend, as it looks considerably smarter running in High Definition and features a smoother frame rate, but at £50 it's almost disgraceful. It's possibly the least impressive Xbox 360 title released to date, and asking extra for it is a joke. The aforementioned cutscenes disappoint throughout the game, and while the voice acting of the main characters is solid, many of the other characters simply feature sound-alikes, and not the actors from the movies.
There really is very little to like in X-Men: The Official Game. The idea of giving the player three fairly unique characters to play as is good one, but the game design verges on plain stupid at times. There's no real variety to the tasks you need to carry out as the three characters, and the story is told so poorly that it'll make little sense even if you've seen the movies that surround it. With movie licensed video game reviews there's usually a little caveat which states that you must be a big fan of the movie before thinking about buying the game. In X-Men: The Official Game's case, I can't think of any reason at all for giving it a look.