X-Men Legends II First Look

We get an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming X-Men game on Sony's powerful handheld.

Hot on the heels of our first hands-on experience with the console version of X-Men Legends II, Activision gave us an exclusive peek at the upcoming PSP incarnation of this hot little action game. Though the work-in-progress version wasn't quite polished enough that reps felt comfortable with turning the controls over to us, the game was looking extremely sharp. It's a pint-size version of the console game, but it has some exclusive content that sets it apart from the other versions.

Look, tiny mutants! They fit in the palm of your hand. How cute.

The game will mirror the same story as its console cousins and will make use of all the cinematics to move that narrative forward. The tale follows the X-Men and Brotherhood as they team up to stop Apocalypse, who patiently waited for both groups to exhaust themselves before moving on one of his many evil plans for world domination. Rather than let Apocalypse have a free ride at mucking up the planet, both teams join forces to smack him down, which provides a wealth of gameplay possibilities.

The game will have a mission-based structure much like its predecessor. However, this time out you'll have more options, because you'll find branching paths that provide you with more variety. Due to events in the story, the teams will essentially be "on the run," so you can use different hubs that offer unique missions.

While the story, gameplay, and bulk of the missions in X-Men Legends II are pretty much lifted directly from the console game, Activision and Vicarious are dropping in some exclusive features for the PSP version to keep it from being just a dirty port. To begin with, the PSP game will have four exclusive playable characters. While their identities are still a mystery, we know that a couple will be immediately selectable, and the rest will have to be unlocked. The next major additions are new skirmish and danger-room missions you can try in multiplayer, which is the slightly vague last piece of the pie. While Activision reps would confirm only that the game would support up to four players via Wi-Fi, they were cagey about specifics, though they said there are some cool things in store.

Control in the game has been modified to compensate for the PSP's lack of buttons. The control layout is basically the same. However, the left trigger now serves as a modifier that doubles the number of available buttons. While this sounds good in theory, we won't know how well this works in practice until we get our mitts on a playable version.

The visuals in the portable version of Legends II are looking outstanding thanks to a slightly stacked deck. Vicarious Visions, which is handling development of the game, is also responsible for the Alchemy engine, which is what the console games use, and it had little trouble bringing the engine over to the PSP. The graphics are comparable to those in the console game at this point, minus some lighting and texture detail. We checked out the Egyptian Apocalypse level that we'd played on the console and were impressed by how close the PSP came to re-creating it. The only rough spots that stood out were the frame rate and the camera. The frame rate dipped below 30 when the action got crazy, which was disappointing, but it still moved along at a playable clip. The camera issues were in line with what you'd expect from an early 3D action game; that is, awkward angles and some sticking in odd places. That said, we're hopeful that Vicarious will tighten things up given its familiarity with the technology.

The fledgling PSP release list will be one game stronger this fall with X-Men Legends II.

The audio was still taking shape and was a little rough in spots. The game is slated to feature comparable voice to that in the console game, as well as a unique soundtrack. We were able to hear some of the character voices and effects, and they were true to what we heard in the console game.

Based on this early look, X-Men Legends II is promising to be a strong game for the PSP. The gameplay is solid, the visuals are very close to the level of quality seen in the console version, and the multiplayer support should give you the kind of experience you're hoping for. The only potential pitfalls we've seen--the frame rate and camera--are fixable given enough development time, which the game will hopefully get. Though the PSP library has been a little thin on must-have content, that will change once X-Men Legends II hits. The game is slated to ship this fall, so look for more in the coming weeks.

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