Hands-on: X-Men Next Dimension

We check out the PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions of Activision's upcoming X-Men fighter.


Activision stopped by and let us check out early builds of X-Men Next Dimension for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. The game will be a fully 3D fighter featuring huge multitiered levels. The PlayStation 2 game is being developed by Paradox, while EXAKT Entertainment is handling the GameCube version. The early builds of the game gave us a taste of the game's revamped fighting engine, a look at how the vast stages will come into play during battles, and a peek at the game's massive roster.

The game will feature the standard assortment of modes, such as arcade, story, survival, and versus, which should be familiar to those who played the Mutant Academy games on the PlayStation. However, the game's story mode will offer a decidedly different experience from the one of those games. Rather than select a single character and go through the mode, you'll play as a character who will change as you go through the story mode and view roughly 30 minutes of CG sequences in between battles that drive the plot.

The game's roster will feature a large assortment of the mutant team, mixing familiar faces from the previous games and adding some newcomers as well. Storm, Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Nightcrawler, and Forge are a few of the 20 X-Men on hand, and you'll also find four secret characters. You'll gain access to the characters by going through various modes in the game and unlocking them along with four sets of costumes. Noted X-Men artist Salvador Larocca contributed a set of original costume designs that stay true to the comic's style.

As you'd expect, all the characters have their own unique set of mutant powers to supplement their standard assortment of punches and kicks. As in the Mutant Academy games, you'll have three superbars onscreen--they let you trigger different types of superattacks against your opponent when full. In addition, you'll notice that the environments come into play in a variety of ways during battles. You'll be able to slam opponents into objects and knock them into other arenas, while some characters, like Jean Grey, will even be able to pick up objects and slam them into opponents. The game's combo system now features a wider variety of attack options that let you perform more ground and air attacks.

The game will feature eight stages taken from the comic book and include such familiar locations as X-Mansion, the danger room, the Savage Land, the morlock tunnels, and others. Each stage will feature different areas within it--you'll be able to reach them by knocking your opponent into them over the course of a fight. If you have time during a bout, you may notice some ambient touches in the levels as well. For example, when fighting on the Egyptian stage, we were knocked around and eventually ended up in Apocalypse's inner sanctum. He occasionally popped out from his sarcophagus to survey the battle over the course of our match.

Graphically, the game is coming together slowly. While both versions looked pretty rough, the GameCube version edged out the PlayStation 2 version with crisper graphics and quicker loading. The character models in both games were fairly detailed--but not tremendously so. The environments were also a bit sparse, but they did feature elements you could interact with. Character animation was a bit stiff, although it worked well with the game's combo system.

So far, X-Men: Next Dimension is looking a little rough, although it is a playable fighting game. The expansions to the gameplay and graphics are welcome, as is the use of Patrick Stewart for the in-game voice of Professor Xavier. We're curious to see how the game will come together when it ships for the GC and PS2 this fall along with the Xbox version. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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