'X-Men Destiny' Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 Also available for: Wii and Nintendo DS From: Silicon Knights/Activision ESRB Rating: Teen (mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence) Price: $60

B ad news, X-Men: It appears your destiny is to appear in what very likely might be the year's lamest full-priced game.

The bad vibes rush in almost instantly, too, during the breakdown of what should be a good idea. "X-Men Destiny's" premise drops you into the shoes of your own custom-designed mutant -- except it doesn't, because outside of a few choices regarding attack strategy, you're not allowed to design your character at all. "Destiny" provides three rather bland character designs from which to choose, quickly punting away whatever point there was to playing as an unknown mutant instead of the powered-up X-Men who adorn the box. Even a pitifully rudimentary character creator would have done wonders for this game getting off on the right foot.

Then again, once the action commences, those issues start feeling small compared to what follows.

"Destiny's" quest structure is pretty straightforward: Numerous recognizable X-Men show up to poke fun at your inexperience and hand out objectives during an attack by an anti-mutant force known as The Purifiers, and a stock morality system allows you to fight alongside or turn against the X-Men.

This might make for a cool story if "Destiny" didn't continually distill down to a rote series of "Defeat X number of enemies" missions. It doesn't even matter which side you pick: The mission remains the same whether you're good or bad, and all that changes is the 12-pack of clones whose faces you wail on en route to encountering another 20 enemies and doing the exact same thing.


"Destiny" flashes a flicker of inspiration with its X-Genes, Suits and X-Mode systems, which let you upgrade and alter your mutant's look and abilities as you accrue experience in combat. In contrast to how simplistic everything else is, these systems are almost overdesigned, with needlessly complicated menus and formulas masking a system that, beneath the clutter, offers a lot of combat options for your mutant to explore.

But again, it doesn't matter, because again, "Destiny" does little with it when the action plods along. The game's combat is insultingly easy and mindlessly simple even with a multitude of powers at the ready, and the excessive animation attached to every attack bogs it down even further. Throw in some unintended graphical slowdown -- a baffling problem given how little "Destiny's" obsolete graphics appear to challenge either system's horsepower -- and the tedium reaches critical levels. A simple combat repertoire might have sufficed if there was a sense of speed and elegance to mixing moves together, but "Destiny" never even comes close.

The best and worst news about the full-priced "Destiny" is that it's over quickly -- four hours and change if you don't poke around to find collectibles.

The short length would seem to fly in the face of the upgrade and morality systems, but by the time you get a glimpse of the finish line and face a final boss whose attack philosophy is no more complicated than the hundreds of grunts you already took down, it's beyond clear the game has nothing better to do than just end. "Destiny" has ideas, but no idea how follow through on them, and its conceptual and technical deficiencies -- from design to variety to artificial intelligence to the control issues already detailed -- are too numerous to qualify as acceptable, much less forgivable.