|Platform(s)||Game Boy Advance|
|Genre(s)||Run and gun, vehicular combat|
XXX (stylized as xXx) is a 2002 action video game developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Activision for the Game Boy Advance. Based on the film of the same name, the narrative follows Xander "xXx" Cage, an underground thrill-seeker who is recruited as a spy to stop the evil Anarchy 99 organization before it unleashes an assault on the Earth. Much of the game is played in a side-scrolling run and gun format, while a few levels feature vehicular combat inspired by Road Rash. The game was developed in approximately two months and received mixed reviews upon release, with critics faulting the gameplay's lack of innovation, simplistic AI, and short length, though the visuals (particularly those of the motorcycle levels) and music were assessed positively.
XXX is an action game in which the player controls the titular character, an NSA agent assigned to take out the crime syndicate Anarchy 99. The game consists of eleven levels, nine of which feature side-scrolling run and gun gameplay, and three showcase motorcycle-based vehicular combat. Each level has a series of given mission objectives that must be completed in order to progress. When the player completes an objective or is given a new one, a white envelope icon at the top of the HUD blinks. The player can review the current objectives by pausing the game.
By default, xXx is armed with a handgun that fires an unlimited amount of chrome darts. More powerful ammo and weapons can be found within levels, and weapons in xXx's possession can be cycled through with the Select button. Aside from the ammo in xXx's gun, up to three extra clips can be held at a time. The amount of remaining ammo and clips for xXx's current weapon are indicated at the top-left corner of the screen. Apart from firearms, xXx can also toss grenades, which can be collected in packs of five. xXx's health is indicated on the top-left corner of the screen, and the player is granted a single life; if the player runs out of health, the game ends, and the player is given the option to retry the current level from the beginning. The player can replenish health by collecting first aid kits throughout the level.
Some levels involve xXx riding a motorcycle and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with enemy riders. The motorcycle has a limited amount of fuel, which can be replenished by collecting fuel canisters scattered along the road, and can take only a certain amount of damage before it is destroyed. A bar indicating the player's remaining distance to the end of the level is placed at the bottom-right corner of the screen.
Underground thrill-seeker Xander Cage is recruited by the National Security Administration as the agent "xXx" after passing an entrance exam set up by Agent Gibbons. He is tasked with taking down the crime syndicate Anarchy 99 and its leader Yorgi, who are armed with biological weapons and a terrorist agenda. In the Czech Republic, xXx disables missiles hidden in the Old Town, the Prague Metro, the Sedlec Ossuary, and the mines of Kutná Hora. In Brno, xXx confiscates stolen canisters of plutonium and destroys a cache of missiles and a precursor chemical virus. xXx returns to Prague and stops Anarchy 99's colonel from bombing a sports arena, and raids the city's television tower, where Yorgi is located. Yorgi escapes to his secret underground bunker, where xXx tracks down and kills him.
Development and release
In May 2002, Activision announced that it had acquired the worldwide video game rights to the then-upcoming Vin Diesel film XXX. The game was developed by Digital Eclipse for the Game Boy Advance, with Michael Bilodeau of Digital Eclipse and Brian Clarke of Activision serving as producers, and Mike Mika serving as creative director. Mark Fitt and Alex Amsel programmed the game, and Dave McMullan designed the levels. Boyd Burggrabe served as art director and supervised a team consisting of lead artist Dean Lee and artists Arvin Bautista, Stoo Cambridge, Kevin James, Antony Mazzotta, Andy Noble, and Kostandin Igor Ruiz. The music was composed by Anthony Putson, while the sound effects were created by Allister Brimble. All the team members had previous experience developing titles for the Game Boy Advance; Fitt, Amsel, and some of the artists had worked on Alienators: Evolution Continues, while Bilodeau and the rest of the artists worked on X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse, Spider-Man, and Disney's Lilo and Stitch. The game featured an original narrative during development, but was later made to follow the film's storyline at the filmmakers' request. The motorcycle levels were heavily influenced by the Sega Genesis title Road Rash.
Development spanned approximately two months, which Bilodeau considered unusually quick as the normal development cycle of Game Boy Advance games is a minimum of five or six months. XXX was displayed in a pre-alpha state at E3 2002, and was released in North America on August 6, 2002, with a European release following on October 18.
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||5.5/10|
|Nintendo World Report||7.5/10|
XXX received "mixed or average" reviews according to the review aggregator Metacritic. Steve Steinberg of GameSpy and John Ricciardi of Electronic Gaming Monthly professed an initial dread at the prospect of a film tie-in on the Game Boy Advance, with Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones being particularly fresh in Ricciardi's mind, but were pleased to find that the game surpassed the expectation of low quality. Ricciardi deemed the game to be a decent experience despite offering no innovation to the run-and-gun genre, though Craig Harris of IGN was underwhelmed when comparing the run-of-the-mill gameplay to the action sequences in the film. Frank Provo of GameSpot noted that the gameplay lacked any design element that would reduce the monotony of the action, citing examples of such mechanics in Spider-Man and The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris. Matthew Kato of Game Informer, in a negative blurb, declared the title to be "about as soulless as the faceless Activision suit that signed off on its feast of mundane side-scrolling".
Steinberg considered the difficulty well-balanced, whereas Harris regarded the game as excessively easy due to xXx's high endurance and an abundance of health pick-ups and weapons. Ricciardi and Harris admired the size of the levels, though Ben Kosmina of Planet GameCube was puzzled by the lack of a radar, which he said made locating some objectives and exits difficult. Steinberg praised the controls as tight and intuitive, but wished that they were more varied to better reflect xXx's depiction in the film as an extreme athlete. Harris and the Nintendo Power reviewers found some of the weapons satisfying to use. The enemy AI was faulted for its simplicity, with the enemies' actions being largely restricted to pacing back and forth and shooting upon sight of xXx in predictable patterns. Although Harris pointed out that enemy bullets can be easily dodged by ducking, Provo claimed that such an action was nonviable when passing through a door or landing from a fall, and he added that the enemies' simplicity and numbers contributed to a feeling of tedium. The game's length was deemed to be short, with Ricciardi only recommending it for a day's rental, and Harris added that the attempts to add replay value by offering unlockable content were not as fleshed out as those of Digital Eclipse's previous title Spider-Man.
Reviewers acknowledged the resemblance of the motorcycle levels to the Road Rash series.[a] Provo regarded them as the game's most enjoyable aspect, while Ricciardi said they were "cool-looking, but not very exciting", and Harris considered the first motorcycle to be a significant spike in difficulty following the first two levels. Kosmina deemed the motorcycle levels on a whole incredibly difficult due to an overabundance of enemies and obstacles and poor collision detection in regard to xXx's punches and kicks. Kato dismissed the levels as an uninteresting and paltry imitation.
Assessments of the visuals were generally positive. Steinberg and Provo commended the large size and fluid animation of the character sprites, though Harris found the animation for xXx to be "a little too goofy to watch" due to his gun being perpetually aimed. He additionally ridiculed the characters' lack of resemblance to their film appearances, which prompted speculation that the film license excluded the actors' likenesses, and remarked on Samuel L. Jackson's character that "I've seen guys at McDonalds that bear better resemblance than the likeness the artists created for this game". Kosmina noted the variety of the enemy characters, though he likened xXx's appearance to "Patrick Stewart in a pair of trackpants". Steinberg and Provo admired the colorful and detailed backgrounds and settings, with Kosmina singling out the subway and catacomb levels. Harris, however, considered the backgrounds to be harshly drawn with rigid angles and with a confusing perspective. The motorcycle levels were said to be smoothly animated and showcased the Game Boy Advance's modest 3D capabilities well, though Harris was distracted by the singular repeating texture tile used for the ground.[b]
Kosmina enjoyed the techno soundtrack despite not finding it memorable, and was amused by the enemies' pained vocalizations. Harris described the range of background music as "decent" and "mellow", while Provo complimented the soundtrack as "fast-paced and ha[ving] a theatrical quality to it that doesn't seem rehashed or overblown".
- Ignited Minds 2002, p. 5.
- Shepperd, Christopher; Sinfield, George; Leung, Jason; Pelland, Scott; Grimm, Steven (October 2002). "Now Playing: xXx". Nintendo Power. No. 161. Nintendo of America. p. 198.
- Ignited Minds 2002, p. 7.
- Ignited Minds 2002, pp. 8–9.
- Ignited Minds 2002, pp. 13–15.
- Ignited Minds 2002, p. 16.
- Ignited Minds 2002, pp. 10–11.
- "Game Boy: Hot XXX". IGN. May 17, 2002. Archived from the original on May 10, 2004. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
- Harris, Craig (May 22, 2002). "Game Boy: E3 2002: Activision's XXX". IGN. Archived from the original on May 10, 2004. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
- Ignited Minds 2002, pp. 27–29.
- "Game Boy: xXx Q&A". IGN. July 9, 2002. Archived from the original on May 10, 2004. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- "New media: XXX". GameSpot. CNET Networks. August 5, 2002. Archived from the original on August 3, 2003. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
- Pallesen, Lasse (October 18, 2002). "Activision ships xXx in Europe". Planet GameCube. Archived from the original on March 31, 2003. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
- "xXx for Game Boy Advance Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- Ricciardi, John (October 2002). "Review Crew: xXx". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 159. Ziff Davis. p. 204.
- Kato, Matthew (October 2002). "Reviews: XXX". Game Informer. No. 114. Sunrise Publications. p. 94.
- Provo, Frank (August 7, 2002). "XXX Review for Game Boy Advance". GameSpot. CNET Networks. Archived from the original on June 18, 2003. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- Steinberg, Steve (August 20, 2002). "xXx (GBA)". GameSpy. Archived from the original on October 23, 2002. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- Harris, Craig (August 9, 2002). "Game Boy: xXx". IGN. Archived from the original on October 2, 2002. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
- Kosmina, Ben (September 19, 2002). "Reviews: xXx". Planet GameCube. Archived from the original on December 23, 2002. Retrieved February 21, 2023.