Game Description: The Fantastic Four gives you a chance to become fantastic. After coming into contact with cosmic rays, four friends found their genetic make-up had been changed. Determined to use their new powers for the good of humanity, they formed the Fantastic Four. Join them in their battle to save humanity from the clutches of the evil Dr. Doom.
Okay, I got the review copy of Fantastic Four and I checked it out. Also, thanks for including that $20 you owed me from our poker night. By the way, when's Jones going to cough up that $175? Baby needs a new pair of shoes, you know. ; )
Sorry, getting derailed here. Okay, so about this review, I figure that for the opening, I'll start with some cliché about how movie games usually auto-suck, then maybe mention how the Lord of the Rings games were some of the only ones to really get it at least partially right, just to add some comparative flavor. So on and so forth. You know the drill here—just a standard movie-game beginning.
Then, I could mention some boring non-game factoids about how the Fantastic Four was originally a comic book created by Stan Lee way back in the olden days, a little bit about how the interplay between the four characters was a big draw, blah blah blah, segue into mentioning the new film which actually stunk but had a few cool special effects. You get the idea.
By the way, what the heck was up with Dr. Doom? That whole absorbing metal thing was total crap. They should have spent a lot more time developing the characters and left that big battle scene out at the end and built up for a sequel. Too bad I saw the entire film, or I would have asked for my money back.
Anyway, my plan then is to describe how the game actually delivers a better experience than the film for a few reasons. I mean, obviously the game goes on a lot longer than the movie, but the real thing happening here is that the developers have melded the movie's short-bus rework with the comic book elements to create something that's neither one or the other, but still works.
I'm definitely going to have to include a short bit about the actors' likenesses and voices. (And man, does Jessica Alba look terrible with blonde hair. WTF?) The entire thing also roughly follows the same story arc as the film, but that's not necessarily a good thing. What put it over the top for me were the detours into non-movie comic book missions, like going up against the Mole Man or seeing Annihilus pop up. It's still kind of weird to see things that almost jibe with what I know from the comics, but I don't plan on complaining about that too much since that kind of bitching is a tipoff to the readers that I'm a hopeless nerd.
After dodging that bullet and filling in the background information, I'm going to jump straight into the gameplay. This part will be an easy sell since things are definitely a cut above the standard beat-'em-up. 7 Studios put a lot of effort into making each character solid on their own, which seemed to me to be kind of a challenge, since how tough does the invisible woman seem? Still, no matter which character I was, they were all equally capable of handing out an ass-kicking with a healthy selection of upgradable moves even though the collision seemed slightly off here and there.
From there, I go into variety. I played about half the game with my woman/S.O. in the co-op mode, and it really kept us on our toes. Not only was there a nice variety in mission objectives, there were a bunch of character-specific minigames on top of the fact that each level sort of randomly reassigned which character we were each playing, so we rotated through all four of them pretty often. I was totally relieved to see that it wasn't just the same sort of "start at the left, move to the right" Final Fight thing. I've already taken one for the team this quarter, and I wasn't looking forward to trudging through another doze-fest.
I know, I know... you're going to tell me to quit being so typically optimistic and upbeat and ask me what the downsides are. Come on, we've been working together for years—I can read your mind. So, before you ask, the one big downside I'm going to mention is that co-op mode's camera totally bites. It's hard to see at times because some of the levels are dark, and the camera pans out pretty far (on top of having a semi-overhead view). It sometimes twirls around or randomly flips, and both characters need to move together to keep certain things in view, which doesn't always work. We were going nuts fighting Diablo since he kept teleporting around, and with each one of us fighting different flunky enemies, he was offscreen most of the time. My woman was telling me that she would have preferred a static camera view during co-op, and I have to agree with her, so I'll work that in there somewhere too.
Anyway, I'll close by mentioning some more factoids about the ton of unlockable stuff for those who want it. (Yahoo, more randomly searching for hidden icons! Seriously, can't these games just drop it yet?) And maybe a brief blurb about the passably solid graphics, or maybe I'll talk about how I liked each mission being broken up into small bite-sized segments. I haven't decided yet, but I'll fluff it up a little bit before some kind of snappy closer about how Fantastic Four didn't rock my world, but it easily avoided auto-sucking and turned out to be a pretty decent day's work.
…So this is my plan to review the game. What you think?
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
In my book, a superhero videogame's first priority is to accurately recreate the experience of being the hero in question. Although Fantastic 4 does a passable job in this regard, a few slip-ups and some stale gameplay do a lot to soil the illusion.
At the outset, the effect of being the team is pretty consistent. Oh sure, you could complain about Mr. Fantastic's and the Invisible Woman's prowess with hand-to-hand combat, but it's a choice that helps balance the four characters, and it has a sort of logic. Similar complaints can't be leveled against The Thing and The Human Torch. Recreations of their cosmic powers are accurate, if underwhelming, but more on that later.
Where the game starts to fall apart is after the first couple of levels, when the fun of being the Fantastic 4 starts to dissolve and the game becomes a series of mindless battles. It quickly sinks in that 7 Studios may have nailed the powers of the team, but the fun of being these massively powerful individuals is decidedly lacking.
Brad mentioned that the gameplay is "a cut above the standard beat-'em up" but I'd lean more towards a couple of cuts below. Each of the four does have several different moves at his or her disposal, but many of these moves seem similar to others that players can perform. What's more damning, though, is that they're rehashes of moves from other beat 'em ups. This is the Fantastic 4, there's no excuse for combat to seem pedestrian. It seems that 7 Studios were working to jam the four into a beat 'em up mold, as opposed to exploring what it would really feel like to be Reed, Sue, Johnny or Ben. While the gameplay might have been acceptable for the next Gauntlet game, it's just wrong for the Fantastic 4.
The faults are probably most apparent when team members utilize powers for defeating enemies that they cannot use outside of combat. Although Reed can use his stretching abilities to punch a thug 20 feet away, he can't extend a few inches to grab a high ledge. His stretching is used for locomotion at certain instances, but it's only when the developers feel inclined to allow it. That's just lazy. Oh, and I twice fell down a hole and died while playing as The Human Torch (yes, that Human Torch … the one who can fly.)
The addition of classic villains that put this title over the top for Brad just served up more frustration for me. When classic super-powered villains are there at 7 Studios' disposal, ho-hum combat seems even more inexcusable.
These complaints may sound niggling, but for fans of the characters (or, God help you, the film), they're enough to shatter the illusion of playing as superherodom's first family.
Fleshing out the film's plot with some favorite villains and adding unlockables is all very well and good, but when slogging through hours of repetitive gameplay, one can't help but wish that the developers had put a little less time into making the experience long, and a little more time into making it right.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
According to the ESRB, this game contains: Mild Language, Violence
Parents don't have much to worry about. There is no questionable language and no nudity or sexual content. The violence mostly consists of punching monsters, robots, and assorted bad guys in addition to using superpowers like the Invisible Woman's force beams or the Human Torch's fireballs. None of it is very graphic, and there is no blood or gore. If you let your kids see the film, there is nothing in here that goes further than that, and I'd even say it's probably a little bit safer.
Fans of Beat-'Em-Ups will want to check this out. Once you get past the cheesy cover photo from the actual film, the game has a very solid combat engine and a lot of little tweaks to add some much-needed freshness to a genre that badly needs it. This would be a good game without the Fantastic Four license, so it's a shame that a lame movie drags down a title that probably would have garnered a little more attention without it.
Fans of the Fantastic Four or those who like comic book games should also check it out. The movie was terrible, but there's enough reference to the actual source material to help make it go down a little smoother. The game is also solid enough to avoid bringing any shame to the FF themselves, and I can count the number of solid comic book games that exist on one hand.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers get the old half-and-half. There's text accompanying all dialogue for the in-game cutscenes, but there's no text during the CG cutscenes reenacting certain portions of the film. I will never understand why developers do one and not the other, but I guess that's a mystery for the ages. It's playable in its current form since there aren't any significant auditory cues, but it's too bad that there wasn't full access.