Hey Chi,

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? Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

Brad Gallaway
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