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.
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