PS2 REVIEW: FANTASTIC 4

I think it's officially time to recognize the superhero videogame as its own genre, separate from action, action shooter, action rpg etc. The audience for these games are generally casual gamers looking to either replay key elements from the movie they've just seen or are looking to lose themselves in their favorite four color characters ripped from the pages of their monthly magazines and brought to life through the magic of videogames. Comparing the latest superhero game to Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid is entirely unfair - is comparing apples to oranges.

7 Studios has done an admirable job bringing Marvel's Fantastic Four to the smallscreen. Giving a nod to last years X-Men Legends, FF doesn't stray too far from that formula but makes it far more accessible to casual fans who don't really care about powering up characters; these gamers more than likely just want to flame on and clobber things. Micro character management will just get in the way of smashing stuff. But there is a lot to smash in this game which will delight beat em ups. Destructible environments, scores of enemies (usually robots) and the occasional character and context sensitive mini-game that plays out to the particular power of the hero being controlled.

If you are familiar with the comic which was indeed the Big Bang that created the second coming of the Marvel Universe in the early 60's, you'll know that the recently released summer blockbuster takes a few liberties with the origin story - at least in terms of how Victor Von Doom turns into the nefarious villain, Dr. Doom. But I don't want to spoil anything in case you're completely fresh to the subject matter. 7 Studios game sticks to the origin story of the movie, but pays fan service by including villains that only true FF fans will recognize. To them, this is probably a dream come true.

Unfortunately time restraints (I'm assuming) turned a game that should have been a 4 player experience into a single or two player affair. While gamers playing solo will often have the ability to select the other teammate along for the ride at the touch of the d-pad, you won't always have the entire team fighting beside you. Your AI teammate(s) are a decent amount of help and during the levels where you can play as all four, you can easily select between them. However gamers will almost always gravitate towards their favorite(s), even though the situation might be better served by a more suitable character at any given juncture.

The games biggest strength lies in the time and energy spent on developing the characters various powers and special combos which look good, are true to the comics and are relatively powerful. Players can unlock more powerful combos and moves as they progress which helps make up for the fairly short levels you'll experience.

Controlling the characters is generally without issue although the camera sometimes likes to jump around and around - especially if two players are going at it simultaneously and both decide to change the camera. A quick smack to the hand of an attention deficit player 2 fiddling with the camera combined with a loud "NO!" directly in his ear, should clear up the matter lickety split.

Visually, Fantastic Four is at its best when you're looking at the characters and their powers, especially Invisible Woman's force fields and The Human Torch's flames, and it's worst when you're visiting the same drab environments over and over again. This isn't a site seeing tour, it's a beat em up, so focus on the task at hand and smash more robots.

As a reader of the Fantastic Four back when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were creating the iconic heroes the world would come to know and love and eventually shun when the new X-Men showed up for duty, I can say that 7 Studios did a fine job. They've created an entertaining superhero game that will provide some hours of enjoyment to people who are fond of the subject matter. The game isn't nearly as ambitious as Treyarch's free roaming Spider-Man 2, but then again, what is? This game isn't meant to compete with Chaos Theory or Ninja Gaiden Black; it is designed for a specific gaming audience who certainly can appreciate the finer points of the aforementioned games but also might like to lose themselves in a game where they can just be a superhero for a few hours. The game features a pulse-pounding array of extras including Ultimate costumes, bonus levels, cast interviews and unlockable art (which CCC visitors have ranked as the lamest of the lame when it comes to game extras) but at least you'll get something for your efforts. If you're truly a fan, you'll want this in your collection. Others might find a rental would surely suffice to get their clobberin' time fix.

Preview by Vaughn

Back in the early 60's, there was a group of four who took the US and eventually the world by storm. They were more than "fab"....they were Fantastic.

The brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Fantastic Four was the big bang that created the incredible and yes, also very credible, Marvel Universe. Where previous heroes were larger than life playboys, ailens or underwater kings, The Fantastic Four were family, just like your family. They fought, they held grudges, they had misunderstandings, but when push came to shove they were behind each other 100%. It was through this dynamic that Lee and Kirby established the rules of their new world: make the superhuman human, and readers of all ages will identify.

It's been over 4 fantastic decades since the Four irradiated astronauts (Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johhny Storm and Ben Grimm) returned from space forever altered by those mysterious "cosmic" rays and while they've been overshadowed by glitzier heroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men, the original Marvel team is set to take our world by storm this summer in their first blockbuster feature.

The FF have had quite a checkered past when it comes to public consumption. A Saturday morning cartoon show back in the late 70's which found the Human Torch replaced by a lovable robot named Robbie.....uh, yeah. Is it that hard to draw flames? Next came the Fantastic Four live action movie in the early 90's that was so bad only a handful of people have actually ever seen it. Fast forward to July 2005 and the FF are ready to clobber the summer blockbuster action movies. Let's hope they can pull it off.

Of course, these days the movies are just commercials to sell the coffee mugs, t-shirts, action figures, beach towels, earrings, Halloween costumes and oh yeah, almost forgot...videogames.

Some of you might recall these immortal words from the now dearly departed Acclaim back in the mid 90's. "We are going to take our licenses seriously and watch over them with quality in mind." About ten minutes after that statement they released the craptacular Iron Man vs. XO Man O' War and then immediately followed it with one of the worst games ever made, licensed or not....The Fantastic Four for the PSone. Lest we forget indeed.

The game which will appear on every current system known to man, including the Xbox, PS2, PC, GC, GBA, DS and quite possibly the PSP will be much in the vein of the recently well received X-Men Legends, but perhaps without the perfunctory leveling up as experienced in the RPG action genre. It will feature two player simultaneous play which has some of us here feeling a little non-plussed, but we all know 4 player games can get very old very quickly. 4 player multiplayer online is a different story but don't look for that in a FF game anytime soon.

While the single player mode allows character switching on the fly so that one can utilize all of the powers of the team (fire, stretching/intelligence, stealth/forcefield and brute strength) it is not whether the two player mode will allow this or if players will have to pick two characters and make do with them through a particular level.

A look at the screens will surely excite longtime fans who have been waiting impatiently to play as his or her favorite Marvel heroes. Expect appearances by Dr. Doom and The Moleman (see images below) and some others which we don't have confirmation of at this time. The screens are absolutely fantastic, for lack of a better term, so make sure you enlarge each one.

The Fantastic Four game is set for a late June release to coincide with the 4th of July opening of the movie. Stay tuned for more details as they appear.

Features:

  • Relive the movie experience with character likenesses, locations and villains from the upcoming summer blockbuster. Experience the movie and more with a completely original storyline that follows the film's story arc (scripted by Hollywood writer Zak Penn of X-Men® movie fame).
  • Play as each unique member of the Fantastic Four®; assume their persona and master their individual talents to solve puzzles, overcome obstacles and combat enemies. Mr. Fantastic (Intelligence): Use your ability to stretch in order to attack from a distance, squeeze into tight spaces and reach places no one else can.
  • Use your brainpower to hack computers, override security systems and take control of your enemy's weapons. The Invisible Girl (Stealth): Become invisible and perform stealth moves with ninja-like speed or immobilize enemies through telekinetic powers and sneak into areas not available to others.
  • The Human Torch (Fire): Create walls of fire and supernova fireballs as you hover, or shoot fire from your fingertips and bend flames as you ward off enemies.
  • The Thing (Strength): Use brute force to pick up heavy objects or tear them apart, break through walls and obstacles and obliterate your enemies.
  • Control the Fantastic Four as a team with dynamic character switching, team-based combat and two-player co-op mode.
  • Wreak havoc on your enemies in a variety of destructible environments.
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System: Xbox, PS2, GC, GBA
Dev: 7 Studios
Pub: Activision
Release: July 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Vaughn
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
2.5