XBOX REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR

Playing Fantastic Four I felt more like a fifth wheel on an ATV than one of the gang. It just wasn't fantastic.

Throughout the game I felt like I was a student tagging along with four superheroes as they demonstrated to me their day-to-day crime fighting activities. I can almost hear them say, "Oh no… don't touch that." "Just stand right here and everything will be fine." "Here's something for you to do; can you match up colors?"

There's a lot of handholding going on in Fantastic 4. The game is excruciatingly linear. It doesn't offer much in the way of freedom when it comes to using superpowers. Most of the playable action elements are basic combat moves such as punching and kicking. These guys all have different powers that would be fun to explore and exploit. It's too bad that it's treated like a museum instead of a playground.

The developers really missed the boat by reducing the strategy and freedom to such incredibly simplistic levels. You are guided through various situations which require you to line up each character with his or her corresponding color which appears as a beam. Once there you press the A button to build up your meter and presto, a pre-rendered animation takes over, forcing you to watch the fun stuff as opposed to taking part in it.

Following the plot of the movie you will learn the origin of the Fantastic Four as four astronauts which are exposed to cosmic radiation in outerspace. When they return to Earth they find they each have cosmic superpowers. Sue Storm is the invisible woman whom can also raise shields and emit wave energy attacks. Johnny Storm is the human fireball. He can fly and throw fireballs at enemies. Reed Richards is the leader of the Fantastic Four. He is basically a rip-off of Plastic Man as he can stretch and twist himself into various shapes. Finally it's my favorite, Ben Grimm, or The Thing, as he's commonly referred to. He's a gruff but lovable mountain of a man that's made out of stone. He's incredibly strong and when he gets mad, "It's clobbering time."

Each character has six combo moves which are upgradeable but for my money it's the cosmic powers that I want to play with. Each of the four characters has three cosmic powers. There are some instances in the game where you can actually pick which character you want to use and then use whichever power you think will get the job done. It's just too bad that most of the game wasn't done like this. There are some fine examples of teamwork which is a staple of the Fantastic Four as they use their combined powers to achieve one goal. Here is where you will have to match each character to their specific color cone. I can understand in the context of the story that Reed Richards might be calling the plays and ordering everyone into formation. I can take orders as well as the next guy but I would like my hand at calling a few shots now and again.

Another disappointment is the co-op mode. Do I need to tell you how fun this could have been? I mean, the FF is like the original Gauntlet. They are in essence the original X-Men. This could have been a great RPG action/adventure with an amazing four-player co-op. Depending on the success of the movie there might be a sequel and hopefully the developers will be listening. I won't give up on this concept until I see it executed properly.

To lengthen the gameplay which is necessary to keep it running longer than the movie new characters, enemies and situations have been added. The enemies range from dinosaurs to evil mummies. Of course you can expect Dr. Doom, a pre-Darth Vadar-like madman that takes refuge behind an armoured face shield. There are some run-of-the-mill thugs added for believability. They attack in groups and are relatively easy to fend off. You can use Sue's shield, which makes her virtually invincible to attack, and then unleash an attack of your own when the enemy is most vulnerable. For my money the best attacks are those of The Thing which best follow the premise of the comic book as he loves to clobber. Reed Richards is the nerdy professor type and not one that you would associate with hand-to-hand combat.

The in-game animation is good but it's no better than the Fantastic Four cartoon of the late 60s/early 70s. I would have to say the voiceacting in the cartoon is better than the game. The music is good as are the sound effects but there is nothing special about any aspect of the production. Unlockables such as new levels and interviews are bound to keep hardcore fans busy. There's an interview with FF creator Stan Lee giving his opinion of the game while he's playing it. He's a lot more forgiving than I am. Call it a daddy's unconditional love.

If you're looking for an interactive movie or something along the lines of a street fighting game like Capcom's Final Fight then you might find some satisfaction here. For the rest of you, rent it first.

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
Dev: 7 Studios
Pub: Activision
Release: July 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.5
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
2.5
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
2.0