Not Quite Fantastic
June 26, 2007 – The Fantastic Four, the superpowered family quartet, have been around for decades, but sadly are only now getting recognition in the form of movies and videogames. The first Fantastic Four movie was vilified by fans of the original super family and the game based on the movie was equally panned. Now, the movie’s sequel has emerged and has been considered superior to the first, and the game based on the sequel is also much better than the first game too. However, while the movie may be a decent summer superhero film, the game based on the film still is a far cry from a good game.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is based on the movie of the same name. However, the developers obviously had to expound upon the story slightly to make a satisfying game experience. Much like the similarly disappointing Spider-Man 3 game released a couple of months ago, RotSS introduces a few extra villains and scenarios but basically tells the same story that the movie does, albeit with a focus on the action. An alien called the Silver Surfer has come to Earth, and his arrival means that his master, the world devouring Galactus, is following. Galactus is a cosmic entity that “eats” worlds, so anyplace he visits dies as he drains worlds of their life essence. The Fantastic Four obviously have to confront the menace that the Silver Surfer and Galactus pose, and in doing so, they hope to save the earth from destruction. While the story, which is classic and taken from a comic written decades ago, seems epic, the gameplay is anything but.
Fantastic Four is set up as an action game, but the developers wanted to emphasis the teamwork element of comicdom’s premiere superfamily, so you’ll spend most of the game fighting through enemies as a team. The setup is similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance, where you choose which character to control with a press of the control pad. Pressing the left trigger opens up the ability to use the superpowers, and the right trigger opens the option to do team attacks. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this system, the troubles do start here. First, the use of a superpower in the game is exhausted entirely too quickly. Each character has four abilities to use, but every power seems to exhaust your super energy far too quickly. This means that the Fantastic Four spend as much time fighting with their fists as they do with their super abilities, and that detracts from the fun, especially when the combat system is flawed to begin with. Each character has a heavy attack and a light attack, and combos are performed by pressing one of these buttons five times. There are no combos that vary the button presses, so you will have to get used to the same sequence of punch/kicks over and again.
In addition to the powers exhausting too swiftly, the powers themselves aren’t that much fun either. The vast majority of the powers aren’t well thought out in their execution, with Reed (Mr. Fantastic) in particular getting some very useless abilities. Ben’s strength is underdeveloped as well, since this is only emphasized in the fact that he is the only character that can lift objects (some of which are small enough for the other characters to lift, although they still can’t, ridiculously enough). The ability to zip through levels using Johnny’s flight is fun, but even that has a downside, as to advance past some parts he must wait for his teammates to catch up to him.
The combination attacks are something that was emphasized in showing that the Fantastic Four worked together as a family. However, the system basically just boils down to another power that uses two characters. It doesn’t really feel dynamic at all, just another trigger with a button press. These moves are more efficient than the solo powers, so to make it through a stage, it’s probably just best to continue to use a combo move until the bad guys are defeated. The combination attacks should have been more epic and more difficult to pull off, but as they stand, seem like just another addition to the list of powers.
Another flaw comes in the health system. After dying, the character is out of commission for a few moments and is then rejuvenated with full health and energy. This system makes it far easier for a player to wait until a character is killed, run away from enemies and wait until the character is restored than to actually seek out any health restoratives. There were numerous occasions where all of my teammates were killed and I backtracked away from the offending foes to hide in a corner. Less than a minute later, my full team was restored and I was able to zip through the area with no problem.
The visuals in Fantastic Four are bland and uninteresting, especially for a next-gen system. All the characters resemble their movie counterparts in the cutscenes (especially Sue/Jessica Alba), but in the game the characters are all uninspired. Johnny’s flame on effects are pretty well done, but most of the game’s environments and character models all seem last gen. When Ben (The Thing) picks up objects, the object moves to him and rest on his hand awkwardly, showcasing unreal physics that create disbelief. To expound upon the physics travesty, there are moments in the game where your character sweeps the foe and the enemy shoots straight up in the air as if they’d been uppercut in a Mortal Kombat game. The visuals for the game feel rushed and unpolished, and that feeling carries toward the entire game experience. The voice acting is decent, however, although the movie actors don’t reprise their role for the game.
The game supports four player offline co-op, but that doesn’t make the game much more fun. In addition, there are F4 coins and Doombot spies to collect, which unlock items such as different costumes and artwork, but nothing that adds anything to the gameplay.
Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer was an idea that should have been a great game but wasn’t. The bland environments, boring stages, repetitive enemies, and easily exhausted powers make the Fantastic Four feel more like a fantastic chore or just a fantastic bore.