Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Matt Vaughn

There is truly nothing quite like the enjoyment to be found in taking your opponents head in your massive, rock like hand, crushing him to his knees, and flinging him from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Fighting games are a tricky thing because so many games of so many kinds fall into the category in different ways. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of The Imperfects falls into a style that isn’t well explored at this point. It comes to us with an amount of freedom previously unseen in almost any game of this day. You are free to roam the entire environment, not just side to side, or even front to back, but up and down as well. This game is truly a 3-D fighting game in truly 3-D environments. No more side stepping in circles, toe to toe with your opponent, only to realize you haven’t really moved anywhere except into a slightly different background.

Overly complex finger movements with ridiculous combos that hold the opponent in the air until they die have caused fighters to become less than accessible to average gamers and more than boring for intelligent gamers. I never cared to memorize the “Special” moves that took more thought to produce than they did damage to the opponent. Marvel Nemesis is designed to bring both those classes of player back to the genre.

The most inexperienced gamers will find solace in the fact that you don’t need to know the deepest intricacies of video gaming in order to pick up your controller and compete with experienced gamers. My fiancé has never picked up a fighting game in her life, and doesn’t play much else, but not only did she give this a try, she enjoyed it and managed to put up one heck of a fight against me, a 20 year veteran of video games. This accessibility makes the game an excellent choice for company, because a 2-minute crash course is enough to setup any gamer with the opportunity to win with any character.

The controls are “the same” for every character. You have buttons for strike, throw, jump, and block, as well as one button for mobility moves and one to activate your “Super Powers”. The mobility button allows fighters to fly, swing, zip, sprint, and even blink about the arena, depending on the characters abilities, and some characters can even climb walls, or run up them, setting your self up for devastating dives onto your prey. The “Super Power” button gives new meaning to the other buttons on your controller. A normal strike may do a limited amount of damage, but power it up and the characters do what they do best; claws come out, web-balls let loose, lightning crackles. Your average jump becomes an amazing leap and your up close and personal throw takes on spectacular personality, including ranged throws. Combine the two and send your opponent hurtling to the ground or snatch up the nearest taxi and send it hurtling up. With a normal tap of the block button you throw up your hands to stop a strike or shift your body to avoid the oncoming barrage, with a flick of the Control stick added you begin to flip about dodging and flipping or rolling and blinking and utterly confusing your opponent. Add your super powers and you go into an all out, 360 degree, “shoot me, I dare you” block that sends ranged attacks ricocheting back at their sender. Mind you, all of this drains your super meter (wouldn’t want to make your opponent cry), but if you find a place to rest and hold down your “Powers” button it fills back up pretty quickly and of course there’s always “Rage” mode. If you successfully pummel your opponent you will be rewarded with a little red flashing meter right below your energy that, when full, allows you to go ballistic with no limit to how much power you use, for a short while.

And of course, what fighting experience would be complete without your own personal finishers. Each character can do their very own once certain conditions are met, not after you have already beaten your opponent, allowing you to really “finish” the fight on your own terms. The health meter is comprised of a health bar and an overlapping stamina bar; when your stamina gets low you get a “danger” warning and if your opponent has enough juice left in his abilities don’t let him grab you or it’s all over with one super throw. Stamina rebuilds over time, never going higher than your health bar, which decreases as you get pummeled and won’t increase, unless you are Wolverine or Paragon, until the fight is over.

“What about veterans, what challenge is there for us?” you ask, quite simply, everything. The accessibility of the controls allows gamers to really experience the hero, by really learning the character and not just the button combinations. Like the real thing, the heroes in the game are very unbalanced, some having far more power than others, giving you the real “Who’s the Greatest” feel of the game. Learn to overcome the disabilities and prove that no matter what Iron Man brings, you will have your day. Victory is so much sweeter when you know you have truly earned it. Beyond the power structure, you also have combos to create and perfect by figuring out which moves can string together and how to make them more effective by mixing in power moves, throws, air throws, and-and this is the big one-finishing moves. And what would any fully 3-D fighter be without the levels themselves, two guys floating in space?

The environments are dark and dreary places, full of flames and debris, and lots of goodies to throw at your enemies, but watch out for what they throw back. Objects break and explode, columns crumble and crush you, pits await your missteps, antenna and parking meters can be ripped up for a game of squash, and your opponent will be looking to use it all against you as he vies for dominance in the Marvel Universe. The darkness of the environments also serves as a solid contrast to the appearances of most of the fighters, allowing them to ‘pop’ from the pages as it were.

There are two things that make super heroes the iconic figures that they are, their abilities (special and human) and their appearance. Spider-Man just wouldn’t be the same with out his red and blue tights, nor Torch with out his bright orange flames, but some characters have changed costumes a number of times over the years and different costumes relate to different fans. Wolverine falls into this category, I remember his brown and yellow costume and others remember his yellow and blue one, and in order to avoid the issue he has been stripped of his costume and left with a basic “jeans and t-shirt” look. For fans of the movie this may not be a problem, nor will Magneto’s lack of cape and helm, but other fanatics might take issue. Aside from this, how the characters look, is impressive to say the least, how they sound, however, is a bit of a mixed bag.

Closing in on your opponent, you activate your special powers and ‘sssshhing’, that oh so familiar sound as Wolverine prepares to do what he does best. The sounds that go with the powers, although a bit quiet under the music, are perfect. Each distinct sound let’s you know what’s coming, which can be a lifesaver if you’ve lost track of your opponent. If only you could turn down, or off, that frantic and somewhat eerie music. The music isn’t bad, it sort of reminds me of the kind of battle charge played in films like Excalibur, only on speed, but I would rather be able to hear the cool sound effects that go with the characters. The voice over work also has its ups and downs. On the upside, some of the characters really sound good, and their catch phrases are right on the money, but on the down there are more that don’t sound quite right or say things that just don’t fit the character. Several of the characters say things that are just plain wrong, and most of the characters only have one (two at the most) comment for before the fight and one for after, so don’t expect too much variety.

Unlike other fighting games, Nemesis doesn’t cram the menu with a load options that, when you get down to it, are basically the same or only slightly different. You get your Versus Mode, Story Mode, Rewards(cards, comics, and movies), and options.

Versus Mode, like in most fighters, is the meat and potatoes of the game. This is where you will spend your time, and it is time well spent. You start with the basic “Player vs. Player” or “Player vs. COM” options, but once you pick that the choices branch out again. You are offered two modes of battle, a “Lives” match and a “Timed” match.

Timed match lets you pick from 1 to 99 minutes and you fight, again and again, to see who can get the most wins before time runs out, unless of course you’re tied and then it becomes sudden death with no more chances. Choosing lives match sends you to the character select screen (as does timed once you set your time limit) where you can pick from one of 18 (some need to be unlocked, more on that later) Super beings including 10 Marvel Classics and 8 new Marvel characters designed for this series. None of these characters are to be taken lightly and most of them are truly great characters. Once you pick your character and one of two costumes (semi-color changes, although some are very cool) you will be prompted to enter the number of lives (Timed matches move on) for each character. That’s right, I said each. This means you can set up matches where it is three lives a piece (the default) or 1 for you and 10 for them (the min. and max.) or anywhere in between, making for ultimate handicap matches for you and your friends or Survival matches against the COM. Once all that is done you move on to select one of 7 venues(4 to start), ranging from the oh so familiar Daily Bugle Roof, Brooklyn Bridge, and Avengers Mansion, to the less recognizable but stock comic book levels; the streets, the power plant, and the bad guy’s HQ. Each have different lay outs with different kinds of items, some with ring out areas (pits, the edge of the roof, etc.) that only the best high fliers (and swingers) can recover from, and some with out. Choose wisely, and choose to win. Let the fight begin. If you win enough you will unlock new characters and venues, as well as other unlockable content.

Story Mode is the basic “Ladder” of opponents that you see in most fighting games, but with a twist. Instead of watching the little icon of your fighter move up the ladder to a fight, or wandering through wide open “story” areas waiting to find an opponent to challenge, only to return to the basic Vs. setup, you will find yourself fighting your way through the streets of New York (and across the roof tops) against hordes of generic enemies, each with abilities similar to some of the main characters. This is quite literally where you learn your characters. Each hero has a set of missions to complete while training you with the moves, and then an arena (Vs. Mode) fight against one of the other characters in the game. At any point between missions you can switch and play the missions of other heroes that you have reached the missions for, and then go back to finish the ones that you left on the other fighter; only four mission sets can be running at one time. You will also reach points where the game lets you choose a “Special’ fight, most of which have you play as Imperfects against an established Hero. Not all of the special fights can be completed in the first play through, so remember which ones you picked and finish the others on a second round about. Paragon’s Missions will also be interspersed through your play, until her full set becomes unlocked and you work your way toward the finale. While you will unlock goodies by playing through story mode, you don’t need to play it to unlock characters or venues for versus mode, although you can. I recommend you at least get the hang of the controls before tackling Story Mode, or you might get frustrated a bit. The mode is not intended to be an Epic single player campaign and is sort of a throw back to the classic days of Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. Some might love it, some might hate it, but there isn’t anything horridly bad about it, although the camera (if you don’t know how to use it) can cause a little confusion.

Like every game, this game has it’s flaws, but they aren’t stand out game killers, they’re “We tried something new” flaws. Sure more unlockable content like characters and costumes would be well received, but again, the game doesn’t really suffer for lack of it. Marvel Nemesis takes minutes to learn and months to master, and it provides a well rounded and, most importantly, fun experience, if you know what you are getting into. This is not your standard “toe-to-toe”, best of three 90-second matches, combo cruncher, this is “kill or be killed” Marvel mayhem.

How do you go about creating the perfect licensed product so that casual gamers who love the characters and hardcore gamers who love fighting games will both be satisfied with the end result? You don’t – because it’s an impossibility. That was a trick question.

Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects is the perfect example of this vexxing conundrum. EA has taken an interesting premise that was brimming with potential and delivered this weak in the knees one button beat-em-up that has absolutely no teeth. The fighting engine is so watered down that only geeking Marvel fanboys will elicit any enjoyment out of spending any time with it and even that camp will probably be largely polarized on what EA has created. The ones who do manage to keep the power on for longer than the time it takes to check out a few of their favorite characters, will most likely short circuit their controllers after a time anyway, due to their incessant drooling.

The biggest mistake EA made was thinking that they could create characters that would be as exciting as the pop culture legacy that the House of M has produced over the last few decades. Had EA had simply worried more about the gameplay than trying to infuse their own creations and left Marvel Nemesis a standalone comic book character brawler featuring all Marvel characters, the end result might have been a tighter, far more interesting experience. As it stands I defy any gamer to care about the Imperfects, their backstorys or their unique powers as this is all about pitting Wolverine against Venom or Spider-Man against Ironman. Even a DC versus Marvel game would have been a far more interesting clash than attempting to introduce new characters. It worked for Capcom years ago because the Street Fighter II characters were already heavily ingrained into pop culture.

Where the gameplay falters inexcusably is the primary one button gameplay. It is suggested this was done so that players could easily move from one character to the next without having to re-learn difficult “movesets” for each fighter. The last time I checked, most gamers weren’t brain damaged to the point where they couldn’t function when having to learn a few new button commands. Has EA even watched some of you kids play games? Most of you gamers were raised with controllers in your hands – and yes, we salute you (but get outside once in awhile!) – and games like this are just completely insulting to your skills. Even casual gamers aren’t afraid of learning some cool new moves, so why EA would pander to a demographic that I’m not even sure exists is a complete mystery. Is this the same demographic that is going to prefer playing games with a remote control because a controller is too icky for them? WTF, dudes?

Yes, it’s fun to play as Spider-Man, Venom, Wolverine, Thing etc while you make your way through the games relatively short Story mode, a few versus battles and online. And man, they look great. The graphics are excellent and while the enviroments aren’t as plentiful as I was hoping for, they are quite diverse. Marvel Nemesis takes place in a war-torn New York and the fighting is actually a quite a bit darker in tone than the usual superhero game – but that still doesn’t make it any better, so get those hopes down. Each level features quite a bit of environmental destruction which is interesting for awhile, but ultimately it all comes crashing down on the shoulders of the “Fighting For Dummies” control config and the mind-numbing repetition of it all.

In terms of actual fighting, you’ll find that melee characters such as The Thing, Wolverine and Daredevil are always at the mercy of projectile fighters. The game is criminally unbalanced and you’ll be lucky to even get close to some opponents at times during a big boss battle. When you do manage to get close to an opponent, God forbid the camera should stay in one place. Without a lock on button for attacks – which should be a given in a semi-open environment like this – heroes will attack thin air, garbage cans, cars etc. as they go through their canned animations because you completely missed your target, leaving you wide open for attack. Other times you’ll be engaging in a boss battle and your opponent will just stand there with their back to you. This happens to be a bonus as you’ll usually be attacking an inanimate object at that moment instead of sucker punching them like you should be.

Story mode which is played out like a Final Fight type Beat-em-up offers players the opportunity to wander the streets of NYC, fighting hordes of cookie cutter aliens and performing repetitive attacks. It reminded me of a much nicer looking, but surprisingly shallower (if you can believe it) version of Maximum Carnage.

I took the game online and because I only had one copy of the game, couldn’t really find anyone to play against because the game had just been released and most players were probably returning it back to the store. When I did find someone to play against, I have to admit that it was fun, but only for awhile. Make that an extremely short while. EA knows their way around online and MN doesn’t suffer from any particular ethernet maladies; it functions equally as well online as it does offline.

Ultimately Nemesis could have benefited from a variety of different moves because what you’re stuck with is barely enough to get the job done. With dumb-downed controls, terrible camera, rampant imbalance issues and no target lock, Nemesis can be needlessly frustrating. It’s not hard in a challenging way though, it’s hard because you can rarely execute the attacks you intended to, either because you couldn’t see your opponent due to the camera (that pulls WAY out leaving you a tiny dot on the horizon), were being air juggled by a projectile fighter, couldn’t lock onto an enemy or generally just found the limited control scheme useless.

Sorry, but with X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse, Ultimate Spider-Man and the recently released Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction on storeshelves, EA’s collaboration with Marvel just pales in comparison in every department, save graphics. If you have trouble figuring out the intricate mechanics of turning the pages of a comic book, Marvel Nemesis might sink your battleship, but the rest of you should avoid it like being tickled by Logan’s claws. If you’re a diehard Marvel fan, by all means rent the game and get your flame on, but don’t be investing cash in this for the long term.

Preview by Gooseberry

In whispers and hushed tones, we’ve been hearing about an upcoming crossover project between EA and Marvel and after months of rumors, it has all been finally revealed.

Electronic Arts just announced a new game in the Marvel franchise, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects. The game will feature Super Heroes from the Marvel Universe as well as a new set of characters created through collaboration with EA and top comic book industry talent.

“Marvel Nemesis delivers the definitive Super Hero videogame allowing gamers to play as and against the world’s greatest Super Heroes,” said Marc Aubanel, Executive Producer, EA Canada. “Marvel Nemesis truly captures the Marvel Universe offering players an authentic Super Hero fighting experience that comic book fans and gamers have been asking for.”

Ames Kirshen, Director Of Video Game Development at Marvel Enterprises, added, “We are thrilled to be working with EA and collaborating with some of the top talents in both the videogame and comic book industries in creating this groundbreaking comic series and innovative fighting game franchise.”

EA is calling on the talent of top comic book writers and concept artists, such as Jae Lee, for Marvel character and game design as well as renowned artist, Paul Catling, among other industry talents, to create a new family of Super Heroes that will go face to face with an all-star line-up of Marvel characters for the ultimate showdown.

Lee has illustrated high-profile comic book titles including Spider-Man, Uncanny X-men, X-Factor, Captain America, Transformers Versus G.I. Joe and his own creation Hellshock. Catling is best known for his concept artwork and character design on Hollywood blockbuster films including Spider-Man 2, AVP: Alien Vs. Predator, The Punisher, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects will feature more than a dozen fighters in fully interactive and destructible environments. Gamers will have full control over the individual characters with each fighter having unique attributes and super powers that are true to their background adding more depth and fighting strategy to the game.

The Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects videogame also spawned the new Marvel six issue mini-series, Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects, launching this May. In the comic book, Marvel Super Heroes including Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Thing and Elektra clash with EA’s Niles Van Roekel, an evil alien scientist out to create a super army of vicious warriors. Through the comic books, the new EA characters will be unveiled each month leading up to the launch of the game.

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System: Xbox, PS2, GC
Dev: EA
Pub: EA
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1 – 2
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