With great power comes… mediocre gaming.
Call me a nerd, but I like comic books, I like movies, and I like video games. [Editor’s note: Nerd!] The thing of it is that it seems like the three are naturally intertwined and should, therefore, be compatible for crossovers. In fact, I’ve seen good movies based on comic books (X-Men, Spiderman); I’ve played good video games based on comic books (X-Men Legends I &II and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance); hell, I’ve even read a good comic book based on a bad movie (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Origin).
[image1]What I don’t understand is why no one has been able to make a good video game … based on a movie … that’s based on a comic book. The question is: Does Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer go where no video game (based on a movie … based on a comic book) has gone before?
Well, the good news is that FF: ROTSS isn’t just based on the movie (and you’ll notice I didn’t mention the insipid FF movies amongst the well adapted), you actually fight the whole gamut of Fantastic Four villains (the Skrull, the Terrax, etc.) and not just the Surfer and Doc Doom. This is particularly beneficial if you are more of a fan of the comic and not the movies, since with the ability to unlock different costumes, you could just think of it as a Fantastic Four game and forget the godawful movies.
However, the bad news is that while you do fight a diverse group of enemies the fighting itself is anything but diverse. In fact, it’s repetitive and (quickly) becomes boring. Regardless of the enemy, expect a lot of walking around, smashing, taking of elevators to the next floor, more walking around, and more smashing and more … well, you get the picture.
In terms of mechanics, the game plays like X-Men Legends, only from a third-person rather than top down perspective. In other words, the game looks good and seems like it SHOULD be fun (again, how hard is it?), but it feels like you’ve done this before and with a better game to boot. You control one of the Fantastic Four (for those of you who don’t know, choosing between Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Thing, or The Human Torch) at a time and can switch back and forth between characters on the fly.
[image2]Of course, you have the requisite red and green bars indicating your health and energy levels, which you can replenish by smashing the objects conveniently left around whatever fortress you’re infiltrating. (Note to self: When you finally achieve your lifelong dream of becoming a full-fledged super villain – try NOT to leave barrels of energy and health orbs lying around the hideout for the benefit of the heroes attempting to thwart my maniacal plans. That is all.)
The problem here is that despite the FF’s vastly different powers each character plays remarkably the same. Sure, The Thing smashes things and the Torch shoots flames, Sue wields force fields, and Reed … well, stretches, but really they all primarily fight hand-to-hand style. Except for the specific parts of the game where you have to use a particular character’s skill set to solve a “puzzle” (like Sue Storm using her force fields to move an object) I didn’t feel any great desire to switch around the team members, because they just weren’t that different.
Also, while the X-Men Legends games were fun a few years ago, the model is beginning to show its age, and here you don’t have the wide range of characters to choose from like you did in last year’s Ultimate Alliance (a game I actually thought did a good job of providing a unique experience related to each different character). This lack of character diversity really hurts the gameplay. I mean, who wants to play Reed Richards running around boxing people? That’s like playing Wolverine and having him outthinking folks and solving puzzles. And – worse yet – there’s no sense of teamwork, a staple of the FF I knew and loved.
[image3]Then there’s the problem of the energy bar and its relation to your use of super powers. I’ve read a lot of Fantastic Four comics and, for instance, The Human Torch could “Flame On!” and fly from the moment he was bombarded with Gama Rays while trying to beat those darned commies in space, but not so in the game: sustained flight is something you earn. The problem with this is the FF aren’t mutants that had to harness their powers so why should I have to fly in spurts, stretch briefly, etc. until my energy (quickly) wears off? This was mildly annoying in the X-Men Legends and Ultimate Alliance games but is a real spoiler in this game. Frankly, I don’t want to have to level The Thing up for clobbering time to ensue.
The Wii version is similar on most fronts, except it’s played from a more top down perspective (making it look a lot like the X-Men legends games) with (obviously) inferior graphics to the Xbox 360 and PS3. They try to make up for this by using the motion control system, which creates the interesting paradox of a motion control button masher! Just keep waggling. Really, with the Wii controller and nunchuck the game becomes even more tedious.
In the end, I find myself still waiting for the good video game based on a movie … based on a comic book, kind of like I’m still waiting for a good Fantastic Four movie. The good news is yet another chance lies just around the corner. Come on, Iron Man!