Fantastic 4
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2, GC
Publisher
Activision
Developer
7 Studios
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Mild Language
 
Grade
The Good

• Co-op brawling action
• Destructible environments
• Voice work from movie cast
• Unlockables and multiple difficulty levels

The Bad

• Graphics could use more polish
• Only two player co-op
• Targeting is weak

 
Grade
B-

One of Marvel's original superhero teams has had a rough go of it outside of the comic medium. The Fantastic Four game for the Playstation was universally panned and the first movie, produced by Roger Corman, was filmed intentionally bad just to use up a license before it reverted back to Marvel. This movie, of course, never saw the light of day. So, when a new big-budget movie and associated game comes out, one has to be weary of the product that bears the F4 logo.

Fantastic 4 takes the story of the movie and fills it with a lot more content to give players more than 30 minutes of gameplay. Taking a divergent path away from the original origin story, the game starts with Reed Richards securing a deal with industrialist Victor Von Doom to launch a shuttle into space for his experiment. To join the two men is Susan Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. After the space ship falls prey to a cosmic storm, Reed Richards finds himself in a medical facility with some strange new powers. Its not long before Reed finds his friends and they decide to team together. This is where the story obviously goes into filler mode, adding enemies like the Moleman and Dragon Man to give fans of the comic more content they're familiar with.

Once you get into the action, you'll find a game that shows signs of influence from X-Men Legends. While the action looks the same, Fantastic 4 ditches most RPG elements, like levels and experience in favor of a points system that can be spent on unlockables and improving special powers. Combat involves using a combination of standard and heavy attacks in combination. There's also a grab/grapple button and a block button. You can also target enemies and use special powers.

As you progress through the game, each character has specific things they can do, which are noted by colored markers. Some boss fights even require a tandem use of powers, forcing players to swap characters. Throughout the game, you'll find each character plays a bit different. The Human Torch is all about all-out action, while The Thing is good for are destroying brawls and going toe-to-toe with bosses, including delivering some finishing blows that can end boss fights quickly. Mr. Fantastic can hack terminals in a quick puzzle minigame and The Invisible Woman can turn invisible and sneak around, performing stealth attacks.

While these additional actions are nice, they really only play second fiddle to the main brawling action of plowing through scores of enemies. Most levels will throw tons of similar-looking enemies at you while giving you goals and objectives to complete. Completionists will enjoy that fact that the game comes with multiple difficult levels and has more than a few unlockables to be gained. And, along with main single player game is the option to play two-player co-op and an arena mode for more multiplayer action. Too bad the arena isn't all that deep, but playing the game in co-op is a pretty fun diversion.

Visually, Fantastic 4 does well enough without really excelling. Some of the CG cutscenes look good and actually represent the original actors well. Too bad not all the CG scenes hold the same level of quality. Much can be said for the game engine. While it's nice that so much of the gameworld can be destroyed or used to beat the crap out of your enemies, most of the areas look pretty generic and are repeated often. One might say that this repetition can lead to confusion, but most of the levels are small enough that it doesn't prove much of a problem. Character, NPC and enemies models are functional without looking all that special. One of the things I find interesting is that so much care is made to make the characters look like the real actors, yet The Thing looks very little like the rubber suit from the film.

Audiowise, Fantastic 4's biggest sell is being able to get the main cast of the movie to do voiceovers. Its a shame that the voice direction is pretty uninspired and most of the deliveries feel like they're done with little care or effort. Sound effects come from the standard catalog of action effects. The soundtrack feels suitably effective, making the game have a certain movie-like flair to it.

Fantastic 4 is obviously a game that was developed to be "finished" before the movie. Because of this, some of the game feels rough around the edges and I have to question some of the decisions made. Like, why the hell would you make a game staring a team of four people and not make the co-op more than two players? Seriously. Because of this, you spend way too much time with only one or two of the characters. The targeting system is inaccurate, at best, but fortunately you can still plow through enemies without much need for it.

Even with all the complaints offered, there is fun to be had with the brawling action. I wish the development team had been given more time and maybe even a better budget to make more of this title. As it is, only comic book fans or those in good need of a decent brawler will want to check this title out. Those looking for some co-op action might want to give it a whirl as well, but don't expect this title to be as deep as some of the more high-end games offered in the past year.

- - Vane

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