Reviewed: June 28, 2005
Released: June 28, 2005
The Fantastic 4, in theory, could make for a great videogame. Marvelís superhero franchises are unmatched, but itíll likely be this summerís film that will familiarize the Fantastic 4 with the masses used to Spider-Man or the X-men.
For the videogame, the team at 7 Studios decided on the classic beatíem up genre, but with unique powers for each of the four team members, and a few minor puzzles thrown in for good measure. The highlight of the Fantastic 4 though, is undeniably its multiplayer component that letís one or two players switch back and forth between team members to defeat the enemy, which (was there any doubt?) Doctor Doom.
With the team play elements thrown in, as well as the ability to unlock new combos throughout, The Fantastic 4, while far from the blockbuster that movie-goers expect from the film, is mildly more entertaining than the average brawler.
Penned by Zak Penn (X2: X-Men United), The Fantastic 4 plays out as an origins adventure, where the four heroes first discover the nature of their unique powers. The story is a well-paced and interesting, and helps to keep things rolling without becoming tired. The beatíem up action is largely the same throughout the game, which consists of our four heroes, some destructible environments, and a lot of enemies to smack around. Each of the Fantastic 4 has their own unique abilities that are pretty fun to play, though some characters are admittedly more fun to use than others.
First, thereís Mr. Fantastic, the leader of the group, who can basically stretch in various ways, hitting enemies from a distance and being able to access narrow areas the others cannot. Being the brains behind the team also means that he can hack into computers (becoming tiny minigames within themselves), mostly to open doors. Johnny Flame is the only character able to fly, and he is able to shoot fireballs from his fingertips.
The two remaining characters, Sue Storm and Ben Grimm, are perhaps the most interesting to play. The sexy ďInvisible WomanĒ can turn invisible (naturally), avoiding enemies and security systems, as well as performing stealth kills. She can also freeze enemies, as well as shield herself and her comrades. Ben Grimm, the Thing, is just a massive, hulking rock, but his sheer power and the ability to smash enemies with the surrounding environmental objects make him a blast to tool around with.
Each of the Fantastic 4 can unlock new combos, rounding to about 150 different moves. Each team member can also perform special attacks when together, to unload some mass damage. There are several bosses throughout the game, and many of them actually require teamwork with other members of the team to be triumphant, a nice touch.
In the single-player game, players can easily switch between members with the D-pad, though there are some levels that center on a specific member of the four. Fighting through countless fodder while navigating a myriad of fairly linear levels can get tedious. Thankfully, 7 studios added a few incentives to the action. The destructible objects in the environment add a lot to the combat and to the fun, and throwing in some light puzzle solving also helps to break up the constant action. Itís unfortunate though that the puzzle elements are used in almost the exact same fashion every time.
The game operates pretty well, but the camera can sometimes get in the way, as if it canít keep up with the fast-paced action. In addition, the controls are very loose, so it will take a little time to adjust. Once you do though, the game is pretty fluid. Most of the enemies are mindless droids who seem to love getting a beat down, but itís also important to note that the AI idiocy is more than made up for in numbers.
The Fantastic 4, for the most part, looks pretty average. The environments are varied, but drab and boring. The destructible objects help to make up for it, but it doesnít change the fact that there just isnít anything to see, which is a bit of a disappointment seeing as how the gameís levels arenít very big.
The character models look pretty good, but the enemy models are as generic as they come. Each character has animations that look okay (except Sue walks like sheís trying to be sexy after her first experiment with crack). The camera is most at home when it zooms to an isometric top-down view. When it gets close, it canít keep up, which can be disorienting.
It should be noted however, that the storytelling and the cinematics work very well together for the cutscenes.
The key characters in the Fantastic 4 make an appearance for the voice-overs in the game and, for the most part, do a pretty good job of it. While there are moments where it seems as if the actors are reading directly from the script, the writing is at least good enough to keep the story going.
The music is gripping, and helps the atmosphere, except when it simply resorts to very sloppy rock tracks in select combat scenes. Again, the score stands out the most during the story sequences.
The Fantastic 4 is at its greatest when in two-player co-op, where the majority of the action really heats up. While the single-player offers essentially the same experience, the game is more intuitive with two players.
Being a game made up of four key characters, it would have been nice to see a four-player co-op, especially since four-player co-op is becoming the de facto standard. For those who persevere, there is a lot to unlock within the gameís three difficulty levels.
While the Fantastic 4 is certainly your average brawler style of game, 7 Studios helps to mix up the action with little mini-brain teasers, and actual team strategy. Using objects in the environment to give enemies a beating is always kick-ass, and each character has their own abilities that are, at the very least, solid and enjoyable.
Still, four-player co-op is sorely missing, and the graphics are very, very average. The levels are linear and often repeat the same setups over and over. And, despite the unlockable combos, the action gets boring and repetitive quickly. Playing this style of game -- even with its extra ingredients -- will require a real love for the subject matter to thoroughly enjoy. If you are a Fantastic 4 junkie though, bump the score up an additional full point.