IGN Review of Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I want to apologize to you, readers. For months now, I've waxed on and on about the pros and cons of certain games, and I have often used the term "button-masher." Up until this weekend, I thought I was using the phrase in the correct context. I though I knew what it meant.
Then, I met Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Loosely based on the film with the same name, Rise would be better published as an Incredible Hulk simulator because the more I played, the madder I got. To begin with, the game from 2K and 7 Studios is a complete conundrum for fans. When the title opens, the team -- the Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic, the Thing and the Invisible Woman -- is dropped into the lair of the Skrull with only a vague exchange on the outside to let you know something is amiss on earth.
This is the real "introduction" folks
Johnny: Ok walk me through this again, Reed. How does what's going on underground have anything to do with all that craziness up there?
Ben: Yeah, I got the same question as hothead here.
Reed: All of my readings correlate exactly to this location. I've tracked a large cosmic energy spike to these coordinates. Find the source and maybe
we'll be able to figure out why earth's experiencing such strange weather anomalies.
Sue: This would so have to happen when I'm still trying to find a caterer.
Ben: Oy, the wedding.
Sue: Don't push it.
Ok. That's a pretty simplified version of the chaos (see: a silver dude is making huge holes in the planet) the movie showed, but I guess I can live with them not rehashing the story. It just means they expect me to see the movie to fill in the game's blanks, right? Not so fast, dedicated F4 fan who picked up this title AND saw the film. Although it would seem the game wants you to see the Jessica Alba opus (FYI: Jess didn't let the game use her voice or likeness for the Sue Storm character), if you did see the motion picture, you'd quickly realize the game has rewritten large parts of the movie -- the Fantastic 4 doesn't even see the Silver Surfer until they bust him out of military custody and some pushover boss tells the team the Surfer's real name -- and twists dialogue around to make Sue, Reed, Johnny and Ben seem like idiots.
Don't see the movie, and you'll be lost in the game. See the movie, and you'll be upset in the game. It's a paradox even Reed Richards couldn't figure out!
You could hope that the gameplay is on par enough to distract you from the liberties the official movie game is taking, but that kind of hope is only going to lead to more mind-cramps and anger.
Let me walk you though a typical level. You'll start with some goofy dialogue between the team -- not a full-fledged cutscene, just talking heads and captions that pop up on the screen -- and go on to punch everything and anything that gets in your way for the next 25 minutes. Somewhere in there you'll come to a checkpoint and be overjoyed because you think that means you can save, quit and mourn the dozens of dollars you just wasted on Rise, but it turns out you can only save between missions.
Sometimes you'll come to non-movie, comic book bosses such as Super Skrull and Terrex. It's a good thing you've been practicing punching for the past few hours, because the secret to beating bosses in Rise is running up to them and punching them. However, these aren't normal punching fights. Here, you'll have to deplete a boss health meter two or three times -- and deal with a truckload of minions between each bar -- before you can finally punch him to death. Excelsior!
That might sound redundant, but there's good news if you like punching: you get to punch as all four members of the team! With the tap of the D-Pad (a la X-Men Legends) you can be in control of whichever punching maniac you like. Hooray!
Don't let my personal outrage over punching mislead you; you do have the Fantastic 4's superpowers, but they're really an afterthought. Each character's HUD picture has two bars -- green is health and blue is Cosmic Energy. Anytime you want to do something fantastic -- make Sue invisible, burn a bunch of people as Johnny, ground pound with the Thing or stretchy punch as Reed -- you'll consume a portion of the blue bar. Basically, this means that in between exhausting bits of punching, you'll toss a special move and then get right back to punching. The Cosmic Energy meter refills over time, but you need to find energy orbs for your health.
If a character runs out of health, they disappear from the screen -- the game says they're teleported back to the Baxter Building -- but as long as one member of your team is on their feet, the other fallen members will eventually heal and teleport back into battle. So, in short, expect to spend portions of boss battles running around in circles as Sue and waiting for the Thing and Human Torch to come back to life.
Even if you didn't listen to me, bought this game and decided to just run through the levels to get to the next boss, you'd be screwed. Rise loves the ol'beat-everyone-in-the-room-to-unlock-the-next-door method -- along with having to throw switches to open the next door, hit bells to open other doors and activate elevators to get to some more doors. Just when you think you've seen all the rage-inducing parts of this title and believe you can finish it without embedding your PS2 controller in the wall, the game tosses in timed battles. You'll need to beat a ton of foes in 10 minutes before a laser cannon is activated and beat legions of bad guys while trying to turn off a bunch of generators in 30 minutes.
Imagine my curse words as the Thing got stuck on Sue in the last ten minutes of the generator challenge. They were both killed. The quartet started 29 minutes back at the last checkpoint -- it's enough to make you quit the superhero business forever.
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