IGN Review of Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I don't know how people keep screwing this up. Comic characters and videogames should go together like milk and cookies, but developers keep finding ways to suck the fun out of putting on a pair of tights and fighting injustice.
No need to get your hopes up, my nerd brethren, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not a step in the right direction for comic book-inspired games.
Based on the Jessica Alba-in-tights project by the same name, Rise mimics parts of the feature film while throwing in a healthy dose of imagined plot points and comic book folklore. Deviating from the movie is something we've come to expect with our film/game tie-ins, but Fantastic Four goes the extra mile -- it drops you into the middle of the game without any introduction as to what's happening, staffs movie locales with hordes of brain-dead jobbers and ends so abruptly it makes the thin characterizations in the real film look like Hamlet.
This is a by the numbers cash in, fans, and that's a damn shame. Rise has all the elements for an excellent superhero outing. While the game loosely bases itself on the movie and features Dr. Doom and the Silver Surfer, it throws in comic book villains such as the Skrull and Terrax, variant costumes, unlockable comic covers and more. On the surface, it seems like it's got a chance at being fun, but that optimism disappears once the game gets going.
It's not that it's bad; it's just boring.
Borrowing heavily from the control scheme of the X-Men Legends series, Rise gives you access to the entire Fantastic 4 while you play. With the tap of the D-Pad you can be in control of Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Homan Torch and the Thing. Each character has their image on the HUD surrounded by two meters -- red is health and blue is Cosmic Energy. Each character has four Cosmic Energy-draining moves that you enact by holding a shoulder button and pressing a face button. Sue can turn invisible and move things with her telekinesis, Reed can periscope punch and stretch himself around lasers, Johnny can throw fireballs and lay down a suppressive blast of heat, and the Thing can pound the ground and amplify his rock body so that he cannot take damage.
As a videogame fan, I know that the Cosmic Power bar is just trying to balance the action, but as a comic book fan, this system is unacceptable. The Fantastic 4 are not brawlers who only use their powers once in awhile. These are gifted people who need to work as a team to overcome opponents that would crush Johnny, Sue, Ben and Reed on their own. This game doesn't share that philosophy; combat breaks down to the team marching from room to room, clobbering bad guys with fists. Sue Strom slugging it out with a machine gun turret? No. Johnny Storm draining his power meter as he flies a few feet off the floor? God, no.
Thing is, you're going to forget that most of the team has unique abilities. As you truck through the generic levels -- five minutes into any level (the Skrull lair, space station, military base, mountain or Shanghai), you'll have seen everything you're going to see for the rest of the mission -- you'll bust open crates to find Fantastic 4 tokens that can be spent on character upgrades such as increasing one of the team member's defense or cosmic move. It's a great idea, but in a game of mindless fighting, it's a waste. My strategy focused on upgrading the Thing's ground pound and leaving everyone else in the dust. Sure, at times I needed Johnny to fly over a set of lasers, Reed to punch a laser control box off a wall and Sue to move something on the other side of a bunch of lasers, but they could do all of that regardless of upgrades. The Thing was
the thing moving us through levels.
Don't spend your time wondering if the game is really as monotonous as all my laser talk would make it out to be -- it is. Here's how the levels go: break some wall, fight a bunch of similar looking guys, activate an elevator or laser and repeat until the next boss. Thankfully, this only goes on for less than 10 hours, but there's only five levels to walk around and punch in -- that means you're going to be spending tons of time in the same monotonous environments with the same monotonous enemies and using the same monotonous attacks.
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