reviews\ Jun 27, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Fantastic 4 - GC - Review

There is a scene in the upcoming movie, the Fantastic Four, in which Dr. Victor Von Doom (played by Julian McMahon in full armor-covered splendor) says to Sue Storm (Jessica Alba): “Oh Sue, let’s not fight.”

Sue’s reply? “Oh yes, let’s!” Then she nails him with a force blast.

When one jumps into the Activision/Seven Studios videogame, based on the Fox motion picture, which is precisely what one gets – plenty of action. Yes, liberties were taken with the origin of the amazing quartet when compared to the comic book, and there are some clipping problems and the overall game – per level – feels rather short, but this is like dipping oneself into the waters of the ‘first family’ of mutated superheroes and getting up close and personal.

The game ‘borrows’ a lot of the feel and combat/leveling treatment from X-Men Legends. You can switch from one controlled character to another on the fly, and you can level up the powers and abilities by defeating hordes of bad guys and gaining experience.

Let’s toss out the comic book origin of the quartet and instead look at the way the movie depicts the beginnings and mutation – if for no other reason than the game follows the course of the movie, but adds to it by throwing in a who’s who from the Marvel Universe of bad guys.

Reed Richards and Sue Storm are scientists (different fields of study), given the opportunity to go aboard a space station owned by Von Doom to study a cosmic phenomenon heading toward Earth. Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm (Sue’s younger brother) are both astronauts; the former a grizzled old-timer who’s career may be winding down while the latter is the hotshot up and comer pilot of the shuttle that ferries them all the space station. That is when things start to go awry. The storm is heading for them and the shielding on the station has malfunctioned and won’t securely fasten shut. Ben is sent outside to try to manually close the shields, but his efforts come a little too late.

The storm hits the station and penetrates it through the opened shielding, with rays penetrating the four, and apparently Von Doom as well.

The quartet awakens back on Earth, in a secured and well-guarded facility (robot guards, no less), and discovers that the security system no longer recognizes their DNA signatures. Not only that, but they are imbued with strange powers, seemingly stemming from their mutated DNA. Sue has force field powers and the ability to turn invisible; Reed’s body has taken on incredible elasticity and he can stretch in and form it into a variety of shapes; Johnny’s body becomes engulfed in flames, making him lighter than air and giving him the ability to fire fiery missiles, erect walls of fire, and even do a little “spot wielding” when the occasion calls for it. But alas, poor Ben. His mutation is the worst of all, for while he could likely have lived with the incredible strength he was given, his body has transformed into a orangish rock-golem manner, barely resembling a human at all.

But Reed, Johnny and Sue will not abandon their friend in his time of need, and so begins the adventure of the videogame as the quartet tries to find some way to restore Ben to his human form. In the movie, the F4 battle Dr. Doom. In the game, they battle Dr. Doom and a host of other super enemies from the Marvel Universe.

Like X-Men Legends, the combat system allows players to switch between party members on the fly, and players also can upgrade each member of the team (by spending experience points gained during combat) to gain new abilities within their mutated power structure. Because Reed is a scientist AND inventor, he will use devices in addition to his ability to assume different shapes.

The game also features a variety of mini-games, which take advantage of the character’s special abilities. Reed, for example, will hack computer terminals, aligning the circuits within a certain time frame to open doors. Others have similar “feats” that require either pounding on the hot buttons, or rotating the analog stick to power up enough to accomplish a set task. 

The game itself is rather linear and each level feels quite short in terms of moving from one end to the other, beating up and abusing the environment to either defeat your foes or to look for hidden objects. While there are a lot of levels, experienced players may be able to work through them in short order. The lure, apparently, is to replay to find what you may have missed the first time through or to improve your score and/or time through the level.

Graphically, this game is a treat. There are a few clipping problems, but the effects are exquisite. The sound also follows the movie, using the voices of the actors, which gives this title an excellent feel.

Where the game really shines, though, is in the co-op mode. There is no online play, but gamers can plug in an extra controller and take over as a member of the team. Team combos (and yes, the AI is good enough that non-controlled team members will help pull them off) can be devastating. 

Fantastic Four may take liberties with the comic origins, and it may track the course of the motion picture, but in many regards, this is like a comic book come to life. It stands apart from other Activision staples like X-Men Legends in that this is only four members of one team, and you get much more personally involved with them. Sure, we all have our favorite X-Men, but there is a reason that the F4 team is often referred to as the “first family” of superheroes.

With a host of arch villains, solid gameplay and sound, and tasty visual elements, there is a lot of enjoy about this game.  

Review Scoring Details for Fantastic Four

Gameplay: 8.3
The levels are short, and therein lays the biggest fault of the game. The boss battles do take some cerebral exercises and persistence to work through – and there are battles in which minions compound efforts to focus the combined attacking might of the team on the main bad guy. The game also features different pairings of the foursome to make for some interesting level challenges.

Graphics: 8.5
The game’s effects are very good, and the environments are fun to explore and are destructible – which can be especially fun if you are the rampaging Thing. The only drawbacks can be the occasional clipping problem.   

Sound: 8.3
Using clips from the movie is very nice, but when compared to the rest of the game’s presentation, this just seems a little understated.

Difficulty: Medium
The game does feature several difficulty levels, but the AI makes for the characters not controlled by a player or players work well within the team concept.

Concept: 8.8
You take a movie-driven plot, then pack in a host of other villains from the Marvel universe and you have a game that scores well. Toss in some unlockables and great co-op play and you have a wonderful concept.

Multiplayer: 9.0
Does it get any better than co-op play within the scope of the game? This is a blast to play with a friend.

Overall: 8.7
The levels may be short, but so in the learning curve. Players will find themselves pulled through the linear game with anticipation. Sure, there are a few little setbacks, but those are easily overlooked. Graphically wonderful, with a great co-op mode, makes for a truly enjoyable gaming experience.


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