Fantastic 4 - PS2 - Review

Amazing! No … that belongs to Spidey. Incredible! … Hold on, that’s the adjective connected to another Marvel character. When it comes to the Fantastic Four, there is only one word that adequately describes this quartet of mutated superheroes, and it is part of the group’s name.

When Activision and Seven Studios set out to build an action-adventure title based on the exploits of the team, they had quite a title to live up to. Well, simply stated – mission accomplished. Yes, there are a few stumbles here and there, and though the game has a great number of levels, they seem all somewhat short, giving you a game that can be worked through easily in a weekend.

The draw, of course, will be to go back, work through the scenarios differently, find all of the F4 hidden elements and try to take them down faster than before.

Fantastic Four, the game, follows the pending Fox release of the movie by the same name. While there may be one or two in the world that do not know this story, please allow me a moment to reveal the essence behind the title, and the origin of the quartet – as told in the movie.

Reed Richards is a scientist (and inventor) who uncovers some unusual comic activity. He contacts Victor Von Doom, who has an orbiting station, and with geneticist Sue Storm, and astronauts Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm, all five arrive at the station. The cosmic storm rips through the station and in the process, each of the characters is bombarded with rays that alter, or mutate them. Sue gains the ability to become invisible and to manipulate the air to create force fields, pulses and freezing (of a sort) effects. Johnny’s body becomes engulfed in flames and he becomes the Human Torch, capable of ranged fire attacks and erecting fire barricades. He can even do a little “spot wielding” if the situation calls for it. 

Reed finds that his body gains the ability to stretch like silly putty and assume other shapes, while Ben undergoes the most dramatic transformation of all, and becomes the ultimate tank as the rock-like golem-styled Thing.

As for Victor, while in the comics he was disfigured during a lab experiment gone awry, but in this tale, he is bombarded with rays and finds that he has to encase his body with armor plating to become the evil Dr. Doom.

But don’t worry Marvel fans, he is not the only bad guy to make an appearance. The crux of the story is that Reed, Sue and Johnny are trying to find a way to help Ben revert back to his human appearance. But a host of mutated evil genius stand in the way – like Diablo, and the Puppet Master, and many, many others. Each leads to a boss battle of wonderful proportions.

Some of the levels will feature all four members of the F4 team in concert fighting a slew of bad guys, and some of the levels will have pairings of two members.

All in all, this is a very personal look at the iconic quartet. You get to see them up close, become familiar with their abilities and personalities and view them in a way you may not have seen them before. While each is a joy to play, Sue (aka The Invisible Woman) kicks major butt!

During the course of each level, there are objectives to accomplish. You gain experience, which is then used to upgrade the individual members of the team. When it comes to the combat system (and the way the upgrades basically work), those who have played X-Men Legends will recognize the system. The same holds true for the way you swap controlled characters during a scene. Each character is represented by a direction on the D-pad. Simply press a different direction and you control a different member of the team.

The game, though, has two stumbling blocks in an otherwise wonderful experience. Each of the mission scenarios within a level are very short and experienced players will be able to blow through them. The second is that there are some clipping problems. The game itself is linear in design, but that is not a really bad thing. Players are pulled through the game and tasked to accomplish the missions to continue the storyline.

Where the game excels, though, is also graphically and the, aforementioned, personal foray into the characters. Back in the early 60s, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were beginning to envision this quartet, what they may have seen in their mind’s eyes must have been somewhat by what Seven Studios and Activision have realized in the game. The lighting effects are superb – especially on Johnny – and the animation, of Reed in particular, is exceptional.  

If that is not Michael Chiklis voicing the Thing in the game, then hats off to the voice-alike. This game may seem a little understated when it comes to the sound elements, but that is only because they are taken in context with the graphics and seem a little sparse by comparison. The game’s sound is, though, just fine.

This is truly like a living comic book, packed with bad guys and action. Yes, the game may feel short, and liberties were taken with the original story arcs from the comic books, but any Marvel fan should enjoy this adventure.

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 to figure out, and the way the game features different pairings of the foursome makes for some interesting level challenges.

Graphics: 8.5
The game’s effects are very good, and the environments are fun to explore and tear apart. There are a few clipping problems, but this is a great visual visit to the Marvel universe of the Fantastic Four.

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. The unlockables make this a fun experience.

Multiplayer: 9.0
Does it get any better than co-op play within the scope of the game? Maybe, but that does not diminish the absolute joy of this element. Fun stuff!

Overall: 8.7
Accessible, with a great cast of villains, Fantastic Four is an entertaining ride into a comic book. The levels are a little short, and the game does have a few clipping problems that color an otherwise fun experience.

Great

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