Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
N Amer - 06/15/2007
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer Review
The first time that the team concept – particularly a quartet of players – showed up in an action-adventure game, it was fresh, exciting and entertaining. That was long ago, back when Gauntlet first appeared. There have been some refinements to the concept and Activision’s X-men pulled it off back in 2005.
Well, 2K got the license from Activision and has released a game (*cough* *cough* move tie-in *cough*) that falls short of the mark. Innovations are not so much innovative as clunky, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer strays far from the movie storyline in an effort to bring more to the game, but instead merely muddies the pond, and gives a story that is lacking in cohesiveness and instead feels like a level crawl.
As someone who has read the comics, and has several of the first Silver Surfer titles (Marvel Comics Group Fantasy Masterpieces starring the Silver Surfer, Issue 1 came out in 1979), there is enough story in the Surfer’s tale along to inspire Shakespeare. It is a tragic tale, told with pathos that should inspire a story. Instead we are treated to a rambling game that throws the Fantastic quartet in against the Skrull to start with, in missions that are strictly a dungeon crawl interrupted only by Johnny Storm traversing a lava flow in flight while dodging defense systems. When you finally get to the end of the Skrull mission (the game does have save points along the way), you find a Super Skrull, genetically altered to have the powers of all four of the good guys – you know, like Johnny had at the end of the Surfer movie. It does not take a rocket scientist to see how the Skrull is linked, and once you take down the source of his invulnerability, he takes damage in a hurry.
And then the game quickly moves back to the New York home of the quartet and preparations for a wedding. But unlike the movie, the ceremony is interrupted by clanky cybernetic warriors that can easily be plowed through.
Then Johnny is off on a timed mission chasing the Surfer again, without any story arc to substantiate it.
The whole notion of role-play is given a cursory glance. There is not a lot of thought that needs to be put in to leveling up the powers of the characters. And the cosmic powers come in two varieties – solo skills and linked skills. The first is somewhat self explanatory. Johnny can hurl fireballs or “flame on” and fly, Sue can turn invisible or cast energy-draining bubbles at enemies, Reed can periscope up and punch and do several other rubbery things, while Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) is the quintessential melee tanker class.
Then there is Fusion mode. Reed and Sue team up and Sue creates a shield that Reed grabs and uses like a hammer; or Reed grabs Johnny and then Johnny forms a fire tornado by dashing around Reed; or Johnny creates a fire wall and then Ben uses his shockwave attack to push it toward enemies.
Powers are tied to a mana bar, called the Cosmic Power bar. As you use your powers, it winds down. Once drained, it must replenish before special powers can be used again. In the original Spider-man comics, Spidey’s web was a scientific discovery that Peter made. The web material was contained in little packets that he had attached to his wrists. He could run out of web material. The Fantastic Four, though, are genetically altered. There powers are constant, and under control – most of the time. Ben is not a pile of rocks until his mana drains and then he turns human. Now, understandably, this is a game and someone has apparently written a decree that states superheroes can’t be super all the time. The unfortunate aspect of that is that the industry is buying into that notion, rather than try to invent ways to challenge the heroes’ abilities through clever game elements.
The game has tokens to collect and there are other collectibles as well. Cooperative gameplay is part of the outing. Plug in another controller and you can take on the characters. If less than four are playing, the D-pad will allow you to jump to an unused character. Death is not a factor. As long as one member of the team survives any encounter, the fallen team members will jump up after a few moments of taking a dirt nap.
Visually the game is nice, but it is also repetitive. The environments start to look the same, just as the enemies look alike. The sound does not do much to pull this game out of mediocrity. The dialogue is emotionless and even the attempts at witty repartee fall flat.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer does not do the movie justice, does not do the F4 team justice, and does not explore the complex character that is the Surfer. This was a game that had the potential to be a lot of fun. It was on the next-gen consoles, it had great characters and a solid comic-book pedigree to draw from. Unfortunately 2K’s first outing with this wonderful team of heroes falls flat.
Review Scoring Details for Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
The controls are decently responsive and only seem to give a hint of trouble when you try to switch between characters on the fly. The user interface is easy to navigate, though. Unfortunately, the game mechanics are rather repetitive.
Good animations, decent texturing, but there is a sense of sameness and the enemy hordes are clones. This does not really seem to tax the PS3 system much.
Clichéd and full of one liners that seem to try, grudgingly, to interject some witty repartee between the members of this unique quartet. Unfortunately, most of these fall flat.
Well, this attempt fell flat through a rambling storyline that tried to do too much and missed the core story it was trying to tell.
Remember how, with Gauntlet, you have to stay close to your teammate so as not to stretch the camera too wide and render both players immobile? It’s back.
There was a wealth of material here that it seems the dev team tried to cram into the story. Instead of a well-scripted tale, this game is a random (repetitive) level run that loosely fits some story, if you can find and hold on to the main thread. It is hoped that the dev team learns from this and does justice to the franchise with the next outing.
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer tries to do too much, loses its focus and falls flat
Reviewer: Michael Lafferty
Review Date: 07/03/2007