Creating a Superman game is no easy task, especially when his previous outings weren't that great. Does anyone remember the Nintendo 64 game? Where every other step had you falling through the floor into absolute darkness; where getting stuck in an invisible wall was about the most fun you could have in the game. Ah yes, brings back memories doesn't it?
Well with a great sigh of relief, I'm proud to say that Tiburon Studios seems to have taken the Superman franchise to new heights (pun intended), by giving players a realistic take on the Man of Steel. But wait a second. A realistic take? What the? Let me explain.
Gone is any sort of pesky task, such as finding a woman's stolen purse or stopping a robbery. Come on, this is The Man of Steel for crying out loud; that kind of stuff is beneath him. And, instead of generic building structures and a lifeless city such as in the N64 disaster, Superman Returns features a sprawling city full of cars, pedestrians and so forth. A health bar is also nowhere to be seen. Superman's invincible, enough said. Sounds about right doesn't it?
But wait, no health bar? What the? Again, let me explain. Superman can't be hurt. Sure, there's Kryptonite, but how often can you use that before it becomes overkill? Instead, the city of Metropolis has now received its own health bar; after all, it's Superman's duty to protect the city right? So, if the city is damaged beyond repair, either by your own hand or by your enemy's, it's game over.
What about Superman's powers? Do you have to collect lousy power ups to fill an even lousier power meter? Negative. Tiburon has included a stamina meter instead. The more powers you use, the more stamina that's drained. The meter refills naturally by itself, but the closer you are to the sun, the faster you regain your abilities, just like in the comics.
I was shown a brief demo on the E3 show floor that highlighted the game's enormous city, and also a pretty interesting boss battle with Overcast. The city is huge, with all of Metropolis's major landmarks intact. You can fly from one end of the city to the other in a matter of seconds using Superman's unbelievable speed, and you can fly all the way up into the clouds, or take the streets if you'd like.
After some more gliding through the skies, it was time to put Superman's powers to good use and stop a bunch of flying gargoyle-like creatures from burning down a group of blimps. I froze the creatures and burned them, before grabbing them and tossing them to the city below - cool stuff indeed. Then I headed to the city, picked up some telephone poles and beat the crap out of cars. According to the Tiburon rep, that apparently wasn't very Superman of me.
Next up was the boss battle with Overcast. It appeared to be set in a small section of the city that had been closed off by some sort of force field. In this battle, Overcast started out small in size, but after a few punches, he expanded to the size of the tallest skyscraper in Metropolis; I'm talking huge here. So I flew around the screen, picked up the top of one of the skyscrapers littered across the battlefield and heaved it at him. He didn't like this, naturally. I avoided his attacks, threw some more skyscrapers, and the evil doer eventually fell, ending the demo.
From a visual standpoint the game looks pretty good, but not nearly as amazing as the CGI trailer suggested it would. Plenty of textures were missing, and a few glitches were evident now and again. Ironically enough, at one point Superman fell through the floor, but I was promised that would never ever happen in the final game. Superman Returns is currently slated for a release alongside the DVD release of the new movie, so the team at Tiburon have plenty of time to make this the best Superman game yet.