Fantastic 4 is a videogame version of the movie based on a comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Unlike its name, the videogame (and the film by all accounts) isn’t fantastic in any way. Everything from the drab visuals to the rather clumsy controls places the Fantastic 4 videogame squarely in the ‘another movie licensed videogame’ box.
The game follows the story of the movie pretty closely, detailing how the four (and their eventual enemy) get their super powers and then take on Dr. Doom and his many henchmen. You’ll get to play as Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, The Human Torch and The Invisible Woman, each of whom have their own special moves. Mr. Fantastic obviously has a number of moves that revolve around his ability to stretch, The Human torch can throw fire, The Thing is just really strong and The Invisible woman can, quite obviously, turn invisible, among other things.
Combat requires little more than button bashing, even though combos are there if you want to use them. Performing special moves will drain your energy metre, but this is replenished quite quickly by picking up orbs left behind by slain enemies and destroyed objects. You’ll also get the ability to become invincible for short periods of time, while also dishing our more powerful attacks. The Thing can pick up objects such as cars or lampposts and use them as a weapon against the enemy, but on the whole, combat becomes repetitive very quickly.
Each level has a number of context sensitive areas that require the use of a certain member of the team. Changing between characters is easily done by pressing the corresponding direction on the D-pad (one of four number keys on the PC version) and once the correct character is selected you can activate the context sensitive zone. Getting into the right position to do this is often very frustrating, but once you get it right, you’ll be able to rescue innocent civilians, save fire engines from falling off bridges and many other things.
To the game’s credit, you can upgrade your characters’ abilities throughout the game by using points that you earn for killing enemies and successfully completing objectives. These points are shared across your entire team, and while not anything on an RPG levelling up scale, it adds some depth to the gameplay.
Visually the game is pretty poor, looking very much like an early generation PlayStation 2 title: Environments are rough, character models are crude, and the camera is frankly quite awful. You can control this using the right analogue stick on the console versions of the game, but you’ll still find yourself awkwardly placed against an object far too frequently. Most objects in the levels can be destroyed, but it isn’t all that spectacular and for the most part it’s simply for show, rather than serving any real purpose. The lack of a 60Hz display mode and no widescreen support is the icing on a none too appealing cake.
Audio is little better, despite a number of voice samples from the actors in the Hollywood movie. Conversations between characters are stilted and feel totally unnatural, the soundtrack is rather dull, and the sound effects are generally unspectacular. Move tie-ins aren’t usually great games, but they more often than not have pretty high production values. Fantastic 4 doesn’t deliver in the area.
Developers 7 Studios have included some coop play for – rather bizarrely – two players, so you can button mash with a friend if you feel like it. There’s also a versus mode that lets you battle against an opponent in a number of arenas, but it really isn’t all that exciting and adds little to the game.
Move licensed games are made to sell to people who don’t really care for videogame reviews, so this review probably won’t make a whole lot of difference to the game’s sales. If you are reading this and were seriously thinking about picking the game up, I’d strongly warn you against it. If you must buy a superhero videogame based on one of this summer’s movies, you’d be much better off taking a look at EA’s Batman Begins – a game that has the production values you’d expect from such a license. Fantastic 4 isn’t utterly awful, it just isn’t anywhere near to being worthy of its name.