Mere moments before I sat down to craft this very review, my neighbor’s 11 year old son came knocking on my door. The excitement in his eyes could have fooled one into believing that today was perhaps his birthday, or even Christmas. Instead, he was quick to brag about his trip to Gamestop with his Mother where he had picked up a new game for his XBOX. I asked him, as curious as I am about what the kids are getting these days, what that lucky game was.
“Fantastic Four!” the boy exclaimed.
My heart once a flutter in shared excitement was crushed in the moment upon a wave of horror and guilt -- knowing that somewhere out there, this very scenario was being played out by other hapless children created a snap reaction in my gut, forcing the bile to surface. Activision’s Fantastic Four may not actually induce vomiting while playing, but it’s decent into the realms of mediocrity may lead one to believe that more fun could be had with a bottle of Ipecac.
The bar for film to video game adaptations has been raised significantly in the recent year’s thanks in part to titles like Starbreeze’s The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and even Activision’s own Spider-Man 2. Electronic Art’s even proved that the once stale beat-em-up style of said adaptation can be turned into an engaging experience with their Lord of the Rings titles – which is exactly the type of title that Fantastic Four is. A simple beat-em-up.
Taking control of Marvel’s first super hero family, players guide the team in smashing anyone who gets in their way in a typical manner that perhaps steps on one too many toes. In an attempt to spice up the mindless button-mashing, Activision has incorporated a variety of gameplay functions that were innovative in other recent titles but come across as shallow, and out right ghetto versions of the original, lifted material.
Each member of the team brings a unique talent to the field and Activision has made steps to further the concept. Furthering the concept however has led to a variety of insipid mini-games; while charming at first only prove to be an annoyance in later levels. Each one of these mini-games requires a different, but repetitious action such as mashing the A button to fill a meter or solving a mind-numbingly easy puzzle. Perhaps if these moments proved to be some sort of challenge, they would be a more welcomed. In the state they exist, they’re just another tiring pause in an already mundane game.
Taking the plunge into the lacking depths of originality come some of the more interesting concepts to the title such as the manner in which bosses are defeated. Fans of Sony’s God of War may have a series of déjà vu as boss fights in Fantastic Four typically end in the same manner; a PaRappa the Rapper style mini-game. Only where God of War had simply button presses, Fantastic Four goes the whole 9 yards featuring the timing bar from the famous rapping title, scrolling and all. The stab at variety is nice, but the overall presentation and lack of impact on gameplay makes the whole experience feel shameless.Activision couldn’t help themselves from swiping the ideas and efforts of other developers to the point where they even lifted ideas from their own titles such as the directional pad method of character selection from X-Men Legends. After hours of endlessly mashing the A button, I had to wonder why they hadn’t lifted the quality of co-op from X-Men while they were at it.
Yes, what could have been the saving grace for Fantastic Four only ends up being an exercise in shoddy design. While having a rational, human being alongside of you as opposed to the A.I presents a more enjoyable experience, the time was obviously not taken in properly tuning this method of play. There are plenty of moments where the game simply does not know what to do for one reason or another due to multiple bugs having to do with certain scenario’s being setup for only one player. On top of a mountain of bugs to topple, making matters worse is giving both players control of the camera. This creates a never ending tug-of-war for control of both the view of the action and your own stomach fluids.
The mountain of bugs doesn’t end in co-op mode as the entire game is completely riddled with lots of nasty surprises. Enemies become stuck in the environment, resulting in unobtainable goals. Your CPU ally becomes confused at times and begins attacking you for no apparent reason. Even your special abilities choose not to work at times. It’s simply a jumbled mess that was obviously rushed to meet the demand of the movie.
This may also explain why Fantastic Four does nothing to utilize the XBOX hardware. It’s understandable it this day and age for a multi-console release title such as this to not take full advantage of the hardware, but there is literally no excuse for something that looks as bland as this to have slowdown on a console such as the XBOX.
To its credit, Fantastic Four does well in capturing the feel of the movie, and not only because it’s a fantastic bore. The actors from the film voice their characters for the video game and while it’s not the most stunning of performances (See Johnny’s line, “Flame ALL the way on!”) it’s appreciated nonetheless. The game also serves as a device to feed the plot of the film again, in full, for those who for one reason or another wish to subject themselves to it a second time. There are also a ton of extras to unlock throughout the course of the game consisting of character art, trailers and even snippets from the comic book – all of which should appeal to fans of the Marvel universe.
If you managed to enjoy the film and really love smacking around faceless thugs for hours upon hours just to catch a couple of glimpses of Dr. Doom, than I can’t stop you from enjoying Fantastic Four. The act of beating the crap out of people has not only been done much better in recent times but funny enough, particularly in the games that Fantastic Four rips-off. With its horrendously boring gameplay and overall buggy presentation, I claim Fantastic Four to be fantastic for no one.
It's buggy, not a lot of fun, you'll want to skip this one.
Rating: 4 Heavily Flawed
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.