Tiburon
EA
Action
1
11.27.06

Superman Returns (Xbox 360)


It’s like New Year’s Eve and hangovers. Whenever any…ANY…movie based on a comic book hits the television screen, rest assured a video game (not based on the comic, mind you, but the movie) will be released. To little success. Very little success. Anyone remember the Fantastic Four game for Playstation, or even worse, the Batman Forever game for SNES? There’s just something about trying to take a two hour movie and stretch it out into 10 hours (20 if you’re really bad) of gameplay. It’s wrong. By the time you’ve added the obligatory “lesser” villains and their henchmen, the monotonous side quests, and, you know, given away the damn ending for the movie before the movie even comes out, all that you’ve managed to do is cash in on the comic book fad, like some cheap, dirty whore. But hey, this is Superman, right? The first superhero. The man who created the super hero craze. Batman…Spider-Man…X-Men…they wouldn’t even be around if it wasn’t for Clark Kent and his super powers. The game was also released after the movie. So maybe it’ll be different. Maybe it’ll be better. Maybe it’ll be at least worth a rental. Let’s take to the skies with Kal-El and see where it takes us.

Gameplay

The first thing you’ll notice about Superman in this game is that it doesn’t try to make you “deserve” being Superman; he is what he is. There’s none of this “earning your abilities” or only being able to use your abilities “within reason”. At the beginning of the game, you can fly, use heat vision, and run like hell, etc, all to your heart’s content. Your only limitation is that your capacity to use said powers is congruent to your stamina; i.e. don’t expect to be on the verge of death and be able to super speed from one side of Metropolis to another. A neat feature in the game (falsely labeled a “power” of Superman’s) is an “alert system” (that never turns itself off, no matter how much your ass gets beat) that lets Kal-El know when something is going down in his city. The city itself is its own character; it even has a health bar! That’s right, kids! The city is alive, and if you let it die, the game’s over, and Batman will never let you hear the end of it. Personally, I like this particular feature; after all, we’re dealing with Superman, the Man of Steel here. Killing him is a bitch. Just ask Doomsday. I don’t need to go any further on why all of that makes sense.

Kudos to EA for actually including some baddies worth fighting in this game. Nothing ruins a game more than crappy villains. I remember a Hulk game for SNES where you spent like half an hour fighting Rhino, and a Spider-Man game where the opening credits featured a whole slew of villains that made you guy “who?!!?!?”. In Superman Returns you mix it up with Lex Luthor, Metallo, and Bizarro (the best DC villain ever). Unlike many comic book character games, Superman Returns features a lot of good, solid characters that you’ll enjoy having in the game, even if they’re only purpose is to get the smack laid down on them by a guy in red underwear.

This is the part where I stop talking nice about the game. Because with the exception of the free roaming flying, the innovative health system, and the bitchin’ baddies, there’s not much to brag about this game. The missions are monotonous to the point of tears. There’s a precise formula to the action of Superman Returns: fight minions, beat boss, gain level, move forward one chapter in the story (don’t collect 200 dollars). The side quests leave a lot to be desired, and in a lot of ways are reminiscent to the pointless and inane distractions of Gun and Spider-Man 2. There’s a bit of an experience point system in the game which will alienate who doesn’t like the RPG-style “level” system.

Beyond the whole “I’m Superman and I’m fighting Metallo, this is so cool” gimmick, there’s really not much to the action. Since you have all your powers to begin with (and anyone who can’t be beat by fire-breathing them to death can be dealt with using the old “thrown inanimate object” gag), the in-game battles are usually rather anti-climactic. There are a few combos to learn and master (and you’ll do so fast, trust me), but they all do the same thing and give little replay value to the fighting in general.

The free-roaming flying thing is a little misleading. Yes, you can fly around the vast 80-mile city. Yes, it’s visually pleasing. Yes, it’s just like the movie. No, it isn’t much fun. The city has as much personality as a Wal-Mart mannequin. Much like its second cousin Spider-Man 2, the game’s city has little to no interactivity to it. In its defense, however, I point out that the city really looks nice, and that traveling the city doesn’t cause glitches or induce annoying loading times like other “free-roaming” games do (Grand Theft Auto, I’m looking right at you). It’s a step in the right direction. Or a giant leap, since it’s Superman.

Graphics

There’s a dichotomy to the graphics in this game. On the hand, for a superhero movie-based game, they’re splendid. However, for an Xbox 360 game, it’s disappointing, since we know that it’s capable of so much more. The design for Metropolis is amazing, and easily one of the environments in the genre, and the fact that it’s so large, runs so smoothly even when you’re using Superspeed, and that it’s relatively gitch-free is pretty neat. But when you compare it to other Xbox 360 titles, it loses its luster.

Sound

The soundtrack is one of the best features of the game. It’s epic, it involves you, and it just screams of “Superman”. The voice acting in this game (done by the cast of the movie) really authenticates it. After all, nothing kills a game like Lex Luthor having a thick Brooklyn accent.

Replay Value

Virtually nil. You will fly through this game so fast The Flash will go “what the hell was that?” There’s no multiplayer, and unless you’re looking for that nostalgia feeling, I highly doubt you will, after beating this game once, ever play it again. Expect a lot of copies of this game to be at GameStop.

Bottom Line:

All faults aside, this is one of the better Superman titles out there. EA had the right idea with this one, just not the ability to really capture the essence of being a Superman. Innovative in its own right, and a predecessor for better, less monotonous titles in the future. Worth a rental. Buy it only if you’re a real Superman fan.

Related Links:

Official Website for Superman Returns

-Jimi Robertson




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