If one thing is certain in the video game world it’s that the latest comic book turned movie will have it’s own game just in time for its theatrical release; whether it’s actually ready or not is another topic. Fantastic 4 is the game based on the film of the same name and while it does have something in common with the movie, it’s taken a few pages from the comics to add a little something extra, as well. Fantastic 4 is a beat’em up for one or two players, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. If you’re that much of a Fantastic 4 fan you haven’t got many other games to choose from. If you’re not much of a fan “It’s clobbering time!” or something like that.Fantastic 4 is a trip through the origins of the group to their inevitable battle with Dr. Doom, their arch nemesis. The beginning of the game shows you how they became the Fantastic 4, while the middle stages throw in some of the villains from the comic book for some extra punch. The most notable feature of the Fantastic 4 is that they actually got the actor’s from the film to do the voice work for the game, so the dialogue is good, if only because you recognize the voices from the real life film counterparts. So, join Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing, as they put evildoers in their place with their powers of good!
Most games these days do their best to take advantage of the DVD format of the PS2, especially those based on films by adding clips during the gameplay. Fantastic 4 doesn’t do that, whether that’s because the movie is horrible or not is debatable, but this game sure could have used a boost of clips considering how poorly animated and grainy the cutscenes are. The characters don’t even slightly resemble their real life counterparts; it’s so far off the animators should be embarrassed. The graphics in the game are equally bad. The enemies are limited to a meager amount per stage and get repeated time and again. Our heroes themselves look a bit better than the rest of the game, but even they, for the most part, are a bit on the small side and not very detailed. Fantastic 4 just doesn’t look like a fully fleshed out game should this late in the PlayStation 2’s life cycle.
The thing that will probably baffle everyone about Fantastic 4 is the fact that they got all the actors from the movie to do voice work, but couldn’t get film clips or the actors to shoot new stuff (or even use deleted footage) for the game. That said, the voice work is good even though the dialogue they’re forced to read stinks, of course that’s not their fault, blame the writers for that. The music and sound effects aren’t very noteworthy. It seems as though they spent almost their entire audio budget getting the actors from the film to do voice over because everything else is pretty bad.
The hardest part to stomach in Fantastic 4 is the gameplay. The collision detection is horrendous. What kind of a superhero can’t walk over a pile of rubble on the floor? This is especially bad when it’s the Human Torch because he flies! The camera is equally horrible, too. The controls themselves are okay, but they’re just that; okay. There are a few combinations that you can learn and upgrade as you progress, but good old button mashing will do the trick every time. There’s no incentive to performing the combinations except for the fact that you could potentially unlock something else in the game for meeting certain goals on each stage. Sometimes those goals are performing a certain amount of a varied number of hit combinations; sometimes it’s passing the stage in a certain amount of time and various other requirements. Even then the reward isn’t justified by the amount of work that you might put into earning it, unless you’re just a masochist. A weak fighting engine, bad camera work and poor enemy intelligence bring down what could possibly have been a decent game.
Probably the only redeeming point in Fantastic 4 is also a major area for complaint. You can play missions by yourself or with a friend, which is a nice added touch, but…and I’ll have to refer back to the title for confirmation; this is the Fantastic 4, how about a four-player game? There is a multitap for the PS2. It can be used for other games that don’t involve the words Madden or NFL in it. Maybe no one takes advantage of multitap games and that’s why it’s not here? It’s either that or out of this game being rushed to hit at the same time as the movie, it’s bound to be one of those two, but I won’t make assumptions as to which reason it is.
There are quite a few extras that you can unlock in Fantastic 4, the standard stuff you’ll find in movie-based games now, interviews, trailers, etc. It’s no real reason to replay the game unless you’re just a huge fan of the comics, although that too, is questionable. Yes, the game is that bad. If you want to see covers of the comics that bad there are better ways to see them than spending your precious time playing this game. If you want to see an interview with Jessica Alba bad enough to play this game, then turn on one of those celebrity gossip shows, she’s bound to turn up eventually. This one is strictly for hardcore comic book fans and even they might want to pass on it.
It’s hard to imagine on how many levels this game fails to be good. Memo to the developers: Think of any single player or cooperative game and copy all their good ideas. It happens all the time; heck even use the engine from a successful game and your game is instantly decent at worst. Fantastic 4 is a failure as a game and a reinforcement that games based on movies aren’t any good and should be avoided at all costs. There was plenty of opportunity to make a good game, but unfortunately they took the easy route to make a quick buck instead. Fantastic 4 is a fantastic flop, stay away from it if you value your time and money.
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