The man in blue makes his way back to Metropolis after being absent for several years. Everything has changed and yet the city still needs him, maybe now more than ever. A unique storyline it is not, a unique premise to the game, sure. Play the role of Superman as you foil attempt after attempt by evildoers to destroy your beloved adopted home of Metropolis. Defend it from meteors, twisters, robots, and of course evil geniuses. It’s going to take all of your superpowers to do it, but hey, after all you’re Superman, it’s what you do.The premise of the game is simple instead of Superman himself having a life bar it’s the city of Metropolis that has the life bar. Fires break out, robots destroy the city streets and it’s your job to do something about it. So, putting out that fire in the high rise building is a priority because your progress in the game depends on it. You can even choose how you want to put out that fire. Pick up a fire engine and place it next to the building and go on about your business. Or you can use your blow breath to put out that fire. Your third choice is to find a water tower and just throw it at the fire and you’re free. While you’re not always faced with choices like this in the game it is a nice choice to be given the option.
While the game looks great it can’t be denied that you’re getting what amounts to a pretty mediocre game. It’s a shame because the city and the surrounding landscape do look so good. Buildings are huge and differ quite a bit from one another, well, as much as buildings can. The city is huge and offers lots of nooks and crannies to explore while trying to find all the minigames and assorted side quests the game has to offer. Still, it doesn’t make up for the lack of enemy variety. Seemingly you get attacked repeatedly by the same five robots over and over again. Even the bosses get repeated. It’s like so much effort was put into the environmental aspect of the game that the developers forgot that fighting the same robots every four minutes gets really boring, really fast. With a larger variety of enemies the game could’ve rated a little higher provided they did more than just look different.
One thing that does stand out in this game is the music. It’s different from so many other games in that it’s not only dependent on your location in the city, but your height as well. The closer to the ground you are the more of the orchestra you hear. As you rise higher into the air portions of the score disappear, so that at the higher points you’re left with more “airy” instruments like woodwinds. Come down a bit further and the brass section jumps in, until you’re nearest the bottom you’ll get the full on effect with percussion mixed in. It adds a nice touch to the sense of flying around the game world. The voice acting lends a bit of authenticity as well since the actors from the film were used to record all the dialogue. Again, all this cool stuff is a nice added touch, but the areas that really needed the most work were seemingly neglected.
The biggest downfall to Superman Returns isn’t the gameplay itself necessarily; it’s in the repetition of it. The game uses small scenarios to progress the story. So, in order to advance the game you’ve got to do the little things like defend the city from robots. Robots that drive all over the city map forcing you to chase them down. So, when eight robots appear in one part of the map and start burning trees and cars you’ve got to rush after them, attack them and hope they don’t scatter too far. If you can stop them from destroying the city you’ve then got to deal with the wreckage they’ve left behind. Take survivors to nearby ambulances to gain some of the city’s life back. Then do it all over again…and again. If you’re lucky you’ll get to fight a boss after that, if you’re even luckier, nothing will happen for a few minutes and you’ll get to explore the surrounding world of Metropolis. The combat is also a bit on the weak side, as Superman you’d think that you get to use all your superpowers while fighting these enemies and you do, but for the most part you’re repeatedly pushing the punch button. Oh, how exciting! Punch a robot, freeze, punch again, watch him go down then watch him get up because it’s not very Superman-ly to punch an evildoer while he’s down. Rinse, wash, and repeat. Now I know why all those superheroes have so many emotional issues because it’s practically torture being such a saint at all times.
Beyond all the issues that Superman Returns has, it’s a decent enough game, but when you compare it to many other superhero games it just doesn’t offer enough gameplay. Repetitive action brings what would ultimately be a pretty good game down. Oddly enough the parts of the game that don’t have you fighting bots or bosses are possibly the best parts of the game. Beating down meteors, defending airships, and fending off twisters are surprisingly fun, whereas fighting a boss that requires the same pattern of attacks makes one rather want to turn off the game instead of seeing it through to the end. This is one that will mostly appeal to fans of Superman and not necessarily to action adventure gamers. At its best Superman is better than mediocre, but the incessant robot attacks make it border on unbearable for everyone except for diehard fans. Give it a rental or try the demo on the Xbox Live marketplace before spending a lot of money on a purchase.
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