Lately a bunch of comic books have hit the big screen at the movie theater. The X-Men, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Batman have all had movies within the past couple of years. This July the Fantastic Four are going to get their shot at the big screen.
With a new franchise comes marketing opportunities. While this usually means action figures for kids, video games to tie-in with the movies have become more and more popular. Fantastic Four is no exception. Following off the footsteps of the successful Spider-Man 2 and X-Men Legends, Activision has released Fantastic Four, but this time, it’s for the PC.
The characters in Fantastic Four look similar to their movie counterparts. Each character has their own look, and their own special powers. While Mr. Fantastic looks rather ordinary, the ability to stretch his limbs is animated rather well. The human torch is always ablaze, and the particle effect from the flames emanate from him. The Invisible Woman’s “transparent” mode isn’t exactly see-through, but it does do the job well-enough. While The Thing has more physical powers, particle effects surround him during special moves, such as the Elbow Drop.
The character models have a low polygon count, which can both be good and bad. The game plays nicely on higher resolutions on lower systems. However, the textures of the characters could have been done a lot better. However, the textures within the environments are much plainer, and while there are random characters to populate the levels, they are few and far between. A few clipping issues also show up during the game.
The music in Fantastic Four is unique in that each of the characters has their own theme song. This helps to break up the monotony of the music in the background a bit, and each song does fit the character. These songs are licensed specifically for the game and feature Go Betty Go, The Explosion, Taking Back Sunday, and Jurassic 5.
The voice is done by the characters in the movie. While some of the lines are delivered well, some of the voice acting is stiff. At a point in the beginning I laughed at how flat the lines came out during the high-point of tension.
Each hit gives a feeling of connection. However, the special moves provide a huge impact. The Invisible Woman’s special powers have a sparkling feeling, while the Human Torches special moves all have a burning sensation. The Thing sounds more like the Human Wrecking Ball with all of the damage he can do with each punch or special attack.
I have a Logitech Wingman Rumble Pad attached to my PC. It has dual analog sticks, six face buttons and two shoulder buttons, and a D-pad. When I loaded the game, it recognized the game pad without any issues. However, it only assigned four of the buttons to the game. I had to assign the other four buttons and the D-pad for character switching. While the utility provided to assign the buttons made this easy, it was a bit disappointing that they weren’t assigned automatically and that I had to quit the game to assign all of the keys to my gamepad.
While the game has a combo system, I felt that the response for the combos were a bit off. You need to hit the buttons a bit too quickly to get the combo. Also, if characters would go into an animation, you would have to wait for the animation to complete before you could take control of the character. Also, controlling the camera felt a bit “floaty” and didn’t respond as quickly as I had expected.
We have seen Activision take a license and make a game out of it. In fact, Fantastic Four reminds me a lot of the recent X-Men Legends game in that you are able to select from four different characters on the screen, and the viewpoint is a third-person isometric view. However, several of the missions are played out solo or with one other character in the single-player mode.
While there are some puzzles and a little exploration involved, the levels are very linear in nature. While there are primary and secondary objectives in each level, most of them can be summed up by going from point A to point B, fighting enemies and solving an occasional puzzle along the way.
Fighting enemies and completing missions earns points. These points can be cashed in to unlock new combos and special moves, or make unlocked moves more powerful. This is a nice way to create a character to your own personal style, but you really have to spread the points across each character or else you could end up on a solo mission with a severely handicapped character. There is a F4 icon hidden in each level. It’s not difficult to find, and often times it will give an extra boost to the max health of your characters.
Often enemies will leave health power-ups to heal your characters. Also, a large number of objects are destructible, and they will often provide a boost to your Cosmic power gauge, but it automatically refills itself.
The Cosmic powers are useful for taking care of groups of enemies or enemies that are far away. Each of the characters have unique Cosmic powers. For instance, the Thing has his Elbow Drop, while Mr. Fantastic can stretch his arms to punch enemies. The Invisible Woman can create force fields, while the Human Torch can fly swiftly and undercut a group of enemies and have them fall flat on their backsides.
Fighting against enemies won’t be your only battle. Struggling against the camera can be an issue as well. Many times I would aim for and hit an enemy that was off-screen. While the camera can be controlled by the right analog stick, the fighting is often too fast and furious to get a good angle manually.
When a specific character has an ability needed to solve a puzzle, a colored “4” on the ground. Each character has a specific color. For instance, the Thing needs to be used on an orange 4, while a white 4 shows up for the Invisible Woman. To successfully complete the task, a small minigame must be played. One game has alternate buttons hit, similar to the old Track and Field arcade game, while another one has a circular circuit that needs to be connected.
When fighting as a team, the game works successfully. However, the solo missions hinder the spirit of the feeling of the Fantastic Four working together. It becomes boring and tedious rather quickly.
Fantastic Four does have a co-op mode. However, playing it on the PC would be rather difficult on a single keyboard. The game screams to be played on a TV with a buddy on the couch and not in the den of the computer room on office chairs.
The game is also a bit on the short side. While the game is split up in chapters, each of those chapters are split up into shorter sections. This makes the game very “pick-up-and-play” friendly, as none of the sections take that long to complete, and you can save between each section.