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T (Teen)



June 27, 2005



- Somewhat fun beat 'em up action



- Buggy gameplay with collision detection issues
- Repetitive by nature



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Fantastic 4

Score: 5.9 / 10


fantastic 4 review          fantastic 4 review


Time has not been kind of the beat 'em up genre. The likes of Double Dragon, Final Fight and Streets of Rage just haven't aged well - gaming has actually moved beyond the "move forward and punch things" mentality. Still, it's nice to see developers attempt to resurrect this old art form. Someone at Activision must've been playing the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, and figured, "Why not combine this with the Fantastic 4?" And here we are, just in time for a movie tie-in.

For a brainless brawler, there's at least some depth within the Fantastic 4. You have two attack buttons of varying strengths, which can be used to create a small handful of combos. The B button will pick up and toss enemies, while various




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special attacks can be executed by holding down the R trigger. There are also rare super maneuver that lets your characters go berserk momentarily. Beating up bad guys yields blue orbs, which can be used to unlock new moves or upgrade current ones. There are scripted moments throughout each level where you can use your super powers to save bystanders or beat bosses. These are


politely indicated with a glowing spot, where you play a quick button-tapping or analog-swirling mini-game. Similarly, there are locks to hack, which leads to more mini-games. I suppose they're done to break up the action, but they're so easy that they end up feeling pointless.

In order to keep some narrative cohesion (and perhaps follow the plot of the movie), Fantastic Four forces you to use particular characters in each level. Sometimes you'll be fighting alone, sometimes you'll be fighting with a partner, which can either be controlled by a friend or AI, and you can switch between any of them at any time. Each of the characters are quite distinct - Mr. Fantastic can reach foes from a distance with his stretchy limbs, The Human Torch flies around with ease and toasts baddies, and The Thing is more about picking up police cars and using them to bash everything in sight. There are also some attempts at stealth with the Invisible Woman's transparency power, but it's not put to any good use. Each level is filled with hidden goals, which in turn unlocks some bonus goodies, so there's an incentive to really do well.

So it's clear that the developers realized that brawlers need variety in order to succeed, but ultimately, the fighting still never advances beyond button mashing. Occasionally, you'll get surrounded by enemies, you'll use a special attack, and then you'll keep mashing until your power meter regenerates. On the easiest difficulty level, you can take huge doses of damage without dying, so it's not like the game is very hard, but it does get consistently frustrating. And in betraying its namesake, the game only supports two human players at a time. Believe it or not, this is actually preferable. At the times when all four heroes are on the screen simultaneously, the game trembles and stutters at all of the onscreen chaos.


fantastic 4 review         fantastic 4 review

It's hard to really see where all of that horsepower is going. The environments look passable, but they're insanely repetitive, and the characters models look awful in both the in-game action and pre-rendered cutscenes. In an attempt to be authentic to the movie, all of the actors provide their real voices for the cutscenes, but the script is so god-awful, you begin to wonder why they even bothered.

Like most games rushed to the market to coincide with a movie release, the Fantastic 4 is quite buggy -- polygon clipping, missing animations, and objects falling through the floor, for instance. These are all pretty harmless, but the more relevant issue is the shoddy hit detection. Certain bad guys need to be hit on the backside or knocked on the ground before you can damage them, but this is rendered needlessly frustrating. The same thing goes with the instant-kill move that can be executed when you've damaged a boss character enough -- it doesn't seem that hard to pull off, but the game seems to randomly decide whether it works or not.

In spite of all of the complaints, Fantastic 4 is a competent, if somewhat unremarkable, beat 'em up. Fans of the comics who weren't angered by the movie will definitely find enjoyment out of a rental, but there's not much more than an a few hours of brainless fun to be had. In the end, you'll want to stick with the new Incredible Hulk game for your dose of comic book-influenced smashing.

- Kurt Kalata
(August 23,2005)


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