Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 7 Studios
Release Date: June 12, 2007
One thing that players have learned about game tie-ins for films is not to expect a whole lot. Licensed games are usually not out to revolutionize whatever genre they appear in, but to provide fan service for the audience that can't get enough of Christian Bale's Batman or Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing. There's nothing wrong with that, unless the title happens to be Acclaim's Total Recall. Some of these are still a lot of fun, though, such as Scarface or The Godfather, as long as you don't mind a fair bit of creative liberty taken with the movies you love. One of the latest tie-ins makes its way to the PS3 with the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and while it can give you a few hours of superpowered fun, don't expect much else.
Despite the licensing, RotSS doesn't take that extra step in using clips from the film to help tell the story, but I can be pretty sure that green, alien Skrulls weren't in the film. The game starts off with the Fantastic Four investigating the presence of "cosmic energy" at a volcano. Reed Richards, otherwise known as Mr. Fantastic, leads the rest of the team in trying to find out what's going on. They eventually discover that the Silver Surfer, an alien flying a silver surfboard, has arrived on Earth and is responsible for the concentrations of cosmic energy that Reed is picking up with his detectors. It's up to the team to find out why as they deal with marriage plans, the return of an old foe and space monkeys.
Up to four players can co-op their way through RotSS, if you've got the controllers to spare for your PS3. After selecting which character you want to start the game as, you'll find yourself punching, spinning and kicking your enemies from a third-person perspective. The d-pad can be used to switch between team members, and attack combos are dealt out using the face buttons. Special attacks, like Sue Storm's invisibility or Johnny Storm's ability to toss fireballs, also eat up their own personal supply of cosmic energy. As odd as that sounds, since I don't remember their special abilities being tied to cosmic energy, one thing it has going for it is that it regenerates on its own when you're not using their superpowers. You can also use special "fusion attacks," where the character that you're controlling teams up with someone else on the team to unleash an extremely powerful attack.
You'll also get to improve their overall stats and skills with experience points earned by beating down the bad guys. Everyone shares the same experience pool, leaving you to decide on whom you'd like to focus. This is easier than it sounds, since there's only a handful of powers and skills available in the game. What you start out with is pretty much everything that you're going to get. It probably makes sense, though, as experienced players may be able to finish the short game in only five or six hours of play.
When it's finished, there's really not a whole lot more to do. There are hidden coins throughout the game that unlock special art and costumes with special abilities for your team. You can replay the game with your upgraded heroes, but once you've reached the end, there's little incentive to go back into the game. If you're expecting to experience the movie through the game, you might be disappointed with the generic treatment that it receives here while you watch a bit of shameless, in-game advertising as Dodge pimps out a flying car.
The story is told through CG cut scenes that try to keep the player in the know about what's going on, but it also introduces more than a few surprises so you'll have things to smash, blast and otherwise crush like a superhero. Sound-alike voice actors fill in for the stars of the movie and do a solid job with the characters as they quip one-liners and the occasional insult during the action. The soundtrack does a decent job with each scene, but the sound effects can occasionally sound either too loud or pretty generic. Despite being on the PS3, the graphics haven't been worked to take advantage of the hardware, but one or two gameplay items have been tweaked to take advantage of the controls. The linear levels are also filled with destructible items, along with invisible walls. Don't expect to jump off too many ledges of knee-high barriers in this game.
As for the Fantastic Four, not all of them felt fantastically useful. I spent most of the game playing as Thing, thanks to the sheer power of his attacks. You might find your own time with the game to be a much different experience, but for the most part, Thing was the only character that seemed to be able to get anything done. Few of the combos were particularly useful since all I had to do was wade in with Thing and knock everyone off of their feet. There are some puzzles in RotSS where one of the Fantastic Four will need to explore ahead on his or her own, which can be a painful experience later on if you've ignored upgrading the rest of the team. Aside from the parts where I had to use Sue to turn invisible and walk through laser gates or use the SixAxis to fly Johnny Blaze through tunnels, the other members of the team didn't see a whole lot of action, aside from getting knocked unconscious.
Don't worry. Given a bit of time, they'll come back around with full health and cosmic energy, taking some of the challenge and strategy out of the experience. As long as one character is conscious and can hide somewhere, team members who have been knocked out cold will completely recover. This turns the game into an exercise in simply going in and pounding the hell out of whatever is in your way without worrying about trivial consequences such as death. Later in the game, it becomes something of a cheap technique to occasionally run team members who are low on health into electrified barriers and then waiting until they come back to life with full health.
Players who've had experience with other titles such as X-Men Legends or Marvel Ultimate Alliance may want to just rent Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer if they really need a superhero fix. Compared to the competition, RotSS feels more like a side story that borrows just enough gameplay elements to provide fan service for those who can't get enough of the film, but as a game, it's not much of a leap from an expensive bag of stale popcorn at the theater.