Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: June 12, 2007
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a failure of a video game. It's so terrible, in fact, that I can honestly say that it makes the first Fantastic Four movie look like a cinematic masterpiece or look like some of Kevin Smith's better films. It is a game that manages to take every single level of good game creation and design and trash it. It's a lesson on how to not make licensed games that will be studied by college students 20 years from now in Video Game Studies courses as a professor-inflicted form of torture. It is a game that will encourage gamers to burn their 360s (after removing the hard drive, of course) to purify it of the sin of having played such horrible trash. It is a game that needs no words beyond the first line of this review, but that wouldn't be honorable journalism, now, would it? So let's explain just why and how one of the 360's more recent licenses is so terrible.
For those of you who have not watched the second "Fantastic Four" movie, this accurate summary also applies to the game, at least in terms of plot. In short, however, the extremely powerful Silver Surfer is the herald of the planet-consuming Galactus, and he's here to basically say to Earth, "You're about to get eaten." Of course, he does so by wreaking complete and utter havoc, which the Fantastic Four, being general heroes, have to stop.
Apparently, Spider-Man's too busy being emo for his own movie and game to get involved even as the attacks strike New York City. (For those of you confused by that statement, plenty of Marvel storylines have Spidey and the Four together, and he really does not get along with Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch.) Of course, it's not the Fantastic Four without their traditional rival, and Victor Von Doom gladly makes a reprise solely for the sake of making things worse, along with several of their comic-book foes coming into the thick of things just to add scenarios — and length — to the game. The added enemies, however, turn a sometimes- confusing plot into a convoluted mess, with little to no explanation as to why certain threats show up.
There seems to be no way to play as the Four that would fit better than a traditional brawler — hundreds of generics for you to smack, with the occasional, fairly gimmicky boss to mix things up. The problems start with the play design. Do not expect the controls to do what you want them to, or you will be sorely disappointed. If you are playing in cooperative mode, don't even expect to be in control of your character. Do not expect that you will be able to jump over even the tiniest crevasses or fly over them as the Human Torch. Most of all, don't expect one room to look distinct from the last in any area of the game. When I say that I ran into 15 identical chambers in a row in the first act, I do not kid. When your level designs seem to be, quite literally, copy-paste-repeat with nothing else done, you might have a problem.
As for actually using the Fantastic Four to any effectiveness as a license, don't expect much there, either. Yes, they each have their own powers, and sometimes, these powers will solve brain-dead puzzles. The "revolutionary" Fusion Attack system gives a really weak representation of the teamwork that defines the team. However, you will not get to fly around to any interesting extent as the Human Torch, except in tunnel sequences. The Invisible Woman's sneaking is limited to what feels like a cheap rip-off of Rogues in World of Warcraft. The Thing can't wreck anything the game designers don't want you to wreck. Reed Richards' intelligence seems limited to being able to read simplistic messages off of computer screens. Their powers are upgradeable using a score gained by beating things up — from four out of five to five out of five, with no discernable difference between the two. In short, the Fantastic Four, whose abilities as individuals define them nearly as well as their teamwork, don't feel very fantastic in the context of this game.
If the gameplay and use of license sound bad, then the graphics and sound quality in FF: RotSS are even worse. From terrible game menus that don't seem to be complete, to a first area that took significant screenshot comparison for me to not suggest to Sega that they sue for this game copying Phantasy Star Online, to the character models that would not impress the Sega Dreamcast or the PlayStation 2, let alone the next-gen systems. In particular, I must complain about their representation of Jessica Alba, who has — there is no polite way to say this — bullet boobs of the sort that would make men scream if they saw it on a real woman. It's made worse by her attack style, which will madden any feminists who happen to play the game; the style is centered on ballet-like pirouettes that would make even the most chauvinistic male feel like women are being treated as objects.
For comparison, the sound effects aren't very good, either and will make you want to turn on the "mute" button and never turn it off. There are generic clipped-in sounds, excessively repeated and rather stupid comments ("Looks like I get to finish this. Again."), and a few Doppler effect failures (sounds near you are super-quiet when sounds on the opposite side of a large chamber drowns out all other noise), especially when combined with grating pseudo-orchestral music. Conveniently, subtitles are provided, as if to suggest this as a course of action.
Worst of all, FF: RotSS won't even qualify for that masochistic sort, the Xbox Live Gamerscore fanatic, because, in a failure of Quality Control far more embarrassing to Microsoft than any number of Red Rings of Death, several of the game's Achievements do not work. No less than half of the game's gamerscore is locked behind "I met the requirements, why won't you give me the points?!" To call this unacceptable is an understatement in the "of the year" category, at the very least.
If you haven't been scared off yet, I fear for your soul as a gamer. Avoid this game. Make sure all of your friends avoid this game so you don't get forced to play it co-op. Make sure that anyone at your local game store knows this game is horrible, and if the staff recommends it to someone for any reason, stop visiting that store and tell them that it's because they're recommending the worst schlock product that the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and possibly their previous-generation predecessors have seen. Physical abuse is recommended to hammer in the point if necessary.
I have been advised that Hour of Victory may, in fact, be a worse game than Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, a fact that I sincerely find hard to imagine. Out of fear for my life, I do not intend to test this theory, nor do I recommend anyone else do so, as certain things just aren't meant to be known by humanity. This game elevates the dregs of the system by setting the newest low seen in a long time, and I predict that when it comes time to select the five worst games of this current console generation, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer will be neatly nestled in there, comfortable in its grave.