Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release Date: Q4 2006
The first thing I thought of when I saw Superman Returns, frankly, is that certain people are going to have an absolute ball with it.
The second thing I thought of, regrettably, was Superman's video game record. With the arguable exception of the arcade quarter-muncher, no game based on the Superman license has ever aspired to or reached anything better than utter mediocrity.
Like Spider-Man before it, Superman Returns is a free-roaming action game set in 80 square miles of city. As Superman, you've got access to all Supes's trademark powers: heat vision, freezing super-breath, flight, super speed (allowing you to fly at around 800 miles an hour), and of course, super strength.
That said, this isn't Grand Theft Auto. Superman's entire job is to protect Metropolis, so while you can wreak a certain amount of havoc on the city if you so choose – such as throwing people off of skyscrapers, going bowling in the streets with the globe on top of the Daily Planet building, or heat-visioning cars for no reason whatsoever – you'll be setting yourself up for an early game over.
In the meantime, you can engage in a variety of missions throughout the city, such as rescuing civilians, fighting supervillains, or taking on enormous bosses in sub-levels like War World. This is, after all, a Superman game, so you won't have to stop muggers or rescue cats from trees. You'll have to contend with truly powerful supervillains, like Metallo or the Parasite, and stop natural disasters like tornadoes. It's a sandbox superhero game turned up to 11.
Superman Returns was only 40% complete at the show, but the feel is there. Superman fights the way you've seen him fight in the comics, using super speed to knock villains off of their feet, throwing them what looks like about half a mile, or breaking a chunk of a building over some giant monster's head. My favorite attack at the moment is something the developers call the Thousand Fists, where Superman unleashes a frenzy of punches at super speed, looking like he's rapidly appearing and disappearing before ending with a single powerful uppercut.
Combine this with next-gen graphics (although we've yet to see them), a complete orchestral soundtrack (although you can't hear much of anything on the E3 show floor, let alone in the stereophonic wall of sound that is the EA booth), and an "Oscar-winning sound designer" (the name of whom is undisclosed at this time), and Superman Returns has a lot of potential. We'll be able to see how much of that potential it realizes when it ships at the end of the year.
More articles about Superman Returns: The Videogame