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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-21-2006, 05:12 AM Thread Starter
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Xbox 360: Super Man Returns Review

Making a decent comic book game is tough; just look at the track record back to the Atari 2600 days for proof of this. An even bigger challenge is trying to make a playable comic book game when it involves a Goliath of an IP - in this case, Superman. It was challenging enough trying to make Superman come alive on the 2600, and it's only gotten tougher on just about every other system leading up to the current HD era of gaming.

EAís chore with Superman Returns: The Videogame is even tougher than Man oí Steel games in the past. Not only did studio Tiburon have to respect an IP that has been around since WWII, but they also had to honor the cinematic nuances, because this is, after all, a SKU based on the fairly acclaimed movie (thanks for the ďvideogameĒ clarification in the title though, EA, it's much appreciated).

EA was already behind the eight ball with Superman Returns: The Videogame, even before that first gamer loaded the shiny disc into his Xbox 360. Delays have pushed Superman Returns: The Videogame back to the point where comic book moviedom is now abuzz with flaming skull heads rather than a man in too-tights. Is Superman Returns: The Videogame a good enough of a game to rekindle the love for Singerís movie and Action Comicsí golden child?





Gameplay

Superman Returns: The Videogame is based on the movie, but donít expect a play-by-play of the lengthy flick. Youíll begin your work In Metropolis, where a few tutorials will get you accustomed to flight and air combat. Jor-El narrates the tutorials, and on-screen directions help to create inviting and informative training sessions.

Big daddy talks you through flight first, which is as simple as tapping the Y button. Once in the air, Superman will simply hover if nothing is done with the left stick. In the default controller configuration, pushing forward on the left stick will send Superman forward, and pulling back will slow his rate of speed. Left and right on the left stick is pitch control (much like airplane aileron controls), and the right stick houses the turning function. If Superman is hovering, the right stick will basically give you a 360 degree view of the vast environment.

Flying is your quickest means to get to the trouble spots on the map (indicated by exclamation points). If you really need to get somewhere in a hurry, holding down the right bumper will send Superman there at near-mach speeds. But what to do when you arrive at these trouble spots? 60+ years of comics history should give you a clue. Heat vision, freezy breath, and blow breath (Iím sure thereís a better name for this) are the major forms of attack, all of which are mapped to the D-pad. A simple lock-on targeting system is activated by holding the left trigger whilst blasting away with the right trigger. In a nice touch, once a locked-on target is destroyed, the next closet enemy will be targeted without a lapse in the offensive firepower.

Superman is as prolific at combat on the ground as he is in the air. Ground-based fighting relies more on Supermanís uncanny strength than it does superbreath and heat vision, but these abilities are also available on land. Melee combat is similar to what you would find in other third-person action games, but with a superheroic flair. The basic punch attack is performed with the X button, but dozens of advanced moves can ensue with the right combo of face buttons and trigger pulls. Some of these combos are quite simple (a string of face button presses), while others near the complexity of a fighting game. Youíll unlock more moves as you gain experience too, which lead to more spectacular ways to down your opponents. Your best bet is to use the block button often (B) while trying to pull off these combos, or the stingy A.I. will beat you down. If the blocks arenít working - some of the enemies can break through defense - then quick evades with B and the left stick are in order.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-21-2006, 05:13 AM Thread Starter
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Of course, you could just pick up a water tower or massive boulder and throw it at the pest. After all, you are Superman for the love of Marlon Brando. Or use the grab-and-toss feature directly on your adversaries for a good thumpin’ worthy of a game about a movie about a comic book.

The Man of Steel surely has the tools and the talent, but he still has a huge task ahead of him: keeping Metropolis and its surroundings safe. This is quite a chore, as Superman Returns: The Videogame has eighty square miles of game space and over 8,000 buildings. The city actually has its own health meter, which is there to give Superman a guide as to how good a job he is doing. If Superman isn’t taking care of the big situations quickly, or racks up a lot of collateral damage in his missions, the city will ail. Gamers will have many decisions to make in Superman Returns: The Videogame, as there are many different issues picked up by Superman’s dog-like hearing. The map points each item out, with color-coded exclamation points giving a clue as to what’s up. For example, a boss battle is highlighted with a purple mark, and a fire that needs attention will glow in red. An objective that requires immediate attention will feature a question mark as well.

Superman Returns: The Videogame is designed to be a seamless adventure, but advancement will trigger story events and new chapters in this saga. As mentioned earlier, Superman Returns: The Videogame goes beyond the movie in several areas, which helps to add to the complexity of the gameplay. A planet known as Warworld is one such area, featuring arena-style battle in a futuristic setting. This expanded universe and plot allows for myriad villains, such as Bizarro, Metalo, and Mxyzptlk





Overall Gameplay Impressions:

Those that have played the Superman Returns: The Videogame demo will know that the core gameplay mechanics of this title aren’t bad. The flying system is quite good, allowing for quick and accurate travel to the city’s objectives. The targeting system does its job, and the special powers seem to be in line with one would expect in the comic or in any one of the movies.

If there’s one area of the gameplay mechanic that fails, it would have to be the melee combat on foot. It’s a been-there-done-that affair, and it has been better conceived in games such as Hulk and Spider-Man for example. The hit detection is off, and even if you lock onto an enemy, there’s no guarantee that you will make contact. The camera is a bit awkward in these melee fights too, especially when more than one enemy exists (which is basically all the time). Yes, you can manually move the camera in Superman Returns: The Videogame, but when you get knocked down, you are at the mercy of the CPU, which loves to discombobulate Superman with funky camera shots.

The general progression of Superman Returns: The Videogame is decent. There are many power upgrades, and the ability to unlock content through play; from alternate tights to special moves. Of course, you’ll be progrerssing through the story as well, battling bigger and better foes along the way. The big issue with this progression is that the production values involved with it is poor. The cut scenes literally “cut” in with no transition, and play hesitantly. Much of the story drivers in Superman Returns: The Videogame seemed slapped into the gameplay, with no real sense of transition to be had.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-21-2006, 05:13 AM Thread Starter
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Making a streaming world as large as the one in Superman Returns: The Videogame look good is challenging. I think EA Tiburon did a pretty good job for the size of the world, but don’t expect to be “blown away” by the visuals. If you keep in the back of your mind the size of the environment, then it’s easy to appreciate Superman Returns: The Videogame. The likeness of Brandon Routh is solid, and the general animations regarding Superman are good. The cape animations help to make the flying sequences dynamic. The 8000 or so buildings have a fair amount of detail for being part of a world that is so large. Hustle and bustle in the city is well done, with interesting looking cars (art deco meets future concept vehicle), and citizens that react accordingly to mayhem, as well as peace-keeping by the Man of Steel. Sure, there’s a fair amount of clippage in Superman Returns: The Videogame, but not as much as one would expect with such a challenging environment to deal with.

EA Tiburon claims over forty hours of original music in Superman Returns: The Videogame, and I just have to believe them. The orchestral tracks are excellent, but they all kind of sound the same after awhile of playing, diluting the strength of so much work in the studio. It’s also a wonder where the classic Superman score from the movie is. The voice acting is really kind of hokey too. I expected so much more from it since many of the movie’s actors provided their voices, but it comes across as unnatural for the most part. At least there’s nothing bad to say about the sound effects, which basically steal the aural show.





The Bottom Line

There are fun moments to be had when playing Superman Returns: The Videogame, but I never really felt that I was playing a complete game during my time with it. I’m guessing the team ran under some time constraints and had to push Superman Returns: The Videogame out the door before it was fully optimized.

In terms of actual gameplay features, the sprawling city is amazing, but there’s little else to rave about here. If you are a huge fan of Superman, then by all means pick this one up ASAP. Those looking for a comic book game in the third-person style will want to check out either of the Spider-Man games first, or The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. These are better games overall than Superman Returns: The Videogame, and deserve a look before taking flight with the Man of Steel.

Platform:
Xbox 360
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Publisher:
Electronic Arts
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Developer:
EA Tiburon
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Genre:
Action
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Release Date:
11/20/2006
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Game Features:
Offline Players: 1
HDTV 720p Support
Widescreen 16:9





Ratings :: 4
Average :: 6.5
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The flying dynamic is excellent, but the game feels unfinished when looking at it as an entire piece of software. 80-plus miles of landscape is nuts.






Overall, pretty decent for the sheer size of the world.






The original score is impressive, but easily forgotten after thirty minutes or so. Voice acting sounds cheesy.






A progression system keeps this one afloat.






Innovation is like Kryptonite to Superman games.






Overall Score NOT
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-21-2006, 07:44 AM
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