Foursome Foreplay

We take a looksee at the videogame adaptation of Fantasic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer to see how things are coming along.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 15, 2007
Like The Darkness, we got the chance to see F4 running on actual PS3 hardware at Sony's Gamers' Day event last month, then stopped in with 2K Games to check out a 360 build for this preview a week or so later. Unfortunately, due to the joy of licensing agreements, we're only now able to tell you about the game, which is something of a shame considering it's coming out... well, today, basically.

For starters, we should probably mention that though the game's short a basic sort of feel, Rise of the Silver Surfer was not developed by the same team that did the last F4 game. In fact, both the developer and publisher are both different (the last one was Seven Studios and Activision, this time around it's 2K Games publishing and their Visual Concepts studio handling development), though it's obvious that a beat-'em-up seemed a decent way to tackle the license in both cases.

This time around, though, the games are headed to next-gen systems, and we took a peek at what that'll entail. The core of the game still revolves around switching to any member of the super-powered foursome at any time with the d-pad, both to handle the game's simple combo-based combat and to tackle character-specific level challenges. Though Visual Concepts intentionally kept the puzzles in the game fairly open, allowing multiple characters to approach things differently (but with their individual powers in mind), the battles we saw in the Skrull lair and on the Red Ghost's space station both seemed to branch out enough to give players with a favorite character the opportunity to stay with them for a while.

One of the biggest advantages the Fantastic 4 have is their teamwork, and it's represented in game by the Fusion Attack system, which lets two players combine powers for a bigger punch. Say the Invisible Woman creates a bubble and then the Human Torch fills it with plasma, then Sue hucks it at enemies or Mr. Fantastic grabs Johnny Storm and uses his stretchiness to swing the Human Torch all over the place in quick, powerful arcs. It's an interesting setup, and one that seems to lend itself well to the game's drop-in/drop-out co-op multiplayer.

Though the game is technically based on the movie, the actual level breakdown is more or less right down the middle with a 50/50 split between events that follow the movie and ones that pull more from the comics to keep fans happy. This means a dual storyline involving both the Silver Surfer and the impending arrival of Galactus, plus the return of Dr. Doom. In an nod to comic fans, alternate costumes and comic covers will also be included as unlockables for those diligent enough to find them.

Thanks to a heavily physics-based level of interaction, the game's environments sport some solid destruction, meaning walls can be broken and the pieces used to beat up enemies, but it also helps everything have a nice sense of weight. Smashing stuff is not only physically rewarding, but coughs up in-game cash that can then be used to pour points into the characters' stats and powers, resulting in upgrades to the moves. Since all the moves are essentially available from the start (a conscious decision by the developers, since that's how it is in the movies/comics too), the game's progression is more in boosting attack power or hit points, or leveling up the base attacks until they have a much bigger impact.

It's an interesting approach, and there's definitely plenty of depth, but we'll find out if the combination can hold out all the way through the game... well, hopefully later today when the review copies of the game arrive. Updates then!