Activision/Raven’s X-Men Legends proved that the isometric multiplayer format is popular - so it makes total sense then that Activision’s latest release, Fantastic Four shares the co-op concept as well as the three axis iso-camera angle. Will 7 Studios, the developer of Fantastic Four, have the same success as Raven with Legends; a title that shares many similar qualities?
If you know a bit about the movie or the original comic book characters then you’ll immediately know something about Fantastic Four the game. Basically, four astronauts were exposed to an amount of galactic energy which transformed them into beings with uncanny abilities - or superheroes as luck has it. Being based off the movie, you’ll see likenesses of the characters in the flick and hear all of the actor’s actual voices in the dialogue. The leader of the Fantastic Four is Reed Richards, who now goes by Mr. Fantastic (a true sign of the early, innocent comic book days). Mr. Fantastic can stretch and contort his body in an extreme manner due to the extreme malleability of his elastic mass. Sue Storm is now known as the Invisible Girl since she can disappear at will. Invisible Girl can also create shielding, levitate objects, and hurl objects with her newly formed skill set. Sue’s brother Johnny was also blasted with cosmic energy and instead of a nasty headache, ended up with the ability to fly at supersonic speeds and shoot powerful, long-range fireballs (now known as the Human Torch). The final member of the Fantastic Four is Ben Grimm who is probably the most identifiable of the lot. Ben is the bruiser of the bunch. As his alias, The Thing, the pilot turned human orange rock pile is nearly invincible and can lift tons of weight. The Thing is also the only one of the Fantastic Four that has to live with his transformation permanently, whereas the rest of the characters try to carry out ordinary lives.
In its most basic form, Fantastic Four is a third-person action title, but you will have to have some brains as well as brawn to be successful. The mental skills needed to advance quickly through Fantastic Four are simple logic and puzzle solving in nature and having to select the right character for the right situation. Fantastic Four features character switching on-the-fly, and each character has different strengths and weaknesses which will come into play. There are many ways to handle each situation, but there is definitely a less forced way to handle them given the gameplay features worked into Fantastic Four. Simple RPG statistics have been programmed into each playable character which ties directly into their prowess on the battlefield. Some of these are obvious. The Thing, for example, is slow as Moses and can’t dodge attacks, but he is resilient and has the most strength.
The character switching has been made quite simple, and is therefore very effective in Fantastic Four. During single-player mode, an icon in the lower left shows each character’s face, corresponding to a direction on the D-pad. A simple press in the proper direction on the D-pad will instantly place you in control of the character of your choice. The character that you were just in control of will immediately be taken over by the A.I., so there’s no lag when doing these changes on-the-fly.
Combat is based off of a combo system no matter what character is used. Sure, their actions will be vastly different since their cosmic enhancements are so varied, but the core of the fighting is pretty much standard. For instance, each character can grapple, and throw the grappled bad guy for additional damage. The Thing, naturally, actually picks up the assailant and has his way with him. On the other hand, Invisible Girl traps the baddie in a sonic wave that levitates them above the ground; same “grapple” concept, but very different from a visual standpoint. The amount of damaged done per move will rely heavily on the character used as well. Human Torch, for example, trades off some damage per hit for the ability to attack at range. Mr. Fantastic, on the other hand, must be within the range of his elasticity to attack a foe, which makes each hit do heavy damage. To create even further depth to the combat system in Fantastic Four, Seven Studios designed various Team Combos and manoeuvres that work like a finely-orchestrated tag-team in “professional” wrestling where several of the team can double up to inflict more damage on your baddies.
Apart from single player and two player co-op modes, there is also the Arena Fight (as previously seen in X-Men Legends). This is divided into two modes, Practice Room and Survival Mode. Unfortunately however, there is no four-player mode, despite the obvious ability to be able to incorporate it. Fans of the comic book and general fans of third-person action titles should be quite happy with the graphics as a whole. Most of the action takes on the slightly raised iso-metric viewpoint which zooms away quite a distance when all four playable characters are on screen at once and character models and animations look impressive. Backgrounds are highly destructible and show off a wide variety of landscapes; from space-scapes to normal city settings.
As far as games based off of official movie licenses go, Fantastic Four is a solid performer and certainly a change from the typically poor movie-to-game efforts we’ve had in the past.