In my review of Fantastic Four on the GameCube, I wrote that while I did enjoy it, I wish that developer Seven Studios copied what fellow Marvel game developer Raven Software did with the X-Men in their X-Men Legends games. As I’ve learned from reviewing games on this site, you sometimes have to be careful of what you wish for. While Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer on the PS2/Wii shares the basic template of the Legends series, it fails to understand what makes grind heavy games like those fun. It’s pretty funny that Seven was responsible for the Fantastic Four game I’ve enjoyed the most, but as you’ll later in this week, they’re also responsible for two of the games I’ve enjoyed the least.
Rise of the Silver Surfer on the PS2 and Wii has the same plot as the Xbox 360/PS3 version I’ll talk about next week, but to sum it up in a nutshell, the coming of the Silver Surfer has created strange anomalies to earth that are attracting alien visitors and the curiosity of not only the Fantastic Four, but their arch-nemesis Doctor Doom as well. Outside of that there’s very little effort put into the game’s story. It has book ending cut-scenes horribly compressed from the Xbox 360 version and then talking heads between levels explaining why the group are one second in a volcano and back in New York City another. The production value put into this version is very lazy, and it’s also very indicative of how the game plays as well.
The PS2/Wii port, unlike the versions you’ll find elsewhere, is an dungeon crawling game played from an overhead perspective like X-Men Legends where you can easily swap between the entire group at will. The similarities end there however, as what could’ve been a fun action-RPG turns out to be a mind-numbing brawler that will test even the biggest of Fantastic Four fans patience. The entire game from start to finish involves traversing through one boring dungeon-esque environment, beating on bad guys until you reach the end of a level.
You can play as any member of the team: The Thing, Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, but outside of some very rudimentary “puzzles” where you need Mr. Fantastic to lower a bridge, or the Human Torch to throw fireballs at a shielded enemy, it’s best to just stick with The Thing, who is the strongest character, occasionally stopping to check on the life meters of your teammates. The way the lives system works in this game is that when a character dies, they’re “transported” back to the Baxter Building and will eventually return after a few seconds. As none of the Four matches the power or screen clearing ability’s of The Thing, my pro tip for success is this: Stick with The Thing, watch everyone else’s life meter, and then when The Thing dies, switch to someone else and try to stay alive until he comes back into the fray.
Unlike Seven Studios other Fantastic Four game that had unlockable combos and skill trees for your characters, this game just has a basic leveling system where each team member gets more or less the exact same skills as they go up through each level. This usually involves getting more health, more cosmic energy ability, and a more powerful move or two, but nothing that feels special or particularly super. What this game needed was loot falling from enemies, equips, skill trees, enemies that required you to say, need to change between characters in order to defeat them. Any one of those things would have helped this game be at least a tiny bit better, but instead you just mash on the attack button until the game ends or you get bored and give up.
What makes the terrible gameplay even worse is the awful level design. You’ll travel through different environments but no matter where you are, you’re just guiding the Fantastic Four through various hallways and corridors, stopping ever so often to smash a power conduit or lower a bridge. There’s every little incentive to explore, mainly because there’s normally ever one way to go, and even when you can deviate a little, you’re rewarded with a Fantastic Four emblem that you can trade in for alternate costumes and other unlockables you won’t care that much about.
Fantastic Four on the GameCube stretched out the experience, not sure if that’s a pun or not, by adding in other villains not seen in the film, which is the case here as well. Getting to a boss however, is not a welcome break from the tedium of the main stages, but an exacerbation of what makes them so bad. Instead of thinking up of clever bosses where you have to use your full team or learn a pattern, you just have to whittle down their slowly depleting power bar until it’s empty. The worst offender is the final boss, Doctor Doom, who has multiple forms and attacks that can wipe out your characters in one or two hits. But, like with everything else, use The Thing, make sure no one else dies and you’re set.
Believe it or not there is in fact a superior version of this game, and that would be the PS2 version. On that system you can just use simple button presses for your attacks, but on the Wii you have to play with motion-controls where you have to make gestures to complete your basic combos like crossing your arms back and forth as Mr.Fantastic, or drumming up and down with the Wii remote and nunchuk to throw fireballs as the Human Torch. I got so tired of this after a level or two that I turned to Amazon and purchased the PS2 version, very cheaply I might add.
While much more playable than Fantastic Four on the PSOne, Rise of the Silver Surfer on the PS2 and Wii is still an incredibly boring game that is made even more frustrating by knowing that maybe with a little bit more time, it may have been an X-Men Legends style experience just swapping in the Fantastic Four. Unfortunately the only thing that the two have in common is the overhead play perspective and the ability to switch between four characters on the fly. If you’re a huge Fantastic Four fan and need to play this game, seek out the PS2 version, but I warn you, even if you own every single issue of the comic book series and have FF bed sheets, there’s little reason to play this game.