There may be no surer things than death and taxes, but summer action flicks and their attendant tie-in video games run a close third. The new Fantastic Four flick Rise of the Silver Surfer is imminent, and so is its own game, which Sony had on display at its San Diego press event recently. We had only a very brief amount of time to play the demo (though 2K Games says we'll be getting our hands on a more complete version of the game in the very near future), but we thought the game exhibited an overall level of polish that's higher than you'd expect from games in this particular category (you know what we mean).
The PS3 demo let us jump into the "Skrull Lair" level, which was set in a subterranean fortress with lots of menacing-looking lava and industrial machinery, as well as a more high-tech complex as we moved deeper into the base. (Comic fans will know the Skrull as a race of evil alien shapeshifters that have plagued do-gooders for decades.) You'll control all four members of the superhero team as you fight your way through various enemies, and you can switch between Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing, and the Human Torch with a press of the D pad (and, naturally, the other three characters will be controlled by the computer). Each character has light and heavy melee attacks that can be chained into combos, and of course each has his or her own strengths in this department. Stretchy Mr. Fantastic has the most range, while the Thing is the heaviest bruiser, for instance.
Things got a lot more interesting when we held down a shoulder button and saw that each of the four characters has four special abilities, each of which you'll access by keeping that shoulder button down (which pops up a small menu displaying the four powers in icon form) and then hitting the appropriate face button. Suddenly we were able to have the Invisible Woman turn invisible (natch) or create a force field, while the Human Torch can perform various flame attacks. Each character can also perform a "fusion attack" with each of the other members of the team, and these abilities combine their unique special powers to perform a move that will hit multiple nearby enemies. The Mr. Fantastic and Human Torch pairing saw the former grabbing the latter and spinning him around in a wide arc while he was on fire. On the PS3, you'll be able to shake the controller at the right moment to add a little extra oomph to this attack, too.
We got to see (but not play) a second level from elsewhere in the game, which will have you flying a speeding Human Torch through a heavily trafficked tunnel in New York, hot on the trail of the Silver Surfer. This level made use of the Sixaxis' motion controls as the primary steering device. You'll simply tilt the controller in the direction you want to move your character during a flying stage like this, though it's worth pointing out that the developers at Visual Concepts have chosen (perhaps wisely) to allow standard analog-stick control here as well.
Unlike some other comic-book-turned-movie-turned-video-games, Rise of the Silver Surfer won't throw in a lot of villains and scenarios completely separate from the movie. The game will simply follow the overall plotline you'll see in theaters, but it's said that roughly 50 percent of the levels here were created specifically for the game. As mentioned, we'll be getting a deeper look at the game soon and will deliver a more complete picture of its contents at that time.