Granted, nobody is going to confuse Supes for Mortal Kombat's Scorpion anytime soon, but there's more to the combo system in Superman Returns than just mindless button mashing. As Superman Returns' supervising producer Jeff Peters told us, the game doesn't skimp on "canned" combos (with six and seven, and even up to 10-hit combo strings), and it also leaves room for players to create their own attacks organically. "We wanted to give the player control over what kind of combo [they] wanted to do," Peters said. This includes your standard punch attacks, and also grabs and throws, flying into the air, picking up objects, and mixing in Superman's impressive arsenal of powers such as heat vision and freezing breath.
Most combos will start with the X button, which is your standard superpunch. Pressing the button multiple times will result in a double- or triple-punch combo and, from there, it's a matter of figuring out just what you can get away with--and how many moves you can string together--before your foe manages to block your attack and get in some offense of his or her own.
What moves are available to you for use in combos will change throughout the game. After you progress through the tutorial, you have a base number of moves and combo strings available right away. As you progress in the game, defeating enemies, completing objectives, and earning experience points along the way, you'll periodically earn new moves or new combos, which can then be added to your combo arsenal. Pause the game, and you can access a list of combos that are available to you at any time, as well as combo moves that you have yet to unlock. Peters used one move, supernova, as an example. As he describes it, supernova is "a sort of clearing-out move, where Superman harnesses physical force, and he does a big clear-out move with his arms, and anything that's within a short radius will go flying away. Once supernova is unlocked, all of the combo moves that use supernova are unlocked as well." In addition, because of its nature as a clear-out move, supernova is a perfect choice to end a long string of moves, as it will put some room between you and your opponent and let you prepare for your next onslaught.
Though combos are a big portion of the combat in Superman Returns, they aren't the only way to defeat enemies. Thanks to a number of ranged attacks, it's up to you how you wish to defeat enemies in the game. Of course, sometimes the nature of your opponent will more or less make that choice for you. Some enemies, for example, are more or less immune to your superpowers, such as the Terminites. Use your heat vision on them, and they'll grow to roughly three times their original size and start wreaking even more havoc. As a result, you'll need to pick and choose when to use your powers and when to take the fight up close and personal.
There's your fair city to consider, as well. Because Superman is virtually indestructible, your main limiting factor in the game will be the health and well-being of the Metropolis citizens under your charge as Superman. Letting loose with massive slams and powerful ground moves can be detrimental to the health of the folks in your way, so part of your responsibility in fights will be getting clear of innocents and making sure you create as little danger as you can for those under your protection, which, in some cases, is easier said than done. Of course, all those rules of engagement are out the window when playing in the madcap Bizarro minigame found in Superman Returns. The idea here is to create as much devastation as possible with Superman's bizarre alter-ego, so you'll want to unload with each and every combo you can think of within city limits. Your damage multipliers will thank you for it.
When it comes to the combo system, the team at EA Tiburon has strove to make it easy and approachable while deep enough to keep fans interested, all within a game that is designed to be more than just a slugfest. As Peters puts it, Superman is really three games in one--a fighting game, a flying game, and an action game. With one controller to handle each of these aspects, the challenge for the development team has been making sure that all three aspects of the game work well, without becoming needlessly complex. "If we went to a Street Fighter, or Tekken, or Mortal Kombat-type system, not only would we run out of buttons for all of the other stuff, but we would have been working on a layer of complexity that's not that easy to pick up and play."
Asked about his favorite combo in the game, Peters mentioned several. The first starts with a standard five-punch sequence finishing with an uppercut that knocks the foe into the air. From there, you follow with a one-two combo in the air and then slam the enemy into the ground. The second, known as Foe's Hammer, has Superman pick up then smash to the ground his opponent with each press of the X button. And then there are the Decrep-bot enemies, which you can soften up with a few punches, toss into the air, and then incinerate at long range with your heat vision, creating a massive explosion in the process. Then there's the...well, you get the picture.
The goal in Superman Returns has seemingly been to make you feel like Superman from the moment you start the game. With its mixture of high-speed flight and high-powered fight, the game looks to show off all aspects of the Man of Steel's heroic abilities. The big-screen video game adaptation is due for release in just about a month, and we'll bring you our final verdict as soon as it hits store shelves.