After spending a few years as the industry's whipping boy, it seems that the beat-em-up game has come back into favor with game developers. But even with today's new technology, the games haven't improved very much. Fantastic Four is no exception. The game's moves are simple, and the entire game is based on hitting buttons fast enough to make the bad guys die.
You have a choice between five characters: the Human Torch, Thing, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, and She-Hulk. Each player has four special moves that are done by holding R2 and pressing a certain combination on the D-pad. One of these special moves (usually the most devastating) requires "force power" to execute, meaning you can only do the move when you collect enough force energy. This doesn't really matter because most characters have a few special moves that are almost as useful, and you will find plenty of force power ups as you traverse the levels. There are two attack buttons, although they both have the same result. Pounding one of the buttons quickly results in a combo that eventually knocks the enemy away.
The game is incredibly easy if you pick certain characters and just do powerful, non-force-draining special moves repeatedly. For example, pick Thing and keep doing the Thunderclap, or pick the Human Torch and do the Flaming Ring, which hurts all enemies close to you. The game's ease is compensated by the game's sheer length. The lack of any type of save or password mechanism really hurts the game, because you'll probably get bored of the game long before it's over and simply turn it off.
F4's graphics are nothing to write home about and fit in perfectly with the rest of the game's mediocre feel. A few stages have some nice lighting effects, and some boss characters are nice and large. The sound, on the other hand, is rather strange. The sound effects are the average grunts and smacks you'd expect from a beat-'em-up game, and you'll get occasional voice clips ("Flame on!") as well. The music is really quite bad and stands apart from the rest of the game. A lot of it is this crazy saxophone music. It just doesn't fit at all.
The game's main selling point is its multiplayer capabilities. Not only can you have up to four players, but you can also fill in any of the empty slots with computer-controlled characters. The drone AI is good enough for the first few levels, but it gets rocked later on, and is just flat out stupid when it comes fighting bosses. Another interesting feature is the ability to change between characters at any time. So if you get tired of Mr. Fantastic's stretchy moves, you can switch to the Human Torch and set fools on fire for a change.
Overall, Fantastic Four could have been a much better game, and it's unfortunate that the core game isn't better. All the external features are nice, but without a good game to center it all, it just falls flat. Fans of beat-'em-ups would be better served by Eidos' similarly-themed Fighting Force.