Fantastic 4 E3 2005 Preshow First Impressions

Activision shows off its latest Marvel Comics movie game, which features the veteran foursome of heroes.

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Activision demoed its upcoming action game based on the forthcoming film based on the Fantastic Four. The third-person action game is cut from the same cloth as last year's X-Men Legends, and it puts you in control of all four members of the team as they face off against the villainous Doctor Doom. Though the game will use the movie plot as the basis for its narrative, as with most Activision game adaptations, some dramatic license has been taken to ensure Fantastic 4 offers an engaging experience. We recently had the chance to see a demo of the game, and it looked good.

For non-comic readers who might have only recently become aware of the Fantastic 4 as a result of the upcoming film, we'll bring you up to speed on the team. The quartet of heroes is among one of the most recognizable teams at the House of M, having been created in 1961 by legendary writer Stan Lee and renowned illustrator Jack Kirby. The roster is made up of Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic), his wife Sue Richards (aka the Invisible Woman), her brother Johnny Storm, (aka the Human Torch), and Benjamin Grimm (aka the Thing). The four heroes gained their powers after being caught in a radioactive cosmic storm while on a scientific mission in space. As is the case with most heroes of the era, the seemingly lethal dose of radiation imbued the hapless foursome with mighty superpowers they naturally pledged to use to fight evil. The game will follow the movie's plot, which traces the team's origin and formation as it battles the evil Doctor Doom, also known as Victor Von Doom, a one-time associate of Reed's.

Fantastic 4 lets you play as each member of the cosmic storm-empowered team.
Fantastic 4 lets you play as each member of the cosmic storm-empowered team.

The game's structure will be very similar to X-Men Legends in that you'll be able to alternate control among the four heroes, on the fly, as warranted by the situation. Each character will have two basic attacks you can string together to form combos, as well as the ability to tap unique powers. The rundown of the team's powers is basically self-explanatory (thanks to the X-era names), but the powers have been expanded some to liven up the gameplay. Mr. Fantastic is able to stretch himself like a rubber band, altering his shape to a somewhat limited degree. The Invisible Woman can, wait for it, become invisible! She can also create powerful force fields of invisible energy. The Human Torch can turn himself into a living pyre, flying and shooting blasts of flame. Finally, the Thing, whose special abilities have cursed him with the appearance of a pet rock, has superhuman strength and a certain degree of invulnerability. You'll have to make use of all four team members over the course of the game, all the while figuring out which of them is best suited for dealing with the various threats you'll encounter as you go through the game's levels. The levels will present you with a set of objectives you'll have to set out to complete. Though one of the key mechanics is the ability to swap between the different characters, some levels will require you to play alone, forcing you to learn each character's nuances.

Besides the single-player game, you'll find two multiplayer options to enhance the experience. A co-op mode lets you go through the story with a friend, while the arena battle mode lets you face off against him or her. In addition, you'll find a host of unlockable content that will range from new skins to artwork.

The visuals are shaping up well. Unlike X-Men Legends, Fantastic 4 will bring its game camera in much closer, putting you right in the battle. Thankfully, the graphics engine can handle such scrutiny, as it churns out impressive environments. The character models look good and animate well. And Mr. Fantastic looks especially good thanks to the animation of his powers. The enemies you'll face are done well, although a fair amount appear to fall into the "grunt" variant, which makes them a tad uninteresting. Thankfully, you'll be dispatching them quickly, so they aren't too big of a collective eyesore.

Hardcore fans will be pleased by homages to the quartet's classic comic moments, which are folded into the action.
Hardcore fans will be pleased by homages to the quartet's classic comic moments, which are folded into the action.

The audio in the game draws on some themes from the film, but it does its own thing with a solid score that fits the action. The voice is given an extra layer of authenticity thanks to the presence of the film's central cast. The remainder of the audio, such as sound effects and the like, are nicely done and capture the action well.

Based on the demo we saw, Fantastic 4 looks to be hitting all the right notes for a movie adaptation and superhero game. The story is faithful to the film, and there are some nice references thrown in for comic fans in the forms of cameos by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., since both have been found in the pages of the Marvel classic. The gameplay offers a nice middle ground between accurately representing the gang's powers while making some concessions in the name of gameplay. Fans of the comic and those anticipating the movie would do well to keep an eye out for the game. Fantastic 4 is currently slated to ship this June for the GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. A pint-sized version will also be released for the Game Boy Advance.

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