|Superman Returns (2006)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Superman may be the strongest superhero in the world, but he’s got a shit track record when it comes to video games. Perhaps the most famous of his pixilated flops is the horrid “Superman 64,” which has earned a place in history as one of the worst games ever made. Sadly, while Electronic Arts’ reintroduction of the Man of Steel to game consoles is a vast improvement upon those that have plagued the industry in the past, the title still has two giant obstacles standing in its way: comic book characters and movie tie-ins. Neither subgenre has yet to consistently wow gamers as of yet, and “Superman Returns” won’t be setting any new trends. While surprisingly fun to play at first, the game quickly becomes formulaic and ridiculously monotonous.
Initially scheduled to hit stores in conjunction with the movie’s summer release, the game was pushed back five months so that it could be polished up to look its absolute best, and in that aspect, the developers have certainly succeeded. The game looks quite nice on Microsoft’s little white box; specifically the character models, which closely resemble the film’s stars, Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey. It also follows the general story of the film pretty closely, but adds several different enemies for Superman to battle on the side – including mainstay villains like Mongul and Bizarro, as well as lesser-known foes like Metallo and Mr. Mxyzptlk. In order to dispose of these enemies and save Metropolis from certain doom, you’ll have to utilize a full range of attacks including classic powers like heat vision, freeze breath and super breath, or just good ‘ol hand-to-hand combat, which features over twenty different moves to show off your super strength.
Unfortunately, while there are combos aplenty, it usually just comes down to button-mashing your opponent into submission. If that sounds boring, it’s probably because it is, and the gameplay doesn’t get much better from here. You’ll spend most of your time putting out fires, saving citizens and beating up a pathetic array of robots than actually dueling with cool villains. Even worse, glitchy targeting and camera controls present numerous problems while in battle, and most of the combo moves have been mapped to one button – which means that even though you want to perform one move, you’ll probably be stuck performing another one. And that’s where flying comes in to play. Much like the joy of web-slinging through the open environments of “Spider-Man 2,” flying around town is the best part of “Superman Returns.” Actually, scratch that. Breaking the sound barrier is, though they’re really just one and the same.
As you can imagine, flying can get boring awfully fast, and if you look to the rest of the game to save the day, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Side missions included, you’ll be lucky to spend eight hours playing “Superman Returns.” The main story mode can be completed in one sitting and the mini-games (one of which has you collecting kittens scattered throughout the city) aren’t very fun. In the end, “Superman Returns” will likely offer hours of enjoyment for many gamers, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any one of them playing beyond the first day. In that regard, it’s a great rental game, but nothing more.