Frequently, when there is a much-anticipated blockbuster movie in the works, a videogame adaptation is not far behind, and the upcoming summer blockbuster remake of Superman is no exception.
The gaming industry has benefited immensely from Hollywood (although the inverse has not proved quite as lucrative) in recent years. Major publishers have been mining the summer popcorn flicks and longstanding franchises for titles that assure a return on the lofty licensing investment they make, even if the game (or, for that matter, movie) isn’t really all that great.
When I came across the Superman Returns : The Videogame booth on the E3 show floor, the first thing that struck me was the icon in the corner humbly stating that the game is only 40% done ; as if this were no major deal with the June 30 movie release drawing closer and closer.
I asked one of the developers how they were going to finish the other 60% of the game in the mere month and a half remaining to them in order to coincide the game release with the movie. He then said the strangest thing to me : "We’re not. The game will not release with the movie."
I searched him for a nametag that said "Trainee" or similar, and glanced around the booth to try and find someone sane looking, but was unable to find either. Instead I was forced to accept the conclusion that EA, not exactly a publisher known for allowing creativity to get in the way of good business sense, is allowing the developers the time they need to finish the game and make it great ; rather than doing the standard film-tie in job and rushing it out half-baked to coincide with the theatrical release date.
To be fair, the game is scheduled to be released with the Superman Returns DVD in the fall [Autumn -Queens Ed], but the decision not to force out a buggy, incomplete game in time for the movie merchandising push is admirable.
One of the hardest things about realizing a Superman videogame is the fast mans intimidating array of superpowers. How can the player fully experience the abilities of the Last Son of Krypton, including his near invincibility, and still make a challenging game out of it ?
Fortunately for us the developers at EA Tiburon have brought to life a Superman sporting his full complement of powers which still, we’re promised, manages to be challenging and engaging. Super speed, heat vision, freezing breath, super breath, super strength, and nigh invulnerability are all available at any point during the game. The demo I played consisted of a couple of different levels, the first being a battle in a gladiator arena on Warworld, which goes to prove a point in that the game features a great deal of content inspired by the Superman comics mythology, and is not bound by the constraints of the upcoming movie.
This level showcased Superman’s combat abilities and the level of destruction that the interactive environment provides. The game is extremely interactive, and full of objects both large and small for players to pick up and wield. In addition to the standard superhero punching, Superman can use his powers to form beat ’em up style combinations to inflict impressive amounts of damage on opponents. Fighting as Superman in the game really feels like you are controlling a super powered juggernaut of justice.
Once I had seen a bit of the combat (both on the ground and in the air), I was taken to Metropolis proper. Superman Returns : the Videogame signifies the first time ever that Metropolis has been mapped out completely. The game features 80 square miles of cityscape with over 9000 buildings completely rendered all the way to the ground.
Players can fly through the clouds and look down on the city as well as rocket to street level and walk amongst the inhabitants. The Metropolis levels promise to follow the sandbox mission structure made popular by the Spider-Man games, but no doubt with a DC flair. The textures in the build I played were a bit flat and the graphics were not as good as we’ve come to expect from the Xbox 360, but with so much time left in the development of the title that could very well change as the artists get to pour over that unfinished 60% of the game.
Fans of Superman from the comics, Superman from the movies, and fans of Superman II-style city destruction would be wise to keep Superman Returns : The Videogame on their radars. It comes out for Xbox, Xbox 360, and PS2 in the fall.