Historically, Superman video games tend to be, well, rather questionable. Since the Man of Steel first debuted on consoles back in 1979, the games he’s been in have been mediocre at best, and in the case of “Superman N64,” one of the worst games of all time.
As CBR News discovered Thursday afternoon at the E3 convention in Los Angeles, that curse may finally have been broken. Which is odd, because it was broken not only by Electronic Arts, a company not known for it’s quality superhero games, but by EA Tiburon, which while known for quality sports and action games, had never designed an action title.
That said, “Superman Returns” isn’t going to win any titles for originality. The game is basically the Superman version of “Spider-Man 2.” Superman protects and explores Metropolis, occasionally saving it from random events, while working through a story that follows the movie plot, while inserting “movie-ized” versions of comic book characters, like Metallo and Parasite.
While the basic game format may have been lifted from Spidey, the rest of the game is pure Superman. Kal-El doesn’t have to stop any purse snatchers. He’s too busy saving dirigibles from being attacked by flying monsters, and flying water towers over fires to put them out. And instead of swinging through the city, Superman flies at speeds up to 800 MPH (faster than a speeding bullet!).
Speaking of which, Superman starts the game off with his full range of powers. Super strength, speed, heat vision, X-ray vision, super hearing — OK, no super ventriloquism, but Supes hasn’t used that for a couple years, anyways. And yes, to the more obsessive fans of superhuman combat, superhuman speed translates to a speedblitz attack. Superman can always use his powers, although they gradually take away from a stamina bar that increases on its own.
The game takes its Superman lore seriously. The Daily Planet globe towers over the city. Suicide Slum is a division of Metropolis. There is at least one franchise of Superman’s favorite hamburger joint, Big Belly Burger, in the city. And although EA Tiburon producers refused to confirm or deny Mongul’s existence in the game, one of the levels takes place on Warworld.
Although the game is only 40 percent complete, it looks absolutely amazing running on an Xbox 360. Superman is a slightly buffed up dead ringer for Brandon Routh. His cape alone contains more polygons than the entire stadium and full set of players in “Madden NFL” for PSP. And for those complaining about the costume, “Superman Returns” appears to be using a brighter red than the movie. Metropolis covers 80 square miles, with over 10,000 fully destructible buildings. An elevated train winds its way through the city, and although currently non-functional, will eventually play into game missions.
And the best part is the game isn’t coming out with the movie. Its set to hit stores with the DVD release, so there’s a decent chance the game won’t get an ugly rush job. It sounds like EA may have learned a lesson from “Catwoman.”
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