Superman Returns Preview - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
July 7, 2006
EA Games
EA Tiburon
1 - 2

Superman Returns

Update: Will the man of steel finally escape the curse of kryptonite game design?

Preview by (Email)
October 21st 2006

The Basics: Superman explodes onto the small widescreen with one of those "open-world" action games that's all the rage these days. The twist? The developers at Tiburon, think Madden NFL, are the ones behind Superman's latest videogame rebirth.

What we think: Without taking up too much of your time lets say it... every single Superman videogame ever released has sucked. Not simply, "oh it's just so-so," no, we're talking serious worst game ever material here. So when EA announced they were working on a tie-in game with the Superman Returns movie, we instantly started plotting our escape from planet Earth. I mean if movie-based games are on average terrible, and Superman-videogames suck, what happens when the two are combined? Could this be the end of the world?

Perhaps recent movie/superhero games like Spider-man 2 have softened my doomsday outlook on the future of EA Tiburon's first non-Madden title. But, I'm actually curious if Superman Returns will break the Super-videogame curse. At E3, even an incomplete version of Metropolis was sparkling with that next-gen shine we're becoming addicted to seeing.

Having seen the latest videos and screenshots it's safe to say that early promises about a "massive living city" are being fulfilled with style. For the first time Superman is finally getting to poke his head in the clouds and soar above the city, not chug through a pea green soup (ala Superman 64 on the N64).

And just as watching Spider-man zip around with realistic web-physics was a real kick for me, so too was finally seeing Superman move through the air with some grace. In previous Superman games, flying felt more like steering a big blue brick than the majestic soaring that the movies portrayed flight to be. At best Superman was a jet that could hover, at worst he was grounded due to "kryptonite fog."

Now having recently watched the latest trailers it has become apparent that Tiburon isn't going to let players just "fly," rather they're going to let us tear through the world like a speeding train with hell-bound wings. It's been a long time coming but after several missteps we're finally getting there. All we need now is a voice asking, "Can you read my thoughts?"

If you got that last quote you're a nerd. Don't try to deny it. My fellow comic book nerds should be in agreement with me that one thing Spider-man 2 was missing was that good old' fanboy service. Where were missions/stories based on classic issues of the comic book?

So color me surprised that Tiburon is one-upping the webhead with a whole series of side-missions and mini-games said to throw us into some of Superman's oddest/greatest battles: everything from bowling with the Daily Planet globe (and who hasn't wanted to do that) to destroying Metropolis as Bizarro Superman.

How we're rewarded for passing these unique challenges is the question though. Costumes? Extra experience points? Secret characters? It would be a hoot to see Lois Lane flying around Metropolis or have Superman become so strong that even the lightest tap sends foes flying into outer space. Either way it's good to know that EA isn't just pumping out a game that follows the Superman Returns film down to the last plot hole.

Of course, plot holes are infantile compared to the biggest shame of past Superman videogames. Would it surprise you to learn that Superman Returns is going to be the first videogame featuring the blue boy where "invulnerability" actually means invulnerable?!

The trade off? Your health is the city's health. I'm on the fence about this idea. Some of the worst things in life are crappy babysitting missions in videogames. It depends on the balance developers strike between realism and fun. Is one flaming car thrown into a building going to cut Metropolis' health in half? Or will it take an extended rampage by a 60-foot tall robot to really shake things up?

Still, the thought of being able to get into tussles with villains and not have to worry about being killed by a random gun toting thug is nice. How the Tiburon developers are treating invulnerability has me convinced that this will be the best Superman game ever. Of course that's not saying a whole lot.

As we approach the newly official November 20th release date, I find myself surprised at the thought that I'm excited by a Superman videogame. Maybe it's the closet Superman-fan inside of me, or the knowledge that EA believed enough in the game to delay it for a few extra months of polish that has me convinced you should be excited as well. "It's a bird, it's a plane... no it's a Superman-videogame worth anticipating!"

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