Activision has been quite profitable out of the Marvel deal, helped by the fact Marvel is making a ton of movies based on its comic book characters. Fantastic 4 is the latest and while it's probably not up there in terms of Spiderman in popularity it does have a fanbase and most people have at least once heard of the team. With the movie just being released it's no surprise a game also has followed and while it does have some issues, overall it's a moderately fun game that just becomes a little repetitive.
Fantastic 4 obviously tells the story of how these heros came to be and how they fight crime. Considering the movie has gone all the way back to issue number one the game pretty much had to as well and this does make the initial storyline rather boring. The storyline contains many of the famous foes including some which do not feature in the film and generally it does a moderate job of pushing the game along.
The biggest issue we really have with Fantastic 4 is how the game starts. Not only do you have to complete four tutorial levels, but they are character introduction levels and very much replicate each other. To be fair once you get past this the game does pick up, but in a gaming world where some people only give a game five minutes to impress them, Fantastic 4 will not do that. Once the actual storyline begins the gameplay mimics titles such as Final Fight and Double Dragon. You run around in either a pair or the entire four characters beating up characters, defeating bosses and moving through levels.
In many ways the game is an action based version of X-Men Legends which is not entirely a bad thing considering how awesome Legends was. By this we mean you can control any character at any time and the game takes on control over the others. This is done via the DPAD and each character obviously has moves which can solve puzzles such as Reid who can hack and Invisible Woman who can freeze things. You will probably find yourself sticking to one character if possible and throughout the game you do earn RPG style upgrades.
The missions are divided into a number of sub levels which must be completed to progress. So while the game does have a heap of levels, the number of missions is a bit more indicative of how long the game is. Depending on the difficulty you can probably get through it in less than ten hours but there is some chance for replay value with unlockables such as comics and trailers for fans of the comic series. Basically you play either two of three levels before coming up against a boss character which once again makes it feel like a beat em' up Double Dragon style game.
You can also play the game co-operatively with up to two players on the PS2 version and players can jump in and out at anytime, again much like X-Men Legends. Perhaps it would have been better had the developers gone down the RPG path rather than action based but considering the mainstream feel of the movie, it's of no surprise they wanted a mainstream title. Visually the game is quite impressive with accurate representations of the real world actors and the environments do make the game quite fun because of their destruction and the ability to pick things up and throw them with the right characters. That is one thing about F4 that is some what unique. You can use the environment to your advantage in many different ways. Voice acting is done by the real actors and it does add a level of authenticity to the game.
Fantastic 4 is a game that, in terms of movie tie in, is above average but overall a moderate title. It does feature beat em' up mechanics and quite a bit of depth but can get repetitive and doesn't really do anything unique and new to put it above the pack meaning the reliance on the movie license is just a bit too much. Fun, but only in small doses.