Superman Returns Xbox 360 Review

The man of steel has been absent from the silver screen for a long time – sorely missed – and even though his recent return had a mixed reception the general feeling on his comeback was that it was a good thing. Things are quite different in the world of video games though, as star of one of the worst video games of all time most people were glad to see the back of him. But now, Electronic Arts have taken advantage of his return to try and give the Kryptonian some credibility in the gaming world, but is it a new start for the franchise or the same old drivel banking on the name to sell it?

The development team obviously were looking at a superhero game that worked when they started work, as they have taken the same approach as Activision’s Spiderman 2 and Ultimate Spiderman. As Superman you get to patrol the skies of Metropolis, beating up bad guys and lending the emergency services a hand occasionally. The only problem with this is, unlike Spiderman 2 where there were objectives littered all over the city, in Superman Returns there is only ever one task going on at any given time. So basically you have to cruise around until you’re needed, with very little to do in the meantime. You do get a few tasks set around the city, but you have to find them yourself as they don’t show up on the obligatory in game map, and of what there is tasks are very limited. You can either attempt to rescue 100 kittens, or you can try Mister Mxyzptlks challenges, which are mainly races. These races offer very little challenge as once you hit the super speed button you’ll leave Mister Mxyzptlk for dust. Your only real worry is navigating the occasional small gap in the courses, but even if you miss the gap you can easily catch up again.

In the game’s main missions you follow not the story of the movie, but rather what you didn’t see at the cinema. This story is taken from the comics giving more opportunities for action than if they’d stuck to the film story. The storyline of the movie is still played out throughout the game, but only in the form of cut scenes. The game starts off with Superman in space, before he returns, and here he is kidnapped by Mongul and is thrown in to the gladiatorial arena of War World. Before he can get back to Earth he has to defeat a series of contenders before taking on Mongul himself to win his freedom. After this it’s back to Metropolis to face off against a series of classic villains and their henchmen. This is all played out in chapters, with each bad guy getting their own chapter. After brawling through wave after wave of their minions that appear randomly around the city, and usually one fire that needs putting out, you get to face off against the likes of Metallo, Bizarro and more before Mongul tracks Superman down to Metropolis for a final battle. Things don’t end there – you finally get some minor interaction with the film’s story as Luthor’s Kryptonian island grows freak weather conditions that hit Metropolis which you have to sort out by way of dissipating a series of tornadoes.

Being Superman though, you have more than just fists and flight at your disposal – heat vision, super and freeze breath are all at your command. You use your right trigger to activate your powers, which can be switched between with a quick tap on your D pad. Your powers are very well implemented and are one of the few fun things about the game. When there’s nothing going on you can just cruise around, setting fire to stuff, freezing people in their tracks or blowing traffic over the edge of a flyover. And while we’re on the subject of super powers, the super speed may give a very good impression of speed whilst flying low level through the city, but once you’re above the skyline you feel like you’re moving anything but fast. Taking minutes to get to one side of Metropolis to the other just isn’t right, this is Superman for God’s sake! No matter how big Metropolis is, and it is very big in the game, it shouldn’t take that length of time for Superman to cross it – he’s meant to be able to fly around the world in less than a second. Another of Superman’s powers is his near invulnerability and for this reason you get no health bar, but instead you have to worry about the city’s condition. If the city takes too much damage from the marauding villains then it’s game over. This is a nice touch, as one of the main drawbacks of Superman games has always been his invulnerability, but it can’t make up for the game’s other shortcomings.

On the presentation side of things they’ve made a reasonable job of producing a living world for the game, with a massive draw distance, but it’s all a bit samey; with the exception of the odd landmark you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference between any parts of the city. Everything’s quite detailed though, but you do get some horrendous texture popping in when using the super speed. Character models, with the exception of the villains, also suffer the same problem of being very alike: they are all nicely detailed and look good and all, but I only counted half a dozen or so different models and when you’re facing off against the same groups of bad guys, be they robots, dragons, mutants or aliens for the umpteenth time you just don’t care how good they look, you just want more variety. The game’s sound also has it’s problems; whilst using incidental music from the movie you never once hear the classic Superman theme, and voice acting is also a bit lacking – other than Brandon Routh I’m not sure how many of the movie’s stars lent their voice talent to the game, but it all sounds a little soulless and apart from the game’s cut scenes it suffers the same sort of repetition as the graphics. When fighting bad guys it really starts to grate when you get the same line delivered over and over by both Superman and his opponents.

At the end of the day Superman has turned out another gaming lemon; it tries hard to emulate more successful superhero games, but just falls flat. For an open world sandbox type of game there’s just not enough going on to occupy you, and when there is it’s all very repetitive stuff. There is a little fun to be had just flying around the environment and using your superpowers, but it all gets old very quickly. The game is not on the long side either, with the story easily finished in a maximum of eight hours and very little to hold your interest once that’s completed. I personally wouldn’t recommend this to anyone but the diehard Superman fan, and even then I’d have to say it’s only worth a rental.

Quite possibly the best Superman game ever made, but unfortunately it doesn’t buck the trend of bad Superman games.

5.2 out of 10