Videogames-To-Flix #32

VIDEOGAMES-TO-FLIX is a JoBlo.com column showcasing reviews of videogame translations of Hollywood films (or games soon-to-become Hollywood movies). With both industries getting closer and closer, and videogames, in general, getting so much more popular, you knew it was just a matter of time before we hit that stuff!



Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Systems: XBOX 360, PlayStation 2, XBOX, DS, GameBoy Advance, PSP


Superman has one of the worst gaming legacies of any major pop culture icon. Throughout the years multiple game companies have attempted to capture the magic and power of Superman, but have littered the marketplace with abysmal failure. Specifically, alongside E. T., SUPERMAN 64 is considered one of the worst games of all time.

With the release of SUPERMAN RETURNS (the movie), Electronic Arts adapted the movie into this iteration, SUPERMAN RETURNS THE VIDEOGAME. The storyline brings Superman back to Metropolis after disappearing for some time. While this story is not a complete carbon copy of the movie, it does include voice work from the original cast. Classic Superman characters have been thrown in to spice up the story and to allow Lex Luther more time to hatch his evil plans.

The game was released on the XBOX 360, PlayStation 2, and XBOX. There are also other versions of the game available for the DS, and GameBoy Advance. This review is of the XBOX 360 version.


Cribbed straight from design notes of GRAND THEFT AUTO, INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION, and SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE, SUPERMAN RETURNS is a free-roaming game with ample space to explore. Like GRAND THEFT AUTO, Superman can travel anywhere in his city with various side missions and story missions popping up. Like INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION, Superman can damage almost everything in the city. However, while HULK relishes in wanton destruction, the design of SUPERMAN RETURNS encourages use of objects within gameplay but is not the central focus. Gameplay in SUPERMAN RETURNS focuses primarily on protecting Metropolis from varied (or rather incredibly repetitive) enemies sporadically located in the city. Superman seems to be protecting Metropolis from the exact same enemies over and over and over, with the only variable being the number of enemies and the amount of time required to eliminate them.

Unlike many of the great free-roaming games, SUPERMAN RETURNS lacks variety and choice. While in GRAND THEFT AUTO (or SAINTS ROW), players can pretty much choose their own adventure, SUPERMAN RETURNS offers one storyline and multiple under-developed side missions. Races with Mr. Mxyzptlk show off the incredibly well crafted flying mechanism, but never seem to fit into the overall SUPERMAN RETURNS approach. Add-ons like this might please hardcore Superman comic fans, but in the overall vibe of the game, they are forgettable.

There is an obvious gameplay contradiction between the flying mechanics and life on the street. It is apparent that a lot of time was spent making Superman fly correctly, gain speed as he should, and allow for unlimited space to travel. Designers should be commended for their efforts. Unfortunately, the traffic designs on the streets of Metropolis look and act antiquated. There is an over-abundance of design repetition and robot like conformity amongst the AI masses. "Human" characters repeat frequently, as do the bulk of vehicles on the roads. Its as if the top half of Metropolis was designed by one team of designers, and the other was imported with new skins from a last gen title (GODFATHER: THE GAME or SIM CITY?). It is this dynamic contradiction that left me wondering - why is half of this game a joy to play and yet the other half seems unoriginal and pedestrian?

Gameplay: 6.4/10


Just like the gameplay, the graphics show a dynamic split in detail. While Metropolis looks above average from a distance, as soon as you reach the street level you see plenty of repetition. I could make a Monet joke, but that would make you think that these graphics have some connection with high art. Instead, the graphics should be placed in the same category as your best friend's senior class art exhibit. It looks good and interesting but nothing stands out amongst the crowd.

In the spectrum of free-roaming videgames, the graphics (in the XBOX 360 version) rank above THE GODFATHER, but below the likes of SAINTS ROW or JUST CAUSE. In comparison to JUST CAUSE, SUPERMAN RETURNS attempts to have the same vertical and horizontal scale, but fails in both accounts. JUST CAUSE has more square footage in both dimensions, leaving SUPERMAN RETURNS lacking. In comparison to SAINTS ROW, SUPERMAN RETURNS lacks the variety in street life and customization. SUPERMAN RETURNS is without the qualities offered by great (or even above average) current-gen titles and leaves you wanting a lot more.

Despite some of the failings in the graphics category, I enjoyed the individual animations crafted for Superman. The look and feel of Superman flying is on par with driving a car in BURNOUT REVENGE. Speed is paramount in both of these titles and its a sensation that I found myself repeating over and over. So, whenever EA decides to make a sequel, let's hope they change everything except for the flying aspects.

Graphics: 7.9/10


Its not easy to knock the audio of a game that includes real actors in the voice over. Especially, when these same actors were in the original movie that game is adapted from. And yet, here lies SUPERMAN RETURNS, a game with piss poor voice over work. The very same actors that made Bryan Singer's vision come to life makes this game as dull as possible. Brandon Routh, in particular, butchers his dialogue the most. Whether its his flat delivery in cut scenes or his repetitive one-liners in the actually game, Routh adds zero personality to Superman. While not as painful as Routh, co-stars Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth don't support the game in the least.

Despite the weak voice over work, not all is lost in the audio category. Fortunately, the score and the effects are interesting and quite fitting. There's a nice array of explosions and crashes to scare the bejesus out of your dogs and cats. Like graphics and the gameplay, the audio is acceptable in the ranks of all games, but fails to come close to A-list titles.

Audio: 6.9/10


For gamers looking to buy a great Superman game, SUPERMAN RETURNS is not it. This game is a somewhat entertaining adaptation but never compels you to keep on playing. The story is inconsequential, the voice acting flounders, and the graphics can't decide how good to be. Overall, SUPERMAN RETURN typifies what gamers identify as an EA game - an interesting IP is given mediocre representation without much originality or flair.

Overall: 6.9/10


A sequel to SUPERMAN RETURNS was confirmed and was planning a Summer 2009 release. Recent developments have pointed to a possible Justice League movie featuring Superman. Either way, Superman will be back eventually.





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