Fact: there's nothing that fantastic about the Fantastic Four. Squeezed out (if you'll forgive the phrasing) during a quick toilet break between the infinitely superior creative outpourings that were Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, Marvel's first family of superheroes can hardly be called Stan Lee's finest hour. Too square to comfortably line up with the hipper-than-hip X-Men, and too close-knit to exude the same kind of lone-wolf charm of Peter Parker's web-slinger, the Fantastic Four are a curious footnote in comic-book lore: a nuclear family pumped up on cosmic rays and still living in fear of a cold war that died out before most of us were born.
Except now they're back: younger, fitter, sexed up and ready to rock the cinema-going public. And look! There's a conveniently timed Xbox game to go with it! So what of the console adventures of the stretchy one, the fiery one, the chick and the big crusty orange one? Are the Fantastic Four (or Fantastic 4 as they've been cleverly rebranded - can you see what they did there?) really that fantastic now they've all been given a short back and sides and fresh dab of lippy?
Well, if we're being honest, it's kind of... okay. Heartily playable, but massively uninspiring with it. For all the slickness you'll experience while playing Fantastic 4 - and full credit to developer 7 Studios for making things feels nice and responsive come the moment hands clasp joypad - here is a game drowning in its own lack of ambition. If Fantastic 4 was a schoolboy, "must try harder" would be stamped through its report book like "Clacton-On-Sea" through a stick of rock.
Let's put it another way. Close your eyes and imagine what you'd expect from your typical, run-
of-the-mill superhero movie-to-game conversion. It's a third-person action adventure, perhaps? With levels based on the plot of the film? A combat-heavy brawler with maybe handful of tired hacking-into-computer-terminals/unlocking-doors mini-games thrown in? With the Fantastic 4 game it's check, check and check. It's as if faced with the prospect of making yet another generic game of a superhero film, everyone at 7 Studios underwent massive inspiration bypasses.
Of course, given that the film itself is basically a series of heavily CGI-bolstered fight scenes mixed up with the merest hint of dialogue (for the benefit of those who don't know the story, a band of scientists and astronauts and their evil financial backer go into space, only to get pelted by a DNA-altering cosmic storm: scientists and astronauts become the Fantastic Four, evil money man becomes the nefarious Doctor Doom), it could be argued that the third-person brawler is the ideal choice of format. But in this post Spider-Man 2 (Issue 32, 8.6) and X-Men: Legends (Issue 36, 8.5) world, such a paucity of imagination isn't as excusable. Unless you've got the chutzpah to pull off a supremely polished, slickly produced effort chock full of gameplay cheerfully stolen from the Burnout series, as with last issue's 8.2-scoring Batman Begins, don't bother. Call us pedantic if you like, but it's just so, so... PREDICTABLE.
So now we've got our biggest gripe of all out of the way, how does Fantastic 4 actually play as a game? Well, like we say, it's alright. Acceptable. Adequate. You run around, sometimes on your own, sometimes with a computer-controlled team-mate or three (more often or not during the boss battles), smacking the crap out of wave after wave of comic-book baddies. Beat the boss, watch the story bit, and on to the next level. It's simple.