Superman Returns: The Videogame Review (Xbox360)

Superman Returns marked the comeback of one of the most iconic characters in cinema history. And, in good measure, the folks at EA saw fit to release a videogame based on the outings of the Man of Steel this winter. Unlike its film counterpart, who soared proud and high, Superman Returns: The videogame has trouble even getting its feet off the ground, weighed down by the proverbial weight of uncompelling, repetitive gameplay.

The game actually lures you into a false misapprehension from the off; its not at all based on the movie itself, and rather plays like a incoherent, almost Ďbest ofí set of events. Thereís no particular narration here whatsoever, and most objectives are triggered from the player just happening to fly in the right direction at the time. The game is set in and around the city of Metropolis, covering some 80km of city that you have to protect. The game fundamentally has you being guided by a pointer showing you where various hazards are located, aided by the mental ramblings of your father. Occasionally, youíll be transported to other terrain, which youíll have to battle it out in more confined spaces, but the majority of the action takes place in Metropolis itself. Missions are for the most part, a dull, uninteresting mix of battling hordes of mindless robots or saving the city from random meteor showers that pop up from time to time. The developers do try to at least spice up the action (I use that word in the sparest of ways possible) by giving you the opportunity to put out fires with your special powers, or even rescue kittens dotted around the place, but theyíre over so quickly it feels more of a novelty than a significant part of the mission. Oddly enough, your health is determined by the amount of damage the city receives, or other context-sensitive events, such as who happens to be the favourable combatant in the middle of a battle. You can effectively damage yourself by inadvertently destroying parts of the environment or pounding on the various civilians dotted throughout the streets.

The action looks good from up here, but down there, itís another story altogether Supermanís basic punch Ė your best friend throughout most of the game

Itís not just the fact that Superman doesnít try to do anything remotely off the walls with its mission objectives, itís the fact the combat is down right frustrating and repetitive. Despite bestowing our hero with a wide variety of powers (all of which make an appearance in the movie), such as ice breath and laser eyesight, none of them is really all that effective. For the majority of the time, when battling on the ground, you can simply beat the snot out of your predictably incompetent robo-foes with a series of simple punches, mixed in with the odd uppercut. Then thereís the simplicity of stopping meteors and other flying objects, whereby all is required is for you to fly in the nearby vicinity of your target, old down LT to lock on, and smash into it. Job done, on to the next one. Thereís a distinct lack of strategic goings-on here, and it all becomes increasingly dull after you smash up just a couple of foes. The action isnít all that fluid either, and thereís an almost constant reminder of just how cumbersome the entire system is. Finishing each objective allows Superman to gather experience points, which are in turn used to unlock various other powers to utilize for the rest of the game. While thereís a nice selection of combos to indulge in here, none of them are at all really necessary, and as stated, Supermanís basic punch combo is usually more than enough to bash up foes with. Button bashers take note; Superman Returns is a walk in the park.

You will be able to utilize quite a few of Supermanís special powers He may look scary, but a few good punches and heís putty in your hands

Boss battles donít offer much of a discernible change from the basis of the games combat, save for the fact they look slightly more impressive. Putting that aside, its still the usual punch, avoid, punch shenanigans that plagues the rest of the game, although thereís a few instances when you can pick up pieces of the scenery to help you win the fight, chucking them at your foes. Superman also suffers from some fundamental issues, such as its rambunctious camera; more than often, youíll find itíll struggle to keep up with the action at times, making a mess of things in the process as you try and focus on the matter at hand. If you can actually endure the pain of completing Superman, it offers a half decent lifespan, and the Xbox 360 version (of which this review is based on) gives you the opportunity of acquiring a number of achievements should you forfill certain requirements dotted throughout the game. Itís totally dependant on the single player out, however, and offers nothing in the sort of Xbox Live or multiplayer functionalities.

Metropolis itself isnít a half bad sight Ė that is, when youíre flying about 30.000 feet in the air. The scale of the game is at least visually impressive, although things are exceedingly average when you touch down in the city streets. Superman doesnít look half bad himself, but the remainder of the builders, people and other objects are generally uninspired and plain. Thereís a fine amount of ugly pop-up, too. The sound track on the other hand is an orchestral, bombastic mix of epic; vastly touching pieces that frequently judaxpose the action on screen.

Flying around Metropolis is a highlight Another day, another disaster for the Man of Steel to subvert

In the end, Superman doesnít do much at all to distinguish itself from any other generic adventure title that you could probably pick up in the local bargain bin. Itís a wasted opportunity given some of the films epic set pieces would have provided ample game content. Then again, the games lacklustre combat system was always doomed from the start. After providing around 30 minutes of entertainment, its mediocrity hits you like the Man of Steels punch. Failure to take off indeed.

Top Game Moment: The only defining moment in the game happens to be flying high above the city, admiring the view below. Unfortunately, it doesnít last.