seeking Superman game at E3 and being a little confused. I had read a
couple of previews, and everyone was touting this as the next killer app
for the Xbox. I cant tell you how happy it made me to be able to hope
for a good Superman game. What could be better? But when I got to E3,
itching to get my hands on the demo version, I was surprised that the
game was kind of tucked away in the back of the Infogrames booth. It was
almost as if they didnt want anyone to see it. I tried playing it, but
had little luck navigating with the controls despite the help of an
Infogrames representative near by. I didnt think too much of it. The
game looked great, and the controls could easily be tweaked. My mother
always told me, "Never judge a game by its beta." But when the game was
released with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, I should have gotten a
little more concerned. One would think that an Xbox exclusive of such an
important franchise would have been heralded from the rooftops. Wisely,
the folks over at Microsoft have been focusing on their Xbox live launch
and Splinter Cell. Its as if Superman: Man of Steel never came out.
After spending a few hours with the game, I can understand why someone
might want to release this game with a whisper rather than a shout.
lifelong fan of the man in the red cape, I eagerly inserted the game
into my console. The DC comics logo got me all giddy, and then, when
the menus took me into the John Byrne influenced fortress of solitude, I
about lost it. It was obvious that these guys had read up on the last
son of Krypton and were doing their best to render a faithful homage.
Too many comic book inspired games are programmed by people who never
read the comics.
level starts out over the Metropolis skyline. Its been a few years
since Ive read a Superman comic, so Im not sure if the present
incarnation of Metropolis is more like Fritz Langs version than a
modern day New York. Hover cars dot the landscape, and all of the sky
scrappers look a little more futuristic than I would have expected. The
city feels massive. I was really impressed by the scale and some of the
details. Theres a Superman statue in the park and the reflective
windows on some of the skyscrapers are so effective that youll be
tempted to stop and fix your hair. It would have been nice to see a few
more bystanders. For such a large city, it feels incredibly barren. I
cant help but think that a bunch of screaming pedestrians would have
only raised the stakes in this game.
I like the
graphics in this game. There are some nice details in the character
build of Superman. The cape is well executed, but I have to admit that I
like the cape effects better on last years Batman: Vengeance. All of
Supermans basic powers are here; there are a few notable omissions,
however. When I saw that you had the ability to run around town, I
thought it would be at Flash-esque speeds, but rather its more of a
virtually omnipotent character, Ive never felt so limited. I thought
that the reason I wasnt able to complete the game was because of some
inherent flaws in my gaming ability. I thought that there was something
wrong with me. Its not my fault.
I have to
admit that I never really got used to the feel of the two analog
joysticks. It never really felt natural. Ive played games like Star
Wars: Starfighter where the two analogue sticks make absolutely perfect
sense, but every time I went from flight mode to fight mode, I was
disoriented and confused. Because many of the goals are time sensitive,
I wasnt able to regain my bearings quickly enough to actually
accomplish the goal.
fighting mode, you have to target your enemy and swoop in and use the
appropriate power to take the bad guy down. The targeting system of this
game has been likened to Zone of the Enders. I loved the targeting
systems on Zone of the Enders; it actually helped me to beat the game.
Supermans targeting system on the other hand only added to my
frustration. To say that it locks onto the enemy is to use the term
lock in its loosest sense. When the lock actually holds, it takes too
long for Superman to hover over to where the bad guy is. You cant
exactly fly over to him, because then youd lose your lock. I dont know
what this game would be like with a workable targeting system. If they
do a sequel, we might get to find out and Ill try not to hold this game
against them. I found it interesting that no tutorial was included in
the game, but then I realized that a tutorial would have revealed the
inherent flaws in the control scheme from the get go. People would have
realized that the game would be virtually impossible.
There are no
power-ups in the game and no abilities to unlock. There is absolutely no
way to replenish your strength unless you complete the present goal. You
start off with Supermans full arsenal and continue that way through the
played the early build of the game at E3, I should have suspected that
there was something afoot. It was one of the few games where there was
always an Infogrames representative on hand to walk you through the
awkward controls. Im more than willing to allow a game a learning
curve. In fact, I find that games that take a little time to learn on
the front end are ultimately the most satisfying games on the market. No
degree of education could have made up for the nonsensical way in which
Superman: Man of Steel is laid out.
I must offer
one caveat: I didnt finish this game. I didnt even come close. I
played it as most gamers wouldI played until I could bear it no more.
There may be incredible gems awaiting on later levels that I will never
know, but its not my fault that I wont discover them. Life is too
short to suffer through uninspired levels with the hope that, possibly,
there might be something worthwhile on the horizon.
I may have
lost my journalistic objectiveness, but what I hate about this game is
what its done to my son. As far as he was concerned, his father was as
invincible as Superman. When my son looked at me before this game came
into our home, his eyes were filled with respect and admiration. After
watching me play, the look in his eyes has shifted to a kind of vain
hopea hope that his father might possibly save the world as Superman. I
have diminished in my sons eyes because of this game, and for that I
will never forgive the developers Superman: Man of Steel.
Jason Frank (11/17/2002)
Pretty graphics; faithful to the legend we all
know and love.
One of the most awkward control systems
imaginable; no tutorial; no power-ups; no mid-level saves.