By now, it's common knowledge that games based on movies tend to suck. The good news is that Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer sucks in many of the same ways its cinematic counterpart does. Where the film rolls through requisite action sequences with artless, git-r-done efficiency, the game pits players against hordes of robotic baddies and Skrull thugs with an artless methodicalness. In spirit, both game and movie stay true to the crass, somewhat depressing systematic milking of all things Marvel. Both take the time to point out that the Fantasticar is branded by Dodge, but the game never lets players get behind the wheel.
The game is merely a dungeon crawl, with all four of the super team playable—simultaneously, if you've got three nerdy friends. Shoehorning superheroes into Gauntlet's hack-'n'-slash framework has been pulled off better elsewhere. Last year's Marvel Ultimate Alliance did an admirable job of letting hero-wannabes brawl as their favorite crime-fighters. But a bit more is expected of a movie tie-in. At the very least, the synergy should result in some overlap between big and small screen. But only one sequence, the chase scene with Johnny Storm rocketing to catch the Silver Surfer, truly connects the two products. And that pursuit is easily the most disappointing moment in an already-awful game. The movie's race spanned the globe, starting atop the Baxter Building, peaking in space, and ending in a Middle Eastern desert. The game only dwells on the Lincoln Tunnel, battering the Human Torch's head with taxi bumpers and bus windshields. It's a poor simulation of the movie's most interesting action setpiece, but a decent approximation of what it feels like to be a modern-day comic-book fan.
Beyond the game: The game is entirely different on the Wii. It follows the same limping plot by sharing video interludes with its next-gen counterparts, but the levels and combat are simplified to better match the console's computational power. The flailing motion-sensor moves are a pain to pull off, but this pared-down version is a bit more fun.
Worth playing for: Sue Richards yelps like a playful beagle when she jumps.
Frustration sets in when: The movie was slightly more tolerable thanks to the cosmic presence of the Silver Surfer, but here, he's never playable, and he only pops up briefly during the course of the game.
Final judgment: Only the Superman Returns game is a bigger disaster.