You’ve seen the movies, you know the story, and you’ve probably once worn the tights sometime during your childhood. I had high hopes for Superman before I played it because the previews looked promising. After actually sitting down and playing it, I’d rather watch the whole Superman collection on VHS and pretend I was controlling the action with my Xbox controller.
Superman: The Man of Steel is a single-player game. From the get go you have the option of engaging yourself in either Story Mode or Single Mission. There’s also a Bonus Menu that let’s you view concept art, character and object models, listen to music, and view cinematics. There isn’t much to the game, so don’t expect a whole lot of options. Multiplayer is out of the question, too.
The game’s core is set around Story Mode. The story is actually based on the Superman comic books, and you get the comic book feel throughout the game as you’re presented with loading screens that resemble pages right out of the books. In Story Mode you take control of Superman and are given specific tasks to do throughout your missions. In order to progress to the next mission, you MUST finish a task, or the game is over and you must start the mission over again. Certain tasks have a time limit, which adds a frantic pace to the game. Some tasks you face early on are things like putting out fires, destroying robots, saving people, and the other things superheroes do. After certain missions you also face boss battles, which are, again, based on actual foes from the comic books. These battles can often be lengthy and tiresome if you aren’t on par with your controls. You must also be warned, tasks feel repetitive, and there is no sense of reward after finishing missions.
The other mode you can play through is Single Mission. There’s not much use for this mode, unless you want to go back and do the missions you have already completed in Story Mode. Don’t expect any special missions in this mode, either. Its only advantage is that you can go back to a mission that you enjoyed in Story Mode without having to go through the whole game again. As for the Bonus Mode, you can unlock movies, models, and artwork as you make your way through the game.
I’ll tell you right off the bat, the gameplay is hideous. My biggest gripe is with the movement. In order to battle opponents, you must lock-on to your target while holding the left trigger, while doing so you must follow your enemies through the air with the thumbsticks, which includes holding down the right trigger to fly. This can be a highly frustrating task because the game doesn’t move and flow how you’d like it to, and you’re constantly holding down buttons. While all of this is happening, Superman is getting blasted from all angles and you have little or no sense of where the attacks are coming from. This game gives you no kind of indicator as to where you are being attacked. Also, you have to practically be a millimeter away from your foes in order to manually attack them. Superman’s freeze breath and laser sight abilities are a bit better, though, because you can adopt a longer range of attack. The awkward controls make the game more difficult than it truly is.
The only thing this game has going for it in the gameplay department is that you are presented with all the abilities that Superman has. The enemies are annoying, the tasks are repetitive, and the bosses look stronger than they actually are. In order to maximize your gaming experience, you must learn your enemy’s weaknesses right away, or expect Superman to become a Superdud. My advice to those who are actually thinking of renting or buying this game is to spend LOTS of time learning each and every single button, as well as the physics. This game can be an instant turnoff for those who want to just pick it up and play. One thing I forgot to mention was that there is an option to make your controls more arcade like. That’s another possibility for those who are interested.
Graphics and Sound
The 3D models in the game don’t look bad, but the overall art is something that looks too plain. Superman: Man of Steel feels rushed and unpolished in the graphics department, and the frame rates are simply awful–so be prepared to experience a ton of slowdown and choppiness while attempting to save the world. The game looks boring, too, it’s not the type of game where you could sit stunned and lose your breath over the graphics. The CG cinematics look fairly nice, though, but once you get to the in-game graphics you wish the developers had spent more time polishing thing up. Superman: Man of Steel looks like a beefy N64 game and does not scream next-generation in any way. The slowdown and graphical glitches make the overall experience worse than it should be.
The sound is pretty average as well. The sound effects don’t stand out very well and your typical thuds and crashing noises don’t have much variation. The soundtrack is very Superman-esque as you get the aura of the whole superhero concept. One thing that this game has going for it is that the infamous Xbox soundtrack option is included. You can choose your own soundtrack to play to, but the whole Superman feel won’t be the same. The voice acting in the game is horrific, the actors sound very bland and emotionless. It reminded me of public speeches being read from note cards, or your old elementary election day where kids would read their speech in a droning monotone, line by line, word by word–just plain awful. Casting Christopher Reeves would have probably been a smarter move than the ‘talent’ they chose for the game’s voice acting.
Superman: Man of Steel is definitely a no-buy title, or a renter at best. It’s a game that I would play maybe once or twice and never touch again. Unfortunately, though, I needed to play through the game in order to write this review. But, If I’d had the option, I would have removed it from my Xbox after the first five minutes. To be perfectly honest, the amount of frustration involved in the control scheme will likely turn off gamers easily. This game simply isn’t any fun to play, and its overwhelming faults don’t make you wish for more.
Superman: Man of Steel was an absolute pain to play. I got sick of it almost the moment I picked up the controller. There is nothing innovative about this game at all, everything about it screams ‘previous-generation’ for sure, and probably would’nt have been a hit even if it had been released in the 80s. I expected more from Atari, especially since I still consider them one of the greatest game companies ever. I thought they would take the Superman license and do something great with it for once. This is one of those games that makes you question the gaming industry. Is it all about the money and name brand recognition? I’m sure it’ll sell to all the Superman fanatics, and parents who want to get their kids something they’ve known and loved for quite some time. To the hardcore gamer, though, this is another one that belongs in the garbage, oops, I mean bargain, bin.