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Superman: Man of Steel Review
game: Superman: Man of Steel
two star
posted by: Jason Frank
publisher: Infogrames
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Nov 17th, 2002
last revision: 05:09 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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I remember 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 can\'t 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 didn\'t 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 didn\'t 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. It\'s 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.

Being a 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.

The first level starts out over the Metropolis skyline. It\'s been a few years since I\'ve read a Superman comic, so I\'m not sure if the present incarnation of Metropolis is more like Fritz Lang\'s 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. There\'s a Superman statue in the park and the reflective windows on some of the skyscrapers are so effective that you\'ll 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 can\'t 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 year\'s Batman: Vengeance. All of Superman\'s 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 it\'s more of a comfortable jog.

As a virtually omnipotent character, I\'ve never felt so limited. I thought that the reason I wasn\'t able to complete the game was because of some inherent flaws in my gaming ability. I thought that there was something wrong with me. It\'s 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. I\'ve 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 wasn\'t able to regain my bearings quickly enough to actually accomplish the goal.

When in 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. Superman\'s 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 can\'t exactly fly over to him, because then you\'d lose your lock. I don\'t know what this game would be like with a workable targeting system. If they do a sequel, we might get to find out and I\'ll 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 Superman\'s full arsenal and continue that way through the entire game.

When I 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. I\'m 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 didn\'t finish this game. I didn\'t even come close. I played it as most gamers would-I played until I could bear it no more. There may be incredible gems awaiting on later levels that I will never know, but it\'s not my fault that I won\'t 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 it\'s 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 hope-a hope that his father might possibly save the world as Superman. I have diminished in my son\'s eyes because of this game, and for that I will never forgive the developers Superman: Man of Steel.