Gamemakers are really becoming proficient in making remarkable offerings based on comic books. It’s probably because both industries employ the same kind of macho geek (which also explains the failure of movies based on games; the big budget movie industry is all macho and no geek).
Take The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, a game that actually portrays the lunking green monolith as a complex and frightening monster, not some dim-witted Frankenstein clone. From the moment you begin to play, tossing 18-wheelers at helicopters, you’re struck by his varied abilities, the expansive graphics and the true-to-the-comic cut scenes that are both full of hubris and melodrama. It’s one of the year’s best games.
Ultimate Spider-Man is certainly no slouch, either. With better writing than The Hulk (Activision employed the comic book writer and artist team) but not quite the astounding gameplay, you feel like you’re inside the comic book itself. No, you don’t feel flat and two-dimensional. You feel some how free to take on the criminals in New York (where’s the Jr. Gotti character, though?). Pumped full of teenage angst, spider silk with unbelievable tensile strength and a big mouth, you’ll deal with everyone from Nick Fury to Venom. Plus, the cel-shaded graphics make me want to own some of the original art from this game.
If you want a deep, comic book-inspired RPG that lets you adjust your mutant’s abilities to your steely heart’s content, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse might tickle your fancy. You’ve got 100 enemies, well over a dozen mutant heroes (not Tom Dale Delay, but Wolverine, etc.), and you have to (big shocker) stop the world from begin taken over. If you like a lot of ability-tinkering with your hack and slash, this game gets it right.
The tough geek in me, the one who savored Remnick’s King of the World, really wanted Marvel Nemesis, the fighting game based in the Marvel universe, to work. Hey, who wouldn’t want to use The Human Torch to punch out The Hulk (especially when he seemed so indestructible in Ultimate Destruction? But this ain’t no Soul Calibur. It’s not even Rocky Legends. There are just not enough fighting styles and depth of story for this to work, even as a one-on-one punch ’em up. Note to the developers for the sequel: Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur.
Developer: Quantum Dream
What if you started killing people? Not because you’d had enough of the suck-ass way of the world that had so embittered you. But because . . . well, you don’t know why. And it’s a trend. Good people elsewhere in New York City are whacking their fellowmen. That’s the premise of INDIGO PROPHECY, an eerie adventure story that recalls the games Myst (the adventure part) and Johnny Mnemonic (the interactive movie part). Yeah, the controls are a little twitchy at times, but you’re really inside the emotion of this mystery (helped along by a disturbing score and decent voice acting). Question is, can you get to the bottom of it? And, do you really dare to?
Myst V: End of Ages
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Speaking of Myst, the last episode of the landmark series has just been released. MYST V: END OF AGES is rife with the brain-crushing, ulcer-inducing puzzles that the series relies so heavily upon. Yet this is a 3D game, and you can explore pretty much everywhere your heart desires. And don’t be too afraid of those lanky Bharo folk. They’re gonna help you out sooner than you think. Beyond the puzzles, the other Myst signature is still here: graphics that blow you away. In the snow environment, you actually feel like you’re part of “Slava’s Snow Show,” inside one blustery blizzard.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Criterion Studios
Playing BURNOUT REVENGE, the latest in the crash ’em up Burnout series, almost feels like autocide. You’re wiping out so many cars by crashing into them and onto them, GM and Ford should recruit Jack Bauer to go CTU on your butt. While it’s not the amazing surprise that Burnout 3: Takedown was, the game still provides the quick chills and thrills of bumper-to-bumper bust ups—with an alternative rock ‘n roll soundtrack that kicks like the better Lower East Side rock bands. Like each performer at Lach’s Anti-hoot, one of the allures here is that each race is pretty short. Add special effects of lurid pyro and twisted metal that Hollywood can’t touch, and you’ve got the second best Burnout to date. (Last year’s was a smidgeon better since it felt so new.)
WWE Day of Reckoning 2
Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations
One of the things I’ve always disliked about wrestling games is that they didn’t feel like the humorously melodramatic soap opera they are on TV. Without the interesting fighting or compelling, operatic tales, I certainly didn’t feel like a wrestler. WWE DAY OF RECKONING 2 changes that somewhat with an extended story mode. You’ve climbed up through the ranks to become a top dog, but the doggone title is stolen. You try to retrieve it with the support of your galpal, who happens to be skinny looker Stacy “How Does She Wrestle in Heels?” Keibler. With some of the best graphics seen on the GameCube, some decent (though not perfect) A.I., and a fighting system that makes you care, this is an essential title for the wrestling fan, and for the curious (even if you’re not really going to get Stacy Keibler—not even if you’re that drooling dog Neil Strauss feigning in Style mode.)