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What Has EA Done to Our Super Heroes?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 05, 2005   |   Episode 80 (Show Archive)  

   

You can talk all day long about how much you hate Electronic Arts, but at the end of the day you and I both know that Burnout Revenge is just too much fun to resist!
These days it seems like just about everybody has a reason to hold a grudge against Electronic Arts. Besides being the biggest game developer on the planet, some of EA's recent business decisions have left some gamers with a very bad taste in their mouth. Some point to the company's purchase of the NFL license, fundamentally blocking any football competition. Others are distressed by the news that EA is looking to move in and snatch up UbiSoft in a hostile takeover. Some just hate the fact that Electronic Arts is the biggest game developer and seems to dominate on every system it can get its grubby hands on.

But no matter what you think of EA's recent business decisions, there's one thing that is hard to deny - Electronic Arts makes high quality titles. I know it's hard to admit, but when it comes to their sports line, their racing titles, their war-based first person shooters, heck, even their games based on movies, Electronic Arts delivers a solid game experience that gets high marks in just about every magazine and website. Oh sure, there are a few exceptions to the rule - GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, the Urbz - but for the most

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, on the other hand, isn't worth more than a few minutes of your time!
part Electronic Arts delivers a product that sells well and snags good reviews, even if they don't stray too far from their tried and true genres.

But there is one type of game Electronic Arts can't seem to get right, a sub-category that comes with a whole lot of pissed off fans. We can talk all day about the quality of their line of SSX or NBA Street games, but for some odd reason the same cannot be said for their games with superheroes. While EA has so far managed to release only a handful of comic book-inspired games, every single one of them turned out to be total trash. While EA can pull together a surprisingly good Lord of the Rings experience, it seems pretty clear that they have trouble when it comes to the good vs. evil fight of the comic book world. Who would have thought that Mordar would be more exciting than Wolverine?

Normally we would just let these bad games pass us by, forgetting all about them as we continue to enjoy Battlefield 2 or Burnout Revenge. After all, every company puts out a bad game from time to time, even the most consistent company lets a stinker drop every so often (hey Nintendo, what was Yoshi Topsy-Turvy all about?). But our hands were forced, we literally had no choice, it's EA's fault ... because they're the ones that decided to announce their involvement with a whole host of Superman Returns games! I may not be

Just mark my words on it, EA's Superman Returns is going to be super worthless!
able to predict the future; I don't have any psychic abilities or a crystal ball, but I do know for a fact that EA's Superman game is going to be atrocious. Maybe even worse than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace!

How can I say this when the game is a full year away? Who am I to say that Electronic Arts can't pull out an amazing product with none other than the one, the only Kal-El (sorry Nicholas Cage, there can only be one Kal-El)? Because judging by their past three current-generation "superhero" games they seem to have their C-list designers at work on these games, leaving everybody else to work on the mountain of vastly superior titles. Even disappointing racers like Need for Speed Underground 1 and 2 were giving more attention than their comic book-inspired offerings, something that does nothing but piss of a loyal fan base.

Don't think it's that bad? Perhaps you didn't play Catwoman, a game so bad it actually made the movie look good. With horrible game play, piss poor graphics, an annoying soundtrack, and some outlandish camera problems, Catwoman is easily one of the least exciting games you could play. Sure it's painful to watch Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry

Despite what you get in the movies and video games, Catwoman is an interesting character! How could they get it so wrong?
embarrass herself in an S&M costume that appears to be purchased at the local Hot Topics, but admitting you've played this game is even worse than that!

And it's not just crappy comic book movies that get the cold shoulder at Electronic Arts, Batman Begins also managed to scare up some repressed memories of how bad a Caped Crusader game could be! This summer's Batman title is one of the best comic book movies in years, and easily ranks as the greatest of the Batman films ... but even with such strong source material (and hundreds of comic books to crib from), EA still managed to turn something beautiful into something ugly and deformed. That stink you smell at your local game store is actually the smell of Catwoman and Batman in the budget bin just hoping to sucker some unsuspecting dupe.

But not every bad comic book game EA made is in the budget bin, thanks to the recently released Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects you can finally pay full price for a terrible game starring your favorite superheroes (and a few you've never heard of). With noticeably non-dynamic 1 on 1 battles and some frighteningly shallow

Well, at least he doesn't have nipples on his suit!
gameplay, Rise of the Imperfects ends up being the big pile of poo you've been waiting to spend your $50 on. Of the three comic book-inspired games EA has released this is the one they put the most effort into, they spent a lot of time developing new characters, hyping the game at comic conventions, and generally making it sound like it would be the next coming of the fighting genre. But in the end it's nothing more than a complete waste of time, the kind of game that will give you no hope for Superman Returns.

It's not like comic book games have to be bad. Lately Activision has been doing a good job of creating fun and unique comic book games that really put you in the middle of the action. While their Ultimate Super-Man game wasn't perfect, it was certainly a step in the right direction. It's easy to see somebody having fun swinging around this video game world, whereas it's almost impossible to imagine how anybody could glean even one minute's worth of enjoyment from Catwoman. Activision has stumbled here and there, but few would deny the entertainment value of such games as X-Men Legends and Spider-Man 2. If EA's comic book games were even a quarter as good as these recent Activision titles there would be no reason for me to write this article, but time after time we're forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel with the Electronic Arts brand of interactive comics.

Unlike most superheroes, Superman has never really had a high quality video game. The Superman title on the Nintendo 64 is widely considered to be one of the worst games of all time and outside of a handful of crappy 8-bit efforts, Superman just doesn't get much love. He died and returned on the Super NES, but even that seemed like it was more of a mockery of his power than a tribute (whatever it was, it certainly played like a box of bricks). This is Electronic Arts' opportunity to really step up and prove that Superman can be done well ... but I can already see the reviews comparing this to all of EA's other terribly disfigured comic book games. One has to wonder if the best thing they could do is cancel the project and let those people worry about making sure no more bugs go into the next Madden NFL game.

It's time to let others deal with the world of comic book characters, Electronic Arts needs to get back to what they're best at ... delivering yearly updates to your favorite sports series. Maybe we should just be happy games like Catwoman aren't being released annually.
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