With Comicon 2013 just wrapping up, there’s no better time to get reacquainted with a handful of the best superhero games on consoles so far. Some have completely nailed it, controlling their protagonists so effectively you can almost smell the spandex, whereas others have fluffed control schemes, graphics, or even something as potentially inconsequential as voice acting (Iron Man, here’s looking at you!). There are many things that can get in the way of emulating that experience we’ve all thought of when envisioning what being a superhero would be like; however, as this weekend is a celebration of all things geek-tastically excelsior-iffic, it’s time to celebrate those who got it right!
5. Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005 – PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
Whilst it would take Hollywood multiple attempts to finally nail down exactly what punters wanted to see from a three-dimensional Hulk adaptation, Ultimate Destruction got it in one. From jumping over small buildings to ripping apart cars into makeshift boxing gloves and elbow-dropping many a tank, this was the game that encapsulated the sense of reckless abandon that makes being the Hulk such an escapist thrill. Whilst the later levels of the game decided that chucking increasing numbers of enemies at you whose attacks would lock you in repeated animations constituted as ‘difficulty’, Ultimate Destruction was still immensely fun. Developer Radical would go on to make the maniacal-laughter-inducing Prototype, and with Hulk, you can see exactly what destructive seeds were first sewn to produce such a game. If when watching the (actually not that bad) Ang Lee flick or the more recent Louis Leterrier clobber-fest The Incredible Hulk gave you a case of the smashy-smashy’s, then get stuck into Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and throw a bus into a helicopter. It’ll really make Mondays all the more bearable.
4. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006 – PS2/PS3/PSP/Xbox/X360/PC/GBA/Wii)
Usually when a game hits it out of the park conceptually, said core mechanics are commonly left intact for the sequel; however, that is sadly not the case for Ultimate Alliance. M:UA is a top-down RPG where you create a team of four superheroes and embark on a stat-fueled quest involving a fan-salivating amount of top drawer characters, complete with various worlds to explore and even a Marvel knowledge minigame thrown in for the hardcore. Whilst Ultimate Alliance 2 featured far superior graphics, it took away a lot of the individuality the majority of characters had in this first installment, like unique grapple attacks and screen-clearing special moves, leaving many continuing to get their fill on the original. Although the graphics are showing their age, if you’d like to play as the entire Fantastic Four or any number of The Avengers‘ configurations, get stuck in and revel in the sheer confidence this game has to tick every box imaginable under the term ‘Marvel fan’.
3. The Punisher (2005 – PS2/Xbox/PC)
One of the few superhero-licensed games to knock it out of the park in absolutely every respect, The Punisher was a thrillingly voyeuristic whirlwind of one-liners and unrepentant gunplay. Inspired heavily by Garth Ennis’ masterful run on the MAX series of novels, as well as his more humourful Marvel Knights series, Punisher called upon Thomas Jane to reprise his on-screen role voicing Frank Castle in-game. Mechanically, the game mimics Max Payne, (who himself owes a debt to the character in the first place) presenting a fairly basic third-person run ‘n’ gunner, this time with a twist: interrogations. Whilst readers of the comics will know Castle’s no-nonsense approach to extracting information, in-game, these play out as minigames. Anything from dangling a perp over a pool of piranhas, feeding them to a hungry shark, or thwacking them with a coffin lid put the player in control of how much pain they wish to inflict via movements of the right analogue stick (rotate to strangle!). The rewards of which were some panels from the comics themselves, as well as Jane’s deadpan delivery, allowing you to execute in style.
“I..I just got married” “….honeymoon’s over” *blam*. Brilliant.
2. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009 – PS3/X360/PC/Mac)
I’m sure many people would choose the more expansive Arkham City over its predecessor; instead, Asylum’s enclosed environments and tighter story made for a much more focused experience rather than the ‘kitchen sink’ approach of City with its menagerie of villains. With a combat system that made you feel like Batman walking forebodingly up to a group of debris-wielding thugs and just waiting for them to throw that first punch before dispatching all of them in one big flurry of cape-swooshes and broken bones, Arkham Asylum was immediately game of the year material. Utilizing Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil as Batman and Joker respectively was a masterstroke. The devil is in the details, and something as often parodied as the Christian Bale ‘Batman voice’ had no place in a game of this caliber. A sense of dread permeates Joker‘s hold on Batman throughout the entire game, and as the plot thickens and Batman is forced into more and more desperate measures, parts of the game, such as the ‘cave reveal’ (you’ll know when you see it), show many reasons why Arkham Asylum tops these kinds of lists every time.
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004 – PS2/PSP/Xbox/Gamecube/GBA/PC/Mac/DS)
You never forget your first time, right? There have been a plethora of Spidey titles on the current generation of consoles, and from Ultimate Spiderman‘s cel-shaded charm to Web of Shadows’ symbiote-switching dynamic, it’s always been Spidey’s second outing that first allowed for THAT moment you ‘did a Peter Parker’ in-game. As an open-world game, as soon as the tutorial was finished the first thing almost every gamer did was find the tallest building within sight and clamber up the side of it until they sat perched on a small outcrop of cement, overlooking the city below. A deft leap into the unknown followed by the sudden rush of wind and the blur of approaching colours prompted a quick, life-saving ‘thwip’ to the nearest structure and a feeling of complete ‘let’s-do-that-again!’ euphoria. Spider-Man 2 wasn’t the best narrative experience; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that could tell you a single line of dialogue from the whole game. However, in terms of making you feel like Spidey, without a shadow of a doubt, by coupling the whole experience with a responsive fighting system and the use of a ‘Spidey-sense’ that genuinely worked, in this game, you ARE Spider-Man. From the momentum of swings to the random pedestrians that needed a mugger chasing down, once you donned the classic red and blue and breathed in a city that was genuinely relying on you to take care of it, that feeling alone makes this one of the best representations of the superhero genre available.