Review: Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (PS2, XB, GC)


Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
Genre: Fighting/Beat-em-Up
Developer: Nihilistic
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 9/20/05

What do you get when you take Powerstone and stick Marvel characters in it? Apparently, you get Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects from Electronic Arts. Marvel Nemesis puts the player in the position of being able to answer the question: who would win in a fight between Spider-Man and Wolverine? Or how about Magneto and Iron-Man? Or maybe Daredevil and… Hazmat!

Wait, what?

For those who don’t know, Marvel Nemesis also introduces us to “The Imperfects”, a group of genetically engineered beings that are meant to give our favorite super heroes a challenge they’ve never seen before. Will these new characters be able to defeat the Marvel Superheroes? Or will Marvel’s finest defeat these new invaders? And most importantly, is it a good game? Tune in here to find out, True Believer!

Okay. No more Stan Lee for me. Let’s get down to business.


STORY

The story is standard comic book fare: evil aliens are invading the world, and only the world’s super heroes can stop them. Of course, not all is as it seems, but I bet you figured that out. Through this, you are introduced to the various playable Marvel Superheroes, assuming you know who they are; if you don’t, the game does little to introduce them to you. You’re also introduced to the Imperfects, who are on the alien side of the invasion, and have FMV sequences to explain their motivations, as they’re EA creations and not a part of the Marvel universe. The problem here is that the actual storyline contained in Marvel Nemesis ultimately evolves into a showdown between two of the Imperfects (with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, of course), which effectively leaves the Marvel characters out in the cold.


Now, without being overly fanboyish, if EA wanted to make its own super hero franchise, they didn’t need to abuse a bunch of Marvel characters to do so. Conversely, if EA wanted to make a Marvel fighting game, they should have done so without pushing their in-house characters to the forefront. It also doesn’t help matters that most of the new characters are largely uninteresting, poorly motivated, semi-generic retreads of already existing Marvel characters. EA states that the characters were created as a joint venture between them and Marvel artist Jae Lee, but I’d imagine that Lee most likely only supplied the artwork concepts, because I just can’t imagine being proud of creating something like Johnny Ohm.

Of course, if you’re a comic book fan, you’re probably used to this.

So, what you’re ultimately given is a rehashed storyline chock full of characters you might like that are ultimately wasted, and characters that are established as being important that you aren’t really given a reason to care about. This, unfortunately, is a good indication of what the rest of the experience has to offer, so at least it’s consistent.

Story Rating: POOR


GRAPHICS


Overall, the in-game graphics are quite good, if artistically odd. For some reason, it was decided that the characters should have a shiny, semi-ethereal look to them, which does make them look larger than life. It’s also weird looking, and makes almost the entire roster look like they’ve been shrink-wrapped. Otherwise, the character models look very good, and animate as you would expect them to.


There aren’t really any frame rate issues to be had in the game, though this can be attributed to both the minimal variety (and lower poly count) of random enemies in the single player missions, and the fact that there are only two characters on-screen at once in versus matches. The game environments all look fairly solid, and are nicely destructible, though this probably has a lot to do with the fact that they’re all fairly small. In short, aside from the well-rendered character models, the visuals are mostly serviceable and attractive, but there’s not a lot to them.

Graphics Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE


SOUND

The in game music is fairly generic orchestrated music, and is slightly reminiscent of a Danny Elfman score. It’s all pretty average; you most likely won’t hate it, but it’s not going to stick with you after you’re done playing the game. The sound effects fare better though… from punches to explosions, everything sounds about as accurate as can be expected.

The voice acting is also fairly solid throughout the game, though some characters are notably better than others. Characters like Venom, Faultzone, and Wolverine have voices that are consistent with the characters, whereas Daredevil, as an example, sounds like his voice actor took the “lawyer” aspect to heart more than the “blind superhero”. The voice acting is brought down by voice distortion of the characters when they’re “evil”… most of the distorted voices sound a little silly, but when this is done to voices that are ALREADY distorted (Venom is a prime example) what you’re left with is absolutely horrendous.

I also wasn’t a fan of the Spider-Man voice actor, but that’s probably because I’ve heard something like nine different Spidey voices over the past ten years, so take that as you will.

Sound Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE


CONTROL/GAMEPLAY

Combat is a simple affair, and if you’ve played Powerstone or Kung-Fu Chaos, you’ll have an idea of how to play this. You have an attack button which can be mashed to perform combos, a grab button that also allows characters to pick things up for throwing, a jump button, and a block/dodge button, which are all pretty self-explanatory. You also have a “super power” button, which usually simply enhances the effects of the previous four buttons, but can allow some characters a projectile attack or the ability to grab environmental items from a distance. Also, you have a fatality-esque grapple that can be done when your opponent is in danger status that finishes them off instantly, which is done by pressing the super power button and the grapple button simultaneously. And finally, you have a super movement, or “mobility” button, which enhances your character’s movement, depending on the character (Spider-Man and Venom swing on webs, Storm and Iron Man fly, Wolverine can run up walls, etc). And that’s about as detailed as the controls get. While this does make it easier to simply pick up the game and play, there won’t be anything here to hold the attention of fighting game veterans who are used to more complex games.

The actual gameplay itself, however, renders this all moot by being so spectacularly mediocre-to-bad that only the most hardcore fighting game or Marvel fans will find anything to like here.

The single player campaign is the worst offender here, which is a shame, because you HAVE to play through it to unlock the hidden characters and stages. The camera is unresponsive at the best of times, so you will either spend your time constantly fighting to keep everything in view or being blasted from off-screen. There’s no lock-on feature in the game, so you’ll be spending a lot of your time hoping your attacks line up, only to watch your character strike at thin air. What targeting the game DOES employ is broken as well; thrown items and projectiles might go straight at an opponent, or at some random piece of the environment, which gets really frustrating.

The one-on-one fights are improved dramatically by the use of a locked camera, but the lack of lock-on still leaves you throwing things at enemies and praying they don’t aim at something else. Characters with projectile attacks are also at a highly unfair advantage; not only can they attack from far away, but if your opponent picks up an item of some sort, a simple projectile shot will cause them to drop it instantly. The game also seems to rely heavily on the use of environmental items to do damage, as throwing a barrel or a car does more damage than your fists. This would be fine if your characters didn’t drop them at the slightest touch, which has a tendency to cause your own demise. This ultimately makes fights break down to who can plaster the other person with what first, which just makes the game more of an exercise in frustration than anything else. About the only thing I can really say positive here is that when I played it online, it was stable and didn’t give me any lag problems, but the online play didn’t really make the game any more enjoyable.

Control/Gameplay Rating: POOR


REPLAYABILITY

Once you’ve completed the single player campaign, you’ve seen just about everything the game has to offer. There are unlockable cards and comics you can collect, but most of them can be earned on your first play through, and none of them are really worth performing any additional tasks. The multi-player modes boil down to a versus mode which can be played on or offline, and that’s it. There’s little depth to the fighting system, and such a distinct lack of balance between characters, that I can’t imagine any but the most dedicated Marvel fan coming back to this after they’ve beaten it.

Replayability Rating: POOR


BALANCE

I can sum this up in one word: nonexistent.

Missions in the single player campaign range from insanely easy to unbelievably hard with no transition between them. Except in very rare circumstances, your characters cannot regain health during missions, so you’ll find yourself dying far more often than you’d like. Several of the grunt enemies do far more damage than they have any right doing, and the airborne enemies in particular do heavy damage, and are very difficult to hit on top of that. Boss battles can be seriously cheap affairs (especially when you’re fighting against enemies that have projectile attacks) or cakewalks (when the battles are the other way around). In versus battles, aside from the previously mentioned projectile problem, some characters (IE Spider-Man and Venom) are just entirely too powerful, while others (IE Daredevil and Elektra) feel practically useless.

Balance Rating: DREADFUL


ORIGINALITY

Licensed games are usually low on the originality totem pole, and Marvel Nemesis is no exception. The in-game story is standard comic book fare, the actual game concept has been done before, and better, by Powerstone, and the “original” characters, with the exception of Brigade (body parts from one hundred marines sewn together to make one soldier is certainly an interesting idea), aren’t really that original. Everything you’ve seen here, you’ve seen in other games, period.

Originality Rating: DREADFUL


ADDICTIVENESS

The lack of depth combined with the frustrating play mechanics make it hard to really get addicted to Marvel Nemesis. The online play could keep you interested for a while, and there’s fun to be had with your friends in versus mode, but beyond that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to play this any longer than a rental period. The single player mode is probably the deal breaker here though; having to go through the unbalanced and broken missions to unlock the multiplayer extras might put the player off of the game entirely.

Addictiveness Rating: POOR


APPEAL FACTOR

Anyone who’s a Marvel Comics fan will definitely find something to like here, as a lot of Marvel’s franchise players are available in the game. It’s also notable that most of the playable characters also happen to be in successful motion pictures, with the exceptions of Iron Man (who has a movie on the horizon) and Venom (who is rumored to be in Spider-Man 3). This will probably sell a lot of Marvel movie fans on the game as well. I don’t expect that too many people will be sold on the Imperfects, but with Spider-Man and Wolverine on the front cover, they won’t need to be.

Appeal Rating: GOOD


MISCELLANEOUS

It seems a little lazy to me that, with most of the characters in the game having been through two or three costume changes in their careers, not a single one of those costumes could have been rendered into the game as secondary outfits. I also find the “evil” outfits to be lacking; taking the same costume design and turning it green, blue, black and/or gray is not “evil”, it’s cheap. Overall, that annoyed me, so I figured it deserved a mention.

I’d also like to point out that you’d probably be better served finding a copy of Marvel v. Capcom 2 for your console of choice and spending the $50 you’d have shelled out for Marvel Nemesis on that instead. You’ll have a lot more fun, and the X-BOX version supports X-BOX Live, so you can even play it over the Internet.

Miscellaneous Rating: DREADFUL

The Scores:

Story: POOR
Graphics: ABOVE AVERAGE
Sound: ABOVE AVERAGE
Control/Gameplay: POOR
Replayability: POOR
Balance: DREADFUL
Originality: DREADFUL
Addictiveness: POOR
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: DREADFUL

FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary
It’s a shame that Marvel Nemesis turned out the way it did. Given the right amount of effort, this could have been an amazing game, but simple controls and a poor single player mode will put off all but the most determined. This feels like a cash-in, plain and simple.