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Superman Returns Impressions

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's an open-world videogame!

May 10, 2006 - Weeks ago EA showed off a top-secret trailer of Superman Returns at its Redwood Shores, Calif. compound, but only now are we able to write about the Man of Steel in his latest adventure. The trailer appeared to be running on current-gen consoles, but Superman Returns will be released on Xbox 360 as well. Originally slated for a June release days before the movie premiere June 30, Superman Returns was pushed back to October with the Superman Returns DVD.

Tiburon Studios, best known for Madden NFL and NCAA Football, are developing Superman Returns for EA in what many saw as a surprise move. Creating a Superman game is already a daunting task in itself. Superman has almost a 100 percent worldwide awareness, so people are going to complain no matter what you do. It's been 25 years since the original Superman: The Movie was released, so he spans generations. Parents know and love him, and so do their children.

The history of Superman games is checkered -- no one has ever really captured what it is like to fly, fight and kick evil tail like the last son of Krypton. In fact, all other efforts have been piss-poor, with the exception of perhaps the forgettable Superman: Shadow of Apokolips back in 2002. And even that was decent, at best.

Tiburon is out to change all that. First off, there will be no more busy work, no more stopping measly bank robbers or rescuing cats from trees. This son of Jor-El will spend his time on epic quests, colossal adventures that only Superman can take part in, like keeping a giant bridge from collapsing or stopping natural disasters.

All the star talent of Superman Returns will show up in the game. Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth all offered their voices and likenesses, as well as the rest of the cast of the $300 million summer blockbuster, the most expensive movie in history.

Tiburon already said that it will share some of the same technology used in the Madden franchise, although we're not sure where it comes into play in the open-world game. Metropolis is represented as a living, breathing city and Superman's adopted home will measure 80 square miles.

Probably the biggest challenge Tiburon has is making the videogame a, well, challenge. I mean, this is Superman, and a life bar and three lives just don't work with the Man of Steel. Just like in previous Superman movies, the challenge will be in protecting the citizens of Metropolis first and foremost and then destroying the likes of Lex Luthor.

In order to make this all fun and keep with the "open world" style, Tiburon is focusing on emergent gameplay. Basically, you have a variety of ways to approach any challenge. Let's say a major fire is burning in Metropolis. Well, you could pick up a fire truck from across town and fly it over to the scene. Or you could rip a water tower and throw it over the fire, lock on to it with the L-trigger and blow it up with heat vision, sending a shower of water down on the flames.

Superman Returns will blend key moments from the movie with more than 60 years of comic book history, so you'll face super-villains that have never graced the silver screen. Tiburon says there are more than 50 objectives in the game, and focusing on the story missions alone will take upward of 30 hours.

So on to the trailer, which was the first ever look at in-game footage of Superman Returns. Standing in front of the Daily Planet, Supe leaped into the air and in seconds was flying hundreds of feet above Metropolis. After flying around for a few seconds, he then dove back down toward the streets, pulled up and flew in between buildings. There was an impressive sense of speed, especially when Superman used his super-speed ability and topped out at 800 mph.

Against an enemy, he was able to utilize super-speed in an attack called "1,000 fists." In a blurring sequence, Superman flew on all sides of the enemy, punching it at every turn until it exploded.

Metropolis is supposedly 100 percent interactive, so Superman was able to pick up telephone poles and use them as baseball bats or throw them into the distance. The heat vision is strong and blew up a car in only a second.

The end of the trailer showed him battling genetically engineered flying lizard creatures high above Metropolis. The creatures were attacking blimps and this was a good example of Superman having to bypass a nearby enemy to focus on the creature that was the most imminent danger to the blimps.

EA will be showing more of Superman in its booth later today and we'll have updated impressions and media for you.

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