Jeff Gardiner on the Fantastic 4 Game

On Tuesday, June 28th, Activision will release the anticipated Fantastic 4 movie game which lets players harness the Marvel superheroes’ unique and amazing powers through a compelling single-player or two-player co-operative team based gameplay experience.

Authored by Zak Penn, who co-wrote the story for X2: X-Men United, the game follows the Fantastic Four film’s storyline and expands the adventures by letting players stretch, control fire and use invisibility and brute force to defeat evil Super Villains in new environments and familiar comic book locales. Challenged to master each super hero’s individual powers and combine them to level even more devastating attacks, players must battle the never-before-seen enemies and the ultimate evil – Doctor Doom — to save the human race from disaster.

Superhero Hype! talked to Lead Designer Jeff Gardiner from 7 Studios about creating the game:

SHH!: The game is coming out along with the movie, how closely did you work with the movie producers?

Gardiner: We have had a close collaboration with Fox, including early access to the movie script, conceptual art, set design, costumes and locations. Our lead artists and designers have visited the film set multiple times, bringing back excellent photo references of the environments and props. We have seen animatics and effects work from an early stage that have helped us match the look and flow of the major action moments as closely as possible. We’ve communicated back and forth with Fox all through the development process. As they have finalized effects work, they’ve sent us renders. As we have finalized environments, we’ve sent them screenshots. It has been a true back-and-forth collaboration to ensure a seamless mesh of the movie and game aesthetics.

We were also fortunate enough to have the actors for all of the major characters – Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben, and Victor – to reprise their roles in the video game.

SHH!: The cast of the Fantastic 4 movie did the voiceover work for the game, any good recording studio stories?

Gardiner: They were all a delight to work with. Everyone was focused and determined to give their best performance possible. Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon particularly enjoyed doing improvisational line readings, which made for some… interesting content. Julian took his virtual army of Doombots very seriously! Jessica was unbelievably sweet and lovely, Ioan was charming and Chris had an infectious energy that kept us all going. I know they all had a great time working together and we felt lucky to have a chance to work with them.

SHH!: Obviously, the Fantastic 4 has a long history. Were you able to pull from the comic book story lines or did you stick with the movie?

Gardiner: The game follows the general story arc of the movie, but we have made several additions to the story to make it work as a video game. Because the movie is an origin story with an emphasis on character introduction and development (much like the first Spider-Man and X-Men movies), we have pumped up the level of action to sustain the hours of combat and exploration necessary for the title. We have done this by adding side plots that branch off from the main story and allow the Fantastic 4 to travel to additional locations and interact with other characters and enemies from the Fantastic 4 universe. We think it will be extremely exciting and rewarding for fans of the original comic to come across such familiar faces as Moleman and Diablo!

One thing that is both a blessing and a curse about working within this world is that the Fantastic 4 have been evolving for over forty years. We have tried to bring in as many classic elements from the comics as possible, but there was no way to cram forty years of content into one game. The good news is that there is plenty left to explore in the future, should we be fortunate enough to do so!

SHH!: What platforms is the game coming out for? Any differences in the console versions?

Gardiner: We have developed the game for the PS2, Xbox and NGC. There is also a GBA version as well as a PC version coming out. The game content is the same across all three major consoles. While there are a few effects and graphics differences, we strove to keep everything as similar as possible so that everyone can enjoy the game to its fullest, regardless of which system they own.

SHH!: What’s the co-op play like?

Gardiner: The entire game, including bonus modes and levels, will be playable in co-op! We’re very excited about this, as it brings a completely different dynamic to the game experience. While the hero AI is helpful and full functional for team combos, there is just no replacement for another person playing alongside you. We’ve tried to incorporate a true team feel to all aspects of co-op. Super attacks, points, and even lives all draw from a shared pool, so players better watch their buddy’s backs! Additionally, as in single-player mode, players can switch between available characters. There is a full set of team attacks, so players can try out different combinations of Heroes to see what the results will be. There are also mechanisms to “buff” your teammates, so Sue can put a protective shield around Johnny or Reed can use his high-tech gadgetry to heal Ben. We all have loved playing co-op and are really excited for people to experience this aspect of the game.

There is also a full Arena Fight area, playable in single player and two-person co-op modes. The arena environments and enemy sets are drawn from those encountered throughout the game, with a few bonus environments as well. Players can mix and match heroes, enemy sets, environments, and game types unlocked through gameplay.

SHH!: Why would a hardcore F4 fan like this game?

Gardiner: We’ve made a great effort to bring classic villains, characters and environments from the Fantastic 4 universe into the game. Hardcore fans will immediately recognize Puppetmaster, even when he’s first introduced as the benign stepfather of Alicia Masters. Wherever possible, we have modeled famous F4 villains on the Ultimate Fantastic 4 versions. Not all of the classic villains have appeared in the most recent series, however, so we’ve had the awesome responsibility of updating and modernizing some of the most beloved villains of all times.

We have also tried to work the unique hero powers into every aspect of gameplay. For instance, Reed can attack and grapple from range in combat. His extended combo attacks turn his fists into massive hammers, and when he’s fully charged with cosmic power he can literally roll over his enemies. Out of combat, he can use his stretchiness to help navigate through the missions or solve environmental puzzles. But Reed’s strengths are not limited to his physical powers – he’s also a genius with a stock of technical gadgetry at his fingertips. We worked that aspect of his character into his game play as well, letting him hack into computer systems to open pathways or even turn enemy machines into allies. He can heal teammates with his gadgets and release spider mines of his own construction that will seek out and destroy enemies. We took the same approach with each of the four heroes, finding ways to bring their unique abilities to play both in and out of combat.

In the final analysis, what makes the Fantastic 4 unique are the interpersonal interactions. I think the fans will especially appreciate the moments in the game that explore that aspect- when Ben and Johnny’s verbal sparring turns into a real fight, or when Sue’s over-protectiveness of her little brother leads her into danger first.

Last – but definitely not least! – hardcore fans will be especially pleased with our unlockable materials. For the first time ever in a video game, Stan Lee appears in unlockable interviews that feature him talking about the comic and playing and commenting on the game.

It’s been an honor to work on the Fantastic 4. We have a team full of fans that can cite comic issues by page and panel. To see the franchise come alive in both the movie and the game has been a truly amazing opportunity for us. We hope that everyone has as much fun playing it as we did making it!

Visit the game’s official website for more info. 20th Century Fox will release the Fantastic Four movie on Friday, July 8th.

Source: Superhero Hype!