Man of Steel, fists of fury.
Superman just can't seem to catch a break. First his planet blows up, taking his parents – and his entire society and culture – along with it, and now his new game Man of Steel keeps crashing.
At least, that's what we experienced as we kept trying to load and reload the game on our iPod Touch 4, watching the Unreal logo and opening cutscenes, but never getting any further than selecting our save file. The only thing which seemed "unreal" at this point was how watching the game keep crashing was like seeing Kal-El's ship landing in Kansas on a JFK-like instant replay. After trying everything we could think of on the device, we relented and made a new attempt on an iPhone 5. And there? Well things got pretty good.
Licensed games based on the Infinity Blade style of fighting have been fairly hit-or-miss. Well, mostly miss. But Man of Steel, based on the new, non-eponymous Superman film of the same name, actually seems to do right by the formula. It's actually kind of impressive, in some ways. You still tap to parry and swipe to lay into your enemies, but there are other things which really allow it to stand out as well.
A simple one is your dodge buttons, placed at the lower right and left of the screen (why can't they ever be together?). Rather than just sidestepping, and as is sometimes the case in other games, stepping right back into an extended arm which just threw a punch, Superman actually moves around his enemies. This changes things up a bit, as you might be able to get a few swings in from the side or behind the enemy. Moreover, it effectively changes the background: whereas a building might have been what was behind your enemy, a sidestep now places an open street behind you, or perhaps an abandoned school bus.
This may not seem like much, but then you bring Superman's famed powers into play. Wallop a foe with a flurry of punches, and you can send them flying into whatever is behind you. Certain attacks can launch the enemies into the air, either finishing them by sending them over the horizon, and allowing you to wail on them in the air before smashing them back down into the ground, or flying after them, grabbing them, and basically trying to ram them into as much of the scenery as you can to inflict damage.
Suffice to say, these elements add a certain level of excitement not available to this game's contemporaries. Throw in added bursts of super speed and heat vision to turn things up further, plus the option to upgrade these abilities (along with health, defense, etc.), and Man of Steel begins to feel to other similar games as Superman does to regular human beings.
It still features a few of the same issues that some might have had with previous titles in the genre (it's a genre now, right?), such as that whole gauging when precisely to parry, but even that seems diminished here. There's also the irritation of having to redo several fights when you lose to a later foe, but that seems par for the course. Irritating, but nothing new.
It also has a few unique issues of its own, mainly with regards to touch-sensitivity. This includes trying to apply the aforementioned upgrades to your character, which is practically a chore, as the tiny boxes you need to touch don't respond properly unless you delicately touch them with the very tip of your finger – it gives one the impression this was simply not intended for phones. Similarly, the game seems to confuse when you're trying to do a series of swipes to attack, with simply holding your finger to the screen to block, letting enemies chip away at your damage or recover when you had the upper hand.
Overall, Man of Steel is probably one of the better – if not the best – Superman games we've ever seen (barring crossover/ensemble pieces, such as Injustice: Gods Among Us and other Justice League fare). It's by no means perfect, and can still irritate at points, but is still – put simply – super. You just have to make sure you have an equally super piece of hardware to run it on.
- Nifty comic book-style cutscenes. Superman powers. Shakes up the Infinity Blade dynamic nicely.
- Kal-El should just be happy his rocket wasn't as prone to crashing as his game is on anything less than an iPhone 5. Touch sensitivity is lacking.