Version tested: PlayStation 2
There are many things which go towards making a game really really bad. Dodgy graphics and invisible walls, long loading times and unskippable cutscenes, repetitive missions and dull level layouts... We've suffered through them all.
And then there are those games which manage the ultimate feat of badness: making us actively hate the game character. This emotion is generally brought about by them refusing to do what we're trying to make them do, often at critical moments, to the point where we actually wish them physical harm - and sometimes end up giving in to the frustration and rage and killing them in the most violent and painful way possible.
So it was for us with Gex the Gecko, we recall. And Bugs Bunny, who can stay lost in time for the rest of eternity for all we care. Not to mention Malice, Jaden Korr and the bloke out of Mafia. Even our love for Lara, which frankly borders on the gay, was severely tested by Angel of Darkness.
You can probably guess where we're going here. Yes, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects features a whole host of classic characters, from Elektra and Wolverine to Venom and The Thing. And yes, we hate them all. Oh, and did we mention that this game also suffers from dodgy graphics, long loading times, repetitive missions and dull level layouts?
It's a real disappointment, because Marvel Nemesis sounds all right on paper. It's a star-studded beat-em-up with story, versus and online modes, which not only lets you pit Spider-Man, Daredevil, Magneto et al against each other but also lets you play as evil versions of them. If you were wondering how could EA fail to make such and idea flop, this is the game for you.
Frankly, even if every character in comic book history was in here, and you could play as them naked, and Stan Lee had agreed to deliver your copy to your house in person and do the washing up before he left, it wouldn't be enough to save what is a fundamentally flawed game.
Let's start with the story mode, because if you buy this game you're going to have to. Thing is, before you can play as all the characters and access all the arenas in versus mode, you have to unlock them by playing the single player game.
This isn't a new or terrible concept, but the problem is that the story mode is completely rubbish. The plot revolves some nonsense about an evil doctor who has created race of homicidal mutants - the titular Imperfects. Now he's after experimenting on humans, and his evil minions are running riot through New York City.
The first level kicks off with you playing as The Thing. And ends approximately 90 seconds later with you wondering why it was over so quickly, how come you never felt remotely challenged by either the enemies or your objectives and if there's any more to the control system... There must be, surely?
Nope, that's it - circle to pick up and chuck stuff, such as cars, oil barrels and the like, and square to attack. Oh, and if you hold R1, you can do a super attack - a flurry of slashes, say, in Wolverine's case, or if you're playing as Elektra you can throw daggers at people. Your super power meter depletes with each of these attacks, and you can speed up the rate at which it refills by standing still and pressing R1. There's also a rage meter; once this is full up, you automatically go into rage mode, which means you're supposed to be more powerful. Only, it doesn't really feel like it.
The end result is you spend the entire time hammering the square button whilst holding R1, or just hammering the square button because your super power meter is empty. There are no combos, no finishing moves, and no targeting system - which is especially annoying since your characters often won't move where you want them to, thanks to a dodgy left analog stick control. And so Wolverine ends up slashing at thin air, while Elektra throws daggers into a wall. Marvellous.
As for the picking up and chucking stuff element, it's not really worth the effort. Aiming is hit and miss, and there are no decent explosions to be seen - just a few flashes of fire that remind us of what it was like to throw barrels around in Donkey Kong Country on the SNES.
But despite the flaws in the combat controls, your opponents are rarely very tough to defeat, what with them being not only clinically blind and chronically lazy but frequently suicidal. We've played plenty of games where the enemies just stand around waiting for you to attack them, which is bad enough in itself, but not so many where enemies will actually throw themselves off the roof of skyscrapers for no apparent reason whatsoever.
And then, before you know it, it's all over. You've defeated all the hapless goons to be seen, which wasn't a lot, and the level's over. Time to wait for the game to save your progress to memory card - which takes at least two attempts EVERY SINGLE TIME, for some bizarre reason - and then look at your options.
Walking the same path
See, Marvel Nemesis gives you more characters to play as and a choice of paths to follow as you progress through the game. Problem is, many of those paths are paths you've already been down as a different character. So once you've defeated all those enemies on the bridge as The Thing, you'll have to return to the very same bridge as Wolverine to defeat another batch of enemies who fight in exactly the same way as their predecessors.
Playing through the same environment as a different character is not our idea of fun at the best of times - but it's even less fun when the only difference is that you see a different animation when you hold R1 and hammer square.
It doesn't help that almost all of the mission objectives are of the "Destroy all enemies" or "Destroy the generator" type, either, or that they're generally over in less than three minutes and take no more than one attempt to complete.
There are two exceptions to this. Firstly, there are levels which require your character to perform a skill - for example, there's one where Elektra has to do a Prince of Persia-style wall run along a piece of scenery that links one skyscraper to the next. But she will only do this if you line up the analog stick with all the precision of a brain surgeon removing a single hair from the leg of a butterfly, and even then only if she's in the mood, it seems.
The second exception is the boss levels, which are stupidly hard. Yes, all right, so we're rubbish at bosses generally, but when you're given one attack button and a dodgy left analog stick it doesn't make things any easier; just a lot more frustrating.
As you'll have gathered by now, the story mode is dull, uninspired and generally exasperating. If the poor controls and dodgy gameplay weren't enough to put you off, the environments, with their total lack of detail and just plain weird lighting effects, probably will.
And even if you push on through in the name of unlocking all the stuff for the versus mode - not to mention extras such as collectable cards, comic books and videos, which are all right if you like that sort of thing - you'll be disappointed, though probably not too surprised, to find that the problems with the story mode creep into multiplayer as well.
Once again, you'll find yourself once again limited to our old friends R1 and square, with the only real challenge being to get your character to respond to your left stick instructions. Which means there's no point picking a favourite and trying to learn all their various tricks, as you would do with the likes of Street Fighter - Wolverine, we're sad to inform you, is no Chun Li.
It's all made worse by the camera, which isn't terrible but which often behaves extremely oddly. In some arenas it starts off way up high so you're looking at two tiny sprites somewhere in the middle of a badly lit screen, and have to discuss where to move with your opponent just so you can properly see what's going on.
So does Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects have any redeeming features? Well, the music is very orchestral and dramatic and appropriate. And the game does feature a healthy array of Marvel characters - each of them nicely detailed and superbly animated, it has to be said. But unfortunately they're so limited in what they can do that you don't really feel like you're playing as the superheroes we know and love - and what's the point of a superhero game if you don't get to feel like you're a superhero?
Even worse, this is a superhero game that actually makes you hate the superhero you're playing as for their rubbish attacking skills, poor movement and general refusal to do what they're told. For that reason, we can't even recommend it to Marvel fans, frankly. And even if you're a beat-em-up fan, you should steer clear too. Imperfect isn't the word for it.
3 / 10