On the ground, the game utterly comes apart at the seams thanks to irredeemably awful melee combat, allied to more hateful camera issues and other quirks that start to wear you down. For some curious reason, your superpowers are almost always ineffective against ground-based targets (like the chunky mechs and slimy mutants), forcing you to go toe-to-toe whether you want to or not. But the really stupid thing is, shoehorning the player into hundreds, nay thousands of almost identical melee encounters merely serves to remind you how spectacularly awful the game really is.
The really daft thing about Superman Returns is how - despite the loose, unsatisfying controls - the game is ridiculously easy to romp through in about six hours. Although the game unlocks numerous combos you go, you can pretty much succeed 90 per cent of the time by locking on and hammering X until your enemy stops getting up. And for the other 10 per cent, lobbing cars at them from a safe distance does the trick. It's so brainlessly designed, it's staggering.
Even some of the relatively tricky boss encounters, like the section where you're defending blimps from a seemingly endless procession of flying dragons are just a war of attrition. As soon as you work out their pretty obvious weakness, you'll busily take care of hundreds of them, one after the other until they all just sod off.
And so it goes on. A series of three, four, five minute encounters where you meet the same eight or so types of enemies in quickfire encounters, a similar boss encounter where you take care of the minions before focusing on the main man, and repeat to fade. Sure, you get some unlockable moves, but the gameplay remains utterly identical from the very first level to the last. And having tortuously slogged through the entire game, I can categorically assure anyone that this is definitely the case. Okay, so the final tornado 'boss' proves to be an exception, but it's so completely unrelated to the game in any way shape or form that it has to go down as the most bizarre anticlimax in the history of videogames. What a waste.
If you're really determined to eke out a few remaining achievement points, then there are nine races to slog through, as well as five Bizarro destruction levels, but you'll probably wish you hadn't wasted your life. The races are generally pretty easy (bar the last two utterly evil ones), and the Bizarro levels can be cleared by destroying cars by repeating the same melee move over and over again for a couple of minutes. Genius.
Visually, the game's not a total disaster, but it's definitely looking completely out of place on the 360. Flat textured environments abound, with nasty pop-in on buildings prevalent as soon as you fly close to them, while vehicles suddenly populate empty streets and motorways as if by magic. Superman's character design isn't bad, but many of the other creatures look throwaway and uninspired. The animation's hardly anything to shout about either, but much like the rest of the game, you're so overwhelmed by the mediocrity that it all starts to blend into a soup of awfulness. It gets to the stage where you stop noticing the bad things, because none of it stands out as such. Mercifully, EA elected to make this an offline only game, meaning we didn't waste our life looking at that side of things. We're thankful for small mercies at this stage.
Overall, there's really nothing to redeem Superman Returns apart from the fact that it is playable on a very basic level and that bugs don't appear to be an issue. Yes, you can fly around Metropolis at supersonic speed, zap a few meaningless enemies with some basic superpowers, whack some robots with one button attacks and watch some reasonable (though unrelated) cut-scenes, but that's your lot. Superman Returns is so criminally lacking in any inspiration, though, and is such a dismal waste of the licence that you'll want to curl up and rock yourself into a trance. At least then your mind can entertain you with thoughts of what a good Superman game might be like.
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