Wouldn’t it be cool to be your favorite hero in your favorite movie? That wishful nostalgia has always been the potent lure of the licensed videogame property — those titles that feature said heroes. Problem is, they almost always suck. The ways they suck are legion, but the why usually comes down to one thing: money. It takes a lot of scratch to buy the rights to a character like Superman or the Terminator, and perhaps there just wasn’t enough cash left to make two new games starring those characters — Superman: Shadow of Apokolips and Terminator: Dawn of Fate — worth playing.
Taking its design cues from the folks at Warner Bros. Animation, Superman ably replicates the cel-erific Metropolis of the cartoon TV series and puts you in the middle of it as, duh, Superman. As both mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and Big Blue you’ve got to figure out the connection between corporate villain Lex Luthor and interdimensional baddie Apokolips and halt their nefarious schemes. What keeps the game from taking off is the overly simplistic episodic nature of the missions set before you — from sneaking into installations and dodging laser beams (done far better in a game like SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals) to flying citizens to safety (don’t even get us started about the Pleistocene-era thrills of Choplifter). The wacky control configuration also makes your heat vision, ice breath, X-ray vision, and superspeed incredibly difficult to use on the fly.
A failure to incorporate even the franchise’s most fundamental premise is the Achilles’ heel of Terminator, which takes place in the bombed-out future, right before the evil machines send the Schwarzeneggerbot back to the past to prevent the birth of humanity savior John Connor. You start the game playing Kyle Reese, a tomorrow soldier who is given the task of protecting Connor from marauding Terminators. Terminator: Dawn of Fate manages to ignore the internal logic of the movies: If, as the films posit, the cyborgs were created to pass for human and then kill everyone once they get behind enemy lines, why is almost every Terminator you fight an obviously metal meanie? This game could’ve been a conspiratorial mind-bender like The Thing; instead, it’s a pretty, empty third-person shooter (which, like Superman, suffers from a slipshod control interface and horrible camera placement). Men of steel? Hardly. Both games: C-