|System: PS2, Xbox, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Snowblind||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: WB Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Vaughn||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Vaughn Smith
You dont have to be the worlds biggest DC fan to enjoy Justice League Heroes, but it helps. Snowblind Studios, perhaps best known for dungeon-crawling hack nslashers Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions Of Norrath: Realms of Everquest, has simply taken what they know best and applied that to the DC universe. The result is a somewhat predictable, little too-linear beat-em-up with RPG overtones, not unlike Ravens X-Men Legends series. Unfortunately, JLHs strengths are directly related to its weaknesses as upgrading the heroes abilities as you progress is the glue that holds the game together, but yet this mechanic could fail you miserably if you dont manage to upgrade the heroes youre forced to use later in the game. Since you dont know who those heroes are until youve reached the levels in question, JLH can be a real crapshoot. An entertaining crapshoot mind you, but the experience can be a little frustrating.
What fans will love about JLH is the fairly robust collection of heroes which grows as the game goes on, if players wish to purchase a few unlockable characters such as Aquaman, Green Arrow and Huntress. All of the heroes have unique abilities designed around their comic book counterparts, so Batman will throw Batarangs and glide through the air when he jumps, Superman can fly (hover a few feet off the ground more accurately) and use his heat vision, super strength, Zatanna can turn enemies into rabbits and heal herself and her partner etc. The simplistic combat is designed around a two button configuration for varying attacks which can be chained together for combos. Super attacks specifically geared to the chosen character can be performed by holding down the L trigger buttons on the PS2 or Xbox and then selecting one of four face buttons. These super powers are finite and the character must have enough juice to carry out the attack or wait until the bar fills up. Health is also regained as time goes on as long as the hero stays out of harms way long enough.
Throwing a punch as Batman, running around in tights as the Flash, lassooing (is that a word?) bad guys as Wonder Woman and lifting heavy objects over your head while flying as Superman is responsive and easy for anyone to pick up and play. The camera follows along at a fairly close distance to the action and can be controlled to zoom in or out or rotated, although it's a pretty sloooow process. Since all of the heroes control somewhat identically, switching between them is never a problem and it's pretty fun to experiment with new moves and new characters. Unleashing some of the games cooler moves while mixing it up with a bevy full of classic villains will definitely strike a chord with superhero fans.
Unlike the aforementioned X-Men Legends, DC fans are limited to a two-player cooperative game, rather than four-player while at the same time often having no choice as to which character(s) they will use in a given level. When you begin the game youll be forced to play as Superman and Batman for a few levels, before being forced into playing as Martian Manhunter and Zatanna and the game continues like this. Near the halfway point, youll be given more freedom as to which characters you would like to use givng you the opportunity of trying out a purchased hero but that can lead to almost certain death since the characters wont be powered up and strong enough to tackle the imminent threat.
If youre playing alone, the game will control your partner and you can switch out at any time to take control of them via pushing the D-Pad in the up position. You also have some control over how your partner behaves by pressing the other D-Pad directions. A second player can jump in at anytime and as you might guess, playing the game with a friend increases the entertainment factor. A wonderful byproduct of playing with another human is the fact that your heroic partner who has saved the earth countless times, will no longer get stuck in the corner and not be able to figure out how to get away although if you do happen to get enough distance between each other, your AI partner will automatically teleport to your location.
While JLH gives the appearance of being a straighforward fist-fest, the foundation of the game is all about power management, and thats where the pseudo RPG elements kick in. Heroes will collect experience points from fallen enemies which are used to level up the character and can be used towards new moves and increasing current abilities. Bad guys conveniently drop boosts of which there are 5 different varieties: Speed, Luck, Range, Efficiency and Duration. From the character setup screen, players will be able to assign these boosts to various powers as well as combine up to three of them to create an even more powerful boost. Combined boosts can even be further combined to create even stronger varieties. These boosts go a long way to developing an extremely powerful character, which only tends to shed light on how weak the under-developed characters are when youre forced to play as one or choose one just to try to spice up the game a bit. Snowblind has managed to create a very user-friendly interface for power managment which will be a relief to those gamers who found X-Men Legends with its numerous items and upgrades a tad overwhelming.
Gamers who arent thrilled about having to replay entire levels over after they die will be pleased to know that Snowblind has littered the stages with Checkpoints which not only save your game automatically but will resurrect fallen comrades when you go near them. That being said, JLH is no cakewalk and will provide a good challenge for at least 8-10 hours depending on your skill level and expertise with these types of games. The stages, though linear, are mazelike and often times youll find yourself running around in circles. The stage map can definitely help keep you oriented and its recommended that you use it often (its displayed onscreen).
Playing as the worlds most powerful heroes (I can see Marvel fans shuddering at the suggestion) wouldnt be as entertaining if the onscreen characters didnt look the part. Snowblind has faithfully recreated the JLH roster to look and animate as you would imagine they do. The heroes themselves are the standouts of the game as the environments and enemies (aside from some cool bosses) are as generic as they come. Taking fan service a step further, Snowblind has included a whack of costumes for the heroes to don, which are purchased by cashing in JLH icons which are located on the battlefield. Not only do these costumes look cool, but they are as functional as they are stylish, since the new duds will enhance the heroes abilities. Kudos to Snowblind for this extra bonus. These guys know how to please their fans.
Since the heroes look the part, they also sound the part thanks to talented voice actors like Ron Perlman (Batman), Michael Jai White (Green Lantern) , video game voice goddess Courtney Taylor (Wonder Woman) and a host of other TV, movie and voice actor pros who youve probably heard thousands of times. Musically the game is as superhero-y as possible with horn section swells, string section sweeps and syncopated percussion designed to pump up the adrenaline while clearing another room full of enemies. Hmmm Music To Destroy Waves Of Enemies By . has a nice ring to it. The sound effects of the various attacks and environment destruction is punchy and provides JLH with its obligatory thwacks and whacks.
The most disappointing aspect of JLH is simply being forced to play as heroes you might not necessarily want to play as. I dont see any reason why the levels couldnt have been designed a little more creatively to allow for any combination of heroes. Tied to this design hiccup is allowing players to purchase characters who they DO enjoy playing as, only to be limited when they can play as them - which obviously limits their ability to upgrade said heroes, which makes the later levels incredibly frustrating, on the mid-difficulty levels. Equally as vexxing is being limited to play as two heroes rather than four, especially when youre talking about the Justice League. Granted these complaints will have little impact on the fans who just want to play as their favorite DC heroes, but they are limitations nonetheless.
Snowblind Studios has done an admirable job bringing these characters to life. Their experience in the genre certainly made JLH a much more enjoyable game than it could have been. With the foundation in place and with some more creative level design and the ability to play as 4 heroes, a sequel to Justice League Heroes would be well indicated.
By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director
One RPG, under DC, with superheroes and Justice for all. by Adam Brown
The release of X-men Legends ushered in a new era for the comic based action RPG. The game was a shining example of what was truly possible when you merged popular comic book characters with action-filled gameplay. Add in the ability to level up and customize your favorite X-men comic icons and you have described many comic book nerds wet dreams. That is unless you are a DC comic book nerd. Fans of DC rejoice, for you will not have to wait much longer for an action RPG based on a beloved franchise.
Justice League Heroes looks to follow a similar formula to that of the successful X-men Legends series. Players will be able to control a huge list of characters from the Justice League initially consisting of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, and Green Lantern. There will also be some unlockable characters but only Green Arrow has been confirmed. All of these characters will be customizable as far as leveling up their abilities and even changing costumes once they are unlocked. These characters will all have a unique feel since each will have vastly different animations and special abilities. For example, Superman will be able to fly and pick up cars while Batman will chuck batarangs and shoot grappling hooks.
Unlike X-men Legends, in which you could have four characters on-screen at a time, Justice League Heroes will instead permit only two. This will allow the camera to stay closer to the action. It should also help to reduce the on-screen chaos that can be caused by having too many characters fighting on a single screen. Initially, the game will choose the appropriate pair of superheroes for each mission but later on you will get to make your own super team. Players will be able to switch on the fly between their two characters with the D-pad or they can have a friend jump in for some co-op gaming.
Something else new in Justice League Heroes is how a players health is handled. In X-men Legends, players are forced to collect and use health power ups to repair the damage done to their characters. Justice League Heroes will instead use a more Halo-esque approach that is based upon the belief that all a good superhero should need to heal is a chance to catch their second wind. Once damaged, players will only need to pause for a slight amount of time to recover their health before they proceed.
Justice League Heroes also differs from many RPGs in the way it approaches the storys delivery. Snowblind Studios wanted the game to be more action-oriented and fast-paced so they have steered clear of the endless text boxes that can slow a game down to a crawl. Instead, the story will be delivered with a mix of in-game dialogue and cutscenes, keeping the game moving at a ginger pace. Justice Leagues story begins with a meteor that crashes to Earth. It emits a message promising to unlock the secrets of the universe that is discovered by DC villain Brainiac. To unlock this knowledge, Brainiac must attain a key that is stored in the Justice Leagues base. The Justice League is then forced to defend this key while protecting the planet from Brainiac and other various villains. Justice League Heroes looks to be an entertaining RPG that should satisfy DC fans and newbies to the franchise alike.
By Adam Brown
CCC Freelance Writer
DC Comics' version of Marvel's Avengers - or is it the other way around? - is coming to the PS2 and Xbox this Fall. by Vaughn Smith
Wasn't it Seinfeld who said, "Why does the Justice League need Batman and Wonder Woman? Superman's there. Can't he do everything? I mean, he's Superman!" Good question. I mean, what is Martian Manhunter going to do that Supes can't cover? How much call is there for a guy who hunts Martians anyway? Does he just sit there reading the paper when a report comes in that someone is robbing a bank in Ireland? "Any martians involved? No? Sorry, can't help you. Call The Avengers; maybe it'll get Ironman away from the bar for 5 minutes." I bet he'd be like that. He looks like he's got a major 'tude. And what's with the Green Lantern? Were all of the other good names taken? If all of his arch enemies know his one weakness is the color yellow, why are they still dressing in every other color under the sun except yellow? Me and the Green Lantern go way back. How far? I remember when he was a white dude.
Gamers can count on playing as any of the world's most famous heroes - Wonder Woman, The Flash, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Superman and Green Lantern - and it's been confirmed that two players will be able to save the universe from Brainiac (and other menaces to society) simultaneously. The heroes will have all of their powers intact, including Wonder Woman's magic lasso which forces people to tell the truth. Incredibly, but not coincidentally, the man who invented the notion of Wonder Woman's truth-telling lasso also invented the polygraph (lie detector) machine. Strange but true! We're not sure how effective her lasso will be against those dirty lying martians, whom we've heard prefer "truthiness" rather than the facts (the word "truthiness" is on loan from Stephen Colbert), but in any event, she'll be able to reel them in kick their fibbing green asses. Hey check this out. Did you think I was kidding about what I said earlier about Martian Manhunter? Look below. He's just standing there doing nothing, and the guy they're fighting IS a martian. "I just hunt 'em, I don't fight 'em." I could just see that smarmy arrogant jerk saying that. Oh that Martian Manhunter....I just hate him so much!
Stay tuned for more info as it appears.
CCC Site Director