E3: "Justice League Heroes" Offers Fun Game Play of DC Heroes

Aquaman gets no love. When comedians make fun of superheroes, inevitably Aquaman is the butt of their jokes. He's had more cancelled comic books than fish in the sea. And when he got his own video game, it stunk worse than two-week old halibut.

Aquaman continues to get no video game love, having been left out of the starting lineup of "Justice League Heroes" from Warner Brothers Interactive. Fortunately, Snowblind Studios, the game's developer, is giving a lot of love to the Justice League. CBR News got a look at the upcoming game during last week's E3 Expo in Los Angeles.

Despite the fact that "Justice League Unlimited" producer and story editor Dwayne McDuffie has written the plot for the game, "Justice League Heroes" is based on the comic book version of the DC superteam - or at least the pre-"Infinite Crisis" version of the team. The membership is basically the "Magnificent Seven," with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, the Wally West Flash, Jon Stewart as Green Lantern, and Zatanna subbing for the much-maligned Aquaman. Green Arrow is the only officially announced unlockable character so far.

As for the plot, a mysterious meteorite crashes on earth, sending out a signal that can only be heard by Braniac. It offers him unlimited knowledge, but can only do so if he can obtain an object from the most heavily guarded fortress in the universe -- the JLA Watchtower on the moon. Somehow, this ends up also involving the Key and the release of the White Martians from their suspended animation prison, although exactly how hasn't yet been revealed.

The game plays similarly to "X-Men Legends," except with two-hero teams instead of four. In a single player game, players take command of a Leaguer, while the AI controls the second Leaguer. Players can switch control with the touch of a button. The combat system works in much the same way as "Legends" as well. Melee combat has been expanded upon, as each character has his or her own fighting style. For instance, Wonder Woman's move set has a lot of high kicks, while Superman uses primarily power punches.

The super power system was also basically copied directly from "X-Men Legends." Press the power button on the controller to bring up the power menu, and then press the appropriate power to use the button. The powers are all fairly unique, and appropriate to the characters. Green Lantern can make green energy constructs with his ring; Flash uses speed tricks, etc. Zatanna's powers are some of the most interesting. In addition to providing character enhancements, she has the ability to do things like slow down time, or turn enemies into bunny rabbits. All while speaking backwards, of course.

The game's producers have been talking a lot in the gaming press about the teamwork aspects of the game, although so far, they appear to be somewhat exaggerated. Basically, certain characters have a trap or dizzy power. For instance, Green Lantern can create an energy cage, and Batman has flash bangs, which can temporarily blind enemies. While an enemy is incapacitated, the other hero has the opportunity to hit them without being hit back. It's a fun feature, but not the innovation that producers had been describing.

The game's philosophy on superheroes actually shows up in the game play. There are no health power ups in the game. Life bars automatically refill themselves when the heroes go for a time without taking damage. This is because superheroes don't take time to drink from potions to get their strength back; they just shake off the damage. The power bar works in the same way.

The games graphics are pretty good, especially considering it is designed for current generation systems, PS2, Xbox and PSP. This is one area where "Justice League Heroes" definitely surpasses the "X-Men Legends" series. Characters are larger and have a much more realistic design. They are at least realistic enough that, with the top-down view, every time Zatanna is on screen, there is an, well, interesting view of her cleavage. Powers are displayed much more vividly, including cool particle effects from characters like Green Lantern. And best of all, there doesn't appear to be a lot of irritating clipping with capes. There's nothing worse in a superhero game than seeing a character's leg show through a cape.

Overall, "Justice League Heroes" has a lot of potential. It isn't the most original title ever, but it builds nicely on earlier games. Now if only Aquaman is an unlockable character…

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