I honestly don't know why, but it seems impossible to make a decent game based on a character from DC Comics. Honestly, even Marvel super heroes manage to appear in decent games every now and then, the most recent being the rather fun Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a natural evolution of the X-Men Legends games. Meanwhile, the most recent DC Comics game, Superman Returns, is anything but super. So, does Justice League Heroes, which is essentially the DC version of Ultimate Alliance, break this trend? Unfortunately, it seems not.
I'd just like to apologise in advance for this, but there are going to be a lot more comparisons of Justice League Heroes with the X-Men Legends/Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games? Why? Because Justice League Heroes is essentially the same game, with a few tweaks that show that developer Snowblind just weren't paying attention when the first X-Men Legends game was released. The game is a top-down viewed 'dungeon crawler' with some RPG elements thrown in, essentially making it a scrolling beat-em-up with experience points. Heroes also features a 'powers' system remarkably like its Marvel counterpart, allowing different heroes to use their abilities in exchange for using up their superpower meter, which depletes when a power is used. Use them too much and it will empty, causing your chosen hero to rely solely on their hand-to-hand combat skills until it recharges.
Story wise it's fairly typical comic book fare. A massive evil force unites normally anti-social supervillains into an unsteady alliance with the intention of dominating the planet and the Justice League, comprising of some of the DC universe's most well-known and lesser known characters. Well, some of the Justice League anyway, as there are only eleven heroes to choose from in the entire game, four of whom need to be unlocked. Sure, we have the big names like Superman and Batman, but it would have been nice to have a more varied roster of characters to muck around with. This was part of the appeal of the Legends/Alliance games, as not only did they have all the popular characters, such as Wolverine and Spider-Man, but you also had a few lesser known characters thrown in to add some variety. And trust me, the game needs variety wherever it can get it, as, like most dungeon crawlers, you'll be fighting identical enemies over and over, which gets old fast.
For some reason you're only able to control two characters at a time, which seems too few, especially when for a good portion of the game - almost half in fact - the decision of which characters to use is taken out of your hands. In fact, a lot of the game itself takes decisions out of your hands. Health regenerates by itself, eliminating the need for health pick ups (though a few still appear), and once a hero has been selected it can't be changed. In the Marvel games, if a certain character wasn't working, you could return to a save point and pick a more suitable character for your team. Here, the in-game save points simply save, and that's done automatically as well, making it impossible to create multiple saves during the same game - a practice most RPG players employ.
Luckily, the one thing that isn't automated in the game is customisation. Each hero can be given equipment to make up for areas where they lack. Batman, for example, isn't a powerhouse, but he can be equipped with weapons that can stun a screen full of enemies instantly, allowing him and his partner to deal damage without the threat of retaliation. It's a good system and shows that Snowblind has put some thought into these options.
A pity then that the graphics and audio didn't get the same attention, as the game just doesn't look that impressive. X-Men Legends is over two years old now, yet still looks more impressive than Justice League Heroes. I suppose the problem lies in the fact that while the game is set in a fantastic comic book universe, it just doesn't look like it is. Even The Flash, in his bright red suit, looks rather subdued and fails to stand out in this world. Audibly things aren't much better, with music that fails to stand out and voice acting that seems to be miss-cast, despite the presence of some big names. As much as I respect Ron Perlman as an actor and voice artist (particularly for his role of Hellboy, both in film and animated form), he just doesn't seem right for the voice of the Dark Knight.
All in all Justice League Heroes plays like a game that was developed to try and rival the X-Men Legends/Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, but misses a few points that makes those games fun despite their flaws. While a decent dungeon crawler in its own right, it just feels unimpressive in comparison to its rivals. Unless you must have a DC Comics dungeon crawler, you'd be better off looking at Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
VideoGamer.com Score5 Score out of 10
- A treat for the fans
- Too many limitations
- Combat isn't dynamic enough
- Unimpressive in most areas