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Justice League Heroes (PlayStation 2) artwork

Justice League Heroes (PlayStation 2) review

"And that brings up the main reason I love Justice League Heroes: It's not just an excellent superhero game, it's a excellent game. Period."

I dig Justice League Heroes for two reasons.

The most obvious - but not the main - reason is that I'm a comic fan, and, as such, a comic videogame appeals. There's a superhero for every sort of fan; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are recognized the world over, Green Lantern and the Flash are familiar to casual fans, the magic-wielding Zatanna and the Oreo-eating Martian Manhunter get mad respect in close circles. Granted, seven playable characters seems like a poor selection, and it is - until you notice the extras.

Extra heroes, immediately and easily unlocked. Green Arrow, the modern-day Robin Hood. Hal Jordan, the greatest and, some would say, only Green Lantern. Aquaman, King of the Sea and not nearly as lame as most people think he is.

Extra costumes, also immediately and easily unlocked. Wonder Woman in a toga, Batman in his stealth suit, Green Lantern with his afro.

Now we add in classic villains like Gorilla Grodd, Braniac, and Doomsday, we throw in fan favorites like Killer Frost and the Key, we hurl in locales like S.T.A.R labs, Mars, and Apokolips, and we bring it all together for a plot that'd be worth the ink on any comic's page. A winding, twisting tale that puts you up against villain after villain, solving mystery after mystery and question after question , waiting for the perfect moment when the true mastermind is revealed...and then drags the Justice League and the entire planet straight to hell for one ruthless finale.

It's a rocking, righteous deal, but here's the thing: I don't care that much about the Justice League. Sure, sure, Batman is okay, and Wonder Woman is crucial - during her S&M Golden Age phase, anyway. Superman, the Flash, Martian Manhunter...they're all cool on their own way, but as a team they just don't click in my eyes.

And that brings up the main reason I love Justice League Heroes: It's not just an excellent superhero game, it's a excellent game. Period.

Start with the basics. If you've played X-Men Legends, you have a perfect idea of Justice League's basic gameplay; you go from mission to mission, leveling up characters on the fly, strengthening stats and attacks as you see fit. You have your standard melee attacks and your special attacks that can be assigned to simple button combinations. Seamless system. Refined. Veterans pick it up instantly, rookies won't be far behind.

Justice League Heroes only really has two major deviations for the X-Men Legends formula: You can only play as two characters at a time, and each character has fewer attacks to choose from.

Four-player combat would've made it a little too similar to Legends, so I can forgive that. Don't have that many friends, anyway.

Having fewer attack should, by all rights, makes the game less interesting; heroes in Legends had ten attacks at least, heroes in Justice League have about five at most. But Justice League focuses quality over quantity; everyone's powers are recreated faithfully, not a single one of them is useless. Every hero has a place.

Like Zatanna, the League's resident magician. She can't deal much damage and can withstand even less. At first, she seems useless. Then you realize her ability to turn enemies into helpless bunny rabbits for a few seconds is more than just a neat trick: It's an incredibly potent way to take the fight out of a crowd of deadly enemies. Then you realize her Time Shift slows things down long enough for heavy hitters like Superman to deal twice the damage with half the effort. Then you realize that she's the only character in the entire game with a healing ability, capable of bringing her and her partner back to full health at a moment's notice.

Then you realize Zatanna is indispensable.

Superman's heat-vision, super-breath and legendary strength blaze a path, Green Lantern's ring protects him in an impenetrable bubbles or contains his foes in an impenetrable box, even the Flash, who's only real power is 'goes fast', finds variety as he turns into a human hurricane, blowing all threats far away. The game encourages experimentation with each attack's mechanisms, and it rewards that experimentation with higher levels and success; the more enemies you defeat, the more boosts they drop, the more you can use those boosts to power up your heroes without waiting for the level-up.

A good chunk of time is spent on the status screen, tinkering away, deciding which powers worked best for the situation. It pays off. Off hand, I can't think of anything more satisfying than being stuck on Mars with Superman and the Martian Manhunter, constantly killed by the viscious White Martians, reviewing my attacks in desperation for some sign of an edge, and then remembering two crucial facts: 1) White Martians hate fires. 2) Superman has heat vision. After boosting the proper power, the slaughter began.

It was beauty. Pure beauty.

But it brings up an irritating point. See, I was stuck with Superman and the Martian Manhunter; Zatanna's Fire Bolts would've done the job better, Green Lantern would've been better backup, but it wasn't my call. Unlike X-Men Legends, where you had free reign to develop any team you wished, Justice League tells you who's fighting beside who most of the time. There's good reason for this; the game's story incorporates each hero in a unique way, and certain people need to be certain places for story purposes. And while it does ensure that no one hero goes unused; by the end of the game, everyone will be in fine shape. It's just mildly annoying when you want to try out that new Batman skin you bought, but the game is forcing Martian Manhunter down your throat. It's also mildly annoying that, despite most of these heroes being able to soar at the speed of sound, they fly slower than they walk.

I can overlook mild annoyances, though, and here's the final reason: There's love in this game. You can tell the developers didn't just do some basic research to catch up on the DC Universe; they were fans, they knew the material and they knew how to incorporate it in superb style, making a game that impresses on every level you'd expect it to. By the people, for the people, with the people in mind every step of the way.

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (January 16, 2007)

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