Review by Ferio
"Fun, but far from perfect"
I would be wonderful if you could play this game without comparing it to the X-Men Legends games or the upcoming Marvel Ultimate Alliance, but unfortunately that's impossible, given how close its release date is to the latter. That said, Justice League Heroes is a fun game for comic fans and fans of Action RPGs in general, but the lack of polishing, missing elements, lack of length makes it clear this game was rushed to completion, which, unfortunately hindered its quality. This game has gotten a lot of bad reviews, but make no mistake: this game IS fun to play and I don't regret my purchase of it at all. However, there are some big, big problems with the game.
The colors are nice and bright, the particle effects are fun to look at, and the characters are all well-animated. There's a variety of unlockable costumes for most characters, all of which look nice and have small extra effects (for example, in Wonder Woman's "biker style" costume, she has less energy but gains more experience). The cinematics are well rendered, but there was one thing that irked me. Every so often, the lines in Wonder Woman's face made her look old or ugly. It's really a minor thing, since it doesn't always look that way, but seeing that Diana is supposed to be one of the most beautiful Women in the DCU, it would have been nice to see them pay a little more attention. The camera angles often prevent you from getting the best view of all the pretty graphics, but that's a limitation of the genre in all honesty.
The music is unremarkable, but appropriate most of the time. The voice acting is actually quite good for the most part, the notable exception being The Key, who sounds like he was a bad guy from a cartoon in the 80s. Unacceptable. The characters all have their own signature quips during missions, as well as comments they make on the mission's progress. Even the unlockable characters (who are otherwise forgotten as far as the storyline goes) chime in on the progress of missions. A few of the quotes are a little ridiculous though. After you hear Superman chant "Man of Steel!" for the nine millionth time, you'll get sick of it.
Ok, a disclaimer here: This game IS fun to play, but there are problems with it. Quite a few of them. These problems don't make the game unplayable or bad to play, but they're there and they're difficult to ignore.
Now, first the good: Yes, it's fun smashing robots with Superman and Batman. This game does capture the spirit of the Superhero genre very well. Since it will be inevitably compared to XML and MUA, I'll address some of those comparisons. First off, you have two heroes instead of four. The positive trade off to this is that the game has a slightly slower, more deliberate pace than the XML games did, making strategy more of an issue than the chaotic battles of XML. If you try to rush in, powers blazing and barely aiming, you will die after the first level, even on easy mode.
The cast includes seven immediately playable characters, with six unlockables, two of the unlockables basically just being one of the initial characters with a different model (so really, four unlockables.) The cast is smaller than XML or MUA, but on the flipside, most of the characters are relatively well balanced while still all having a specific playstyle. You can't play Flash the same way you play Superman. Heck, you can't even play Wonder Woman the same way you'd play Superman. Learning to use each character is a necessity, especially since you'll have to play as all of the Core Seven at least twice, most of them more. The characters have less powers than they did in XML 2, but almost all of the powers are actually useful, and none of them seemed to be glitched *coughcough Energy Fury coughcough*. The decision to have a smaller cast with fewer powers ended up working out for the game. A few of the powers could have used more fine tuning though. Several of the melee powers are difficult to aim, and a couple of them just aren't useful, particularly Wonder Woman's Lasso Spin, which can't be used in areas where there isn't enough room to swing the enemy around, which is a good portion of the game.
The boss fights are fun, very few of them are straightforward, but most of them aren't unnecessarily gimicky. I would have liked it if they had emphasized the "civilian rescue" element of it even more than they did. After all, in some comic battles, the League has to expend just as much effort keeping innocents out of the crossfire as they do putting the hurting on the bad guys.
The character customization is somewhat similar to that of City of Heroes, with combinable power-ups that you can use to upgrade your powers in specific ways, in addition to them being advanced on level-up. For example, you can upgrade the duration of Flash's Speed Force power up, so he stays in speed-up mode longer, or you can decrease the energy cost so he can activate it more often, or you could put in a speed power up so he's faster when he's using it. Each level in a power opens up a new slot, so the degree of customization is pretty impressive.
Now...the bad. It's clear the game was rushed to completion, in large part due to the length. The later levels feel shorter and more repetitive. I'm absolutely sure there was meant to be more levels. The fact that Batman says "we'll split into three teams" and you end up playing ONE team for that section is enough of an indication. One of the rumors floating around is that the game "punishes" you for playing as the unlockable characters. This is true, to a point. The unlockables are only available for between 60 and 70% of the game, most of it being in the middle section. While the unlockables start with several level up points, it generally won't be equal with the characters you've been playing, most of whom will have been on several missions by that point. This marginalizes the unlockables, since you won't be able to use them as often as the main seven characters. There is a small tradeoff to this, as it gives the game a tighter narrative than the XML games, particularly XML 2, but that doesn't really make up for marginalizing cool characters like Huntress and Green Arrow.
The game also locks up at odd times, at one point for me it froze entirely. Not excusable. While the game is quite short, it is fairly difficult, so beating it is rewarding in terms of effort, if not time spent on it.
Aside from playing again on a harder difficulty and unlocking more stuff, the only replayability comes from playing different characters for certain missions, but considering you can only select what character you're playing for certain missions, that's not all that much of an appeal. But still, it's a fun game, so why not play it again a few times?
This game is fun to play, but it could have been so much better if more effort had gone into it. When will developers learn that rushing games to completion is never a good idea? KOTOR 2 should have been a lesson to every developer. Unfortunately, Snowblind didn't get that memo.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/23/06
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