While I never really collected comics, my exposure to the superhero universe came from various animated series and movies I've watched all my life. DC heroes like Superman, Batman or the Flash are universally know. The most recent series, Justice League Unlimited seemed to have a much deeper plot and mature tone over past Justice League cartoons so it helped reawaken my superhero addiction. I wasn't aware of this game for a while, and now as its value has tumbled I decided to finally pick it up and play since I still watch reruns of the series - although this game is in no way modeled after that show which contributed to me getting it so late. While the game is fun, there are many weak qualities and aspects that really could have been improved upon to make this game more memorable.
Based on a lot of comments and reviews online, I assumed this would be the DC equivalent of Marvel's popular X-Men Legends or Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. Unfortunately, the Marvel games were far more enjoyable to me.
Alright, let's focus on the best aspect of the game - the story. Brainiac is back and recruiting various supervillains to do his bidding as the Justice League is dispatched to stop them and try to figure out his grand scheme. Its executed very well and the voice actors are excellent however I was disappointed they used new ones as opposed to the ones from the animated series. I don't want to give too much away and spoil it if someone out there plans to get this game so I'll move on in the review.
In terms of graphics, its really not all that impressive. Cutscenes are CGI but the characters seem a bit too stiff. The females look like they've overdosed on growth hormones. Wonder Woman looks like a pro wrestler and her face is very
masculine as well. The Flash is scrawny but everyone else is ripped. 3D is nice and all, but I personally would rather DC and Marvel consider hand drawn animations like you see in Japanese games.
Gameplay-wise you simply go from one stage to the next with a couple cutscene that moves the story on to the next mission. Stages are relatively boring in design. Each stage introduces new enemies however there's only 2 or 3 so there's really little diversity as hordes of bad guys surround you. You're only using 2 characters per mission, which sucks because the Marvel games let you take 4. For the first 5 mission, you're not even allowed to choose your duo. Characters also have no special functions in the game. In X-Men Legends, you'd need a character like Iceman to build bridges from one place to another. In this you're just running through the level and occasionally flipping switches and things.
Characters like Superman can fly, but that's pretty useless too. Plus everyone moves pretty slow. There are 2 attack buttons which you can execute various combo chains from. You also can use numerous special skills like Superman's ice
breath or the Martian Manhunter's transformation by holding down L1 then a shape button.
Some stages are really dark and characters with dark colored outfits are practically invisible. Aside from the white blur you see when they punch or kick, you're basically blind unless you use someone bright like Superman or someone who glows like a Green Lantern.
After running through a stage and fighting a mob of villains, you're rewarded with a brief cutscene before the boss match. During the fight there may even be a timed special condition like having a minute or so to flip switches in the
boss arena while the fight is going on. The instructions are a bit vague but once you figure out what you're supposed to do, its pretty basic. Battles aren't that challenging and as you earn experience and level up, you can strengthen
parameters like health or strengthen skills and acquire new ones.
There is a "boost" item system. While fighting, you pick up low level boosts and by fusing 3 lower level boosts, you create a higher level boost. Boosts range from level 1 to 6. These boosts can be attached to stats and moves to enhance
them further. Its a little confusing at first but with some trial and error you can pick it up pretty quickly.
One aspect I really don't like is that this game automatically saves during play when you pass by a checkpoint. While its convenient and also revives your fallen partner, if you were experimenting by boosting a certain stat or trying out a move, you'd be stuck with the changes if it turned out to be a bad choice.
Scattered through each stage are shields, the money in this game. You can purchase a few new characters like Huntress, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl or a few other Green Lanterns. You can also get alternate costumes. The prices are pretty
ridiculous considering that the game isn't very long. There are cheat codes you can use to unlock everything, and I think most people will take advantage of it and just punch the codes in on the controller to avoid the stress. You can also
view various trailers for DC animations and all the CGI vids you saw while playing.
Beating the game unlocks a higher difficulty setting which may motivate you to replay and carry over your characters to strengthen them more. The game also allows 2 players to play so that might help if you have siblings. In the Marvel
games, you can hit a button to summon your team to you if you're being surrounded. In JLH, the a/i does what it wants - you just pick if it should be normal, defensive or aggressive.
So in conclusion, JLH is a beat 'em up with RPG elements that DC fans may enjoy but it falls short on expectations and freedom like in the Marvel games. I'd love to see a sequel with improvements and more characters. For now though, this
game is getting older and losing value so you can ignore it, wait for it to drop further in price, or just borrow or rent it. Its fun to be the DC heroes but I think you'd enjoy the Marvel games of the same genre much more.