Justice League Heroes Hands-On

Warner Bros. Interactive stops by the GameSpot office to show off the latest build of its DC Comics-inspired action RPG.

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Currently scheduled for release in North America next month, Justice League Heroes is an action role-playing game in which the titular DC Comics superheroes are tasked with saving the world from the evil forces of Brainiac. The game can be played either solo or cooperatively with a friend, and we recently had an opportunity to check out both options--not to mention a number of different levels and playable characters--when Warner Bros. Interactive paid us a visit.

Dozens of different superheroes have joined the Justice League team since it was founded in the late 1950s, and seven of its most recognizable members will be available for you to play with from the outset: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Zatanna. All of the characters have their own unique superhero powers, and as you progress through the game you'll not only gain additional powers, but you'll also be able to develop those already in your arsenal using experience points and "boost" pickups from fallen enemies. Furthermore, there will be a number of additional playable characters to unlock in Justice League Heroes, although Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Hawkgirl are the only three that WB Interactive has confirmed to date.

Although all of the superheroes in Justice League Heroes play quite differently, there are a number of controls and gameplay features that are consistent regardless of which hero you're playing as. The heads-up display, for example, features a health bar (which restores automatically over time), an energy bar that's used to fuel your superpowers, and a "heroic meter." The heroic meter goes up every time you hurt an opponent but takes a hit whenever you sustain damage. As the meter fills up you'll find that your moves become more powerful, so it's a decent incentive for you to put your chosen hero's block move to good use. Punches, kicks, and double-jumps can be used by all of the heroes in the game, but their implementation varies quite considerably. Superman will fly after you double-press the jump button, for example, while Batman will glide using his cape.

Superpowers are accessed by holding down the left shoulder button, at which point a small diagram appears on the screen to let you know which five abilities you currently have mapped to the five superpower buttons. Many of the superpowers that we got to play around with today won't be available from the outset, so consider this a spoiler warning if you don't want to know about some of the powers that you'll be using later in the game.

Each superhero has a unique arsenal of recognizable moves and powers.
Each superhero has a unique arsenal of recognizable moves and powers.

The first two superheroes that we got to see in action were Superman and Batman, who were battling "assault bots" in the financial district of a city. Superman's most memorable moves included setting fire to enemies at a distance with his thermal vision and turning them into blocks of ice with his frost breath so that they could then be shattered with a few well-placed punches. With his incredible strength, the Man of Steel was also able to wield lampposts and cars like baseball bats, using them to swat enemies as if they were flies. Batman's martial arts skills were complemented by his abilities to throw batarangs, to summon a swarm of bats, to temporarily stun enemies with flashbangs, and to pull enemies toward him (or himself toward objects) using a grapple claw.

Flash and Green Lantern were next up in our demonstration, battling with extra-dimensional creatures inside a Siberian submarine pen. Flash's powers include a supersonic evade that made it almost impossible for enemies to hit him, a pinball attack with which he could bounce off and hit several enemies in quick succession, and the ability to move so fast that he can actually pass through certain objects. Green Lantern's solid-light-based abilities, on the other hand, lend themselves to a crowd control role, and include placing detention boxes around enemies, throwing plasma-bolt projectiles, hitting enemies with a giant sledgehammer or a pair of grinders, and shielding friendly targets from harm with a protection dome.

The third double act on our agenda was Wonder Woman and Zatanna. While playing as Zatanna our favorite abilities were undoubtedly the area-of-effect powers that allowed us to slow down time or turn all nearby enemies into bunny rabbits. The WB Interactive representative who was playing as Wonder Woman at the time took great delight in grabbing said bunnies with Wonder Woman's lasso of truth before swinging them violently around the screen. The final two superheroes that we got to spend some time with were Martian Manhunter and the unlockable Aquaman. Martian Manhunter's most notable ability appeared to be transforming into a powerful alien form with elongated limbs, while Aquaman (he's the version with a hand made of living water) can turn his liquid prosthetic into a number of different objects, including a shield and the Sword of Atlantis.

As mentioned earlier, Justice League Heroes can be played either solo or cooperatively with a friend. Regardless of how you're playing, there will always be two superheroes in action simultaneously, and when playing alone you'll be able to switch between them at any time. If you're being accompanied by a CPU-controlled partner, you'll be able to influence their behavior to some extent by switching between aggressive, neutral, and defensive behavior using the directional pad. Another interesting feature is the ability to decide what percentages of the experience for every kill go to which character--the default setting sees 70 percent of the experience going to the dealer of the killing blow, but if you're playing with a less-experienced partner, for example, you might choose to make it an even 50/50 split so that you can both level up at the same rate as you progress.

Your character choices will vary according to the level.
Your character choices will vary according to the level.

Perhaps the only feature of Justice League Heroes that we were a little disappointed to hear about during our demo, at least initially, is the fact that you won't be able to simply choose your favorite superhero and play as them for the duration. The game quite deliberately forces you to mix and match your pairings, not only through its storyline, but through environments such as outer space, where it's only possible to use flying characters like Superman and Wonder Woman. We desperately wanted to take Batman up there, but on reflection it's probably for the best that we weren't able to.

Though we saw quite a lot of Justice League Heroes during our demonstration, Warner Bros Interactive is still playing its cards pretty close to its chest as far as a lot of the game's unlockable content is concerned. We know that there are more playable characters in the game, and we know that the shields we were collecting from slain enemies can be used to purchase alternate uniforms (some of them with alternate ability sets) for the heroes. We look forward to bringing you more information on all of this stuff as soon as it becomes available.

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