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Justice League at E3!

For weeks, we've been getting screenshots and movies from Warner Brothers Interactive's Justice League Heroes. Through all the hype, the game looked good, but we've been burned before on superhero games. And that's an understatement. Then last week at E3, I sat down with game animator Randall Ng and found more than hope that this game will rock. I found inspiration.

Right off the bat, Ng assured me that every hero has been painstakingly animated. Snowblind Studios knew they did not want to just recycle animations; each move had to be carefully thought out and choreographed.

As a result, each Leaguer has a unique fighting style. Batman, for example, fights like the martial artist he should be, while Superman does not need to be so subtle. Instead, the Man of Steel is an out and out brawler. If you have the Flash punch, however, he strikes twice, as befits the Fastest Man Alive.

"We did limit the characters to their limitations," Ng offered, wanting to make sure that the Justice League in the videogame accurately reflects the Justice League of the comics. So each chapter mission pits specific members against threats, though once you've finished a level, you can go back and mix it up.

Despite what fans might think, Batman probably shouldn't be outside the Watchtower laying into the White Martians. The first time around, Superman and Wonder Woman take on the shape-changing bad guys, who take forms suspiciously like Zauriel. However, you might want to see how the Martian Manhunter or Green Lantern do against them.

The game ventures into Alternate Dimensions, too, against a variety of creatures including the Screaming Hands. Yes, their hands scream, but not necessarily fast enough for Zatanna to turn them into bunnies.

And there Snowblind Studios has done a nice job of fitting game play to the character. Like many games before, players can add and customize new abilities as they gain experience. The little touches, however, make it cool for fans.

Green Lantern gains varying levels of shields and green energy weapons, as both experience and perhaps his own imagination grows. The aforementioned Zatanna develops a variety of spells, all cast by her speaking backwards. Starting out as a somewhat elegant fighter, the Martian Manhunter also learns to shape-shift. And Batman - well, he just kicks butt.

When I asked Ng which character was his favorite, he grew even more enthusiastic. "I'm a big Batman fan!" he laughed almost before I could finish the question. As a kid, Ng wanted to grow up and be Batman. Even into adulthood, he worked on making himself well-rounded in a variety of martial arts, because "…Batman knows a little bit of everything."

To be responsible for animating Batman has been a dream come true. With an almost sheepish tone, Ng admits he would often wake up at 3 in the morning with ideas for new moves, which he would immediately email out to his team.

He took inspiration from everything that got Batman right. Like Christian Bale in Batman Begins, the Batman in the game has a "batswarm" ability, basically a little beacon that he can place that will cause bats to overcome an enemy.

With a sly grin, Ng offers his proudest, perhaps most subtle touch. Batman can throw down a "flashbang" grenade, which temporarily blinds opponents. Most will not notice, but Ng made sure that Batman always covers his own eyes so as not to blind himself.

Thus came the inspirational part. It's always exciting to see a guy actually make his dreams come true. Randall Ng wanted to grow up and be Batman. In a way, he got his wish.

We want a great videogame featuring the Justice League. Thanks to Randall Ng and the rest of the team at Snowblind Studios, it looks like we're going to get our wish.

Derek McCaw

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