Let’s face it, Lego is bigger than it ever has been. I guess it is difficult to say whether the Lego games were spawned due to the increasing popularity of the brand or whether the Lego brand has grown because of the success and wide audience the games have helped create and capture.
2014 gave us Lego The Hobbit, The Lego Movie: The Videogame and the most recent addition to the franchise – Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Every Lego game has taken something from the previous title to help build (pun intended) a bigger and better game for the next outing. A great example of this is the transition from Lego Batman 2 to Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Elements which were created during Lego Batman 2 helped craft the incredible world and massive roster of Lego inspired super heroes and super villains for Lego Marvel (with a little help from Lego Lord of the Rings which was released in between the two). With Lego Marvel Super Heroes being maybe one of the best Marvel Super Heroes games released in recent years, it was time to use this fantastic build (pun intended (again)) for the DC Comics universe and the finished product is something fantastic.
The games plot revolves around Brainiac who intends to acquire the power of the Lantern rings to shrink planets across the galaxy, starting with Earth (of course!). The plot is nothing award winning, fairly straight forward and at times runs a little thin as it progresses but for what the game lacks in narrative quality, it more than makes up for in charm and content. With the addition of big figures, we now have some fantastic versions of Killer Croc, Solomon Grundy and Bane can finally transform in to the venom powered behemoth that makes him a formidable force for Batman. The rich and varied super abilities also mean an amazing roster of characters, some of which many people will never have heard of before but will be an amazing sight to behold for DC fans or those that had the pleasure of seeing the Justice League Animated Series some years ago.
Obscure characters who will be relatively unknown to many such as The Question, Etrigan The Demon and Vibe, are joined by characters which have had some exposure in recent TV, animated series and movie ventures such as Green Arrow, Deathstroke, Miss Martian and Deadshot who all help to pack out a monster roster of colourful characters, but that’s not to say some pointless characters and the usual joke inclusions haven’t made their way on to the list either.
With such an expansive roster, there are plenty of characters that you will be excited to unlock and play as but there is a down side which I will explain shortly. The story progresses with a team of villains breaking in to the Hall of Justice with the aim of infiltrating the orbiting Watch tower to take control of the Binary fusion cannon to hold the world for ransom. Of course, said villains run in to a few members of the Justice League and the usual Good vs Evil battles ensue. As the story progresses, the heroes and villains are forced to work together across the galaxy to defeat Brainiac with alternating characters being available to complete each level.
As in Lego Batman and Lego Batman 2, Batman and Robin can change their suits to give them different abilities which help to tackle certain obstacles of the level. The transition between suits has been refined in this latest instalment and switching between suits has never been better. Holding a button will bring up your character wheel which will allow you to switch between all of the suits your character has unlocked on your journey rather than having to find the out of place suit change spots which were located in various places across the levels of the previous Lego Batman games. This new selection method is a great feature but unfortunately one that is over used which brings us back to my original statement of the downside of the games expansive roster.
Batman and Robin are now joined by a few other characters who can transform their suits to give them various abilities. This may not seem like such a bad thing but when playing previous Lego games, Freeplay mode would be the time that you played as various characters you have unlocked or purchased with your hard earned stud collecting, for you to overcome the hurdles that you simply couldn’t do with only one characters set abilities. This time around this sadly isn’t the case. The best example I can give you of this is the character of Cyborg. Cyborg has seen an increase in exposure and popularity since his appearance in the Cartoon Network Teen Titans cartoon some years ago and it is only right that this overlooked character gets an inclusion in this game. With all of his amazing abilities at his disposal, the Lego version takes full advantage of this and also gives him the ability to change his suit. This makes sense but sadly this does mean that you rarely need to use another character once you have unlocked him.
Cyborg is able to transform in to a huge minifigure for interacting with large figure panels, use his laser eye to destroy gold bricks, use a magnet suit for moving blue magnetic bricks, explosive suit for destroying silver bricks, fly and even turn in to a washing machine (good old Lego game humour) as a stealth suit so as not to be seen. These kind of abilities bound to one character beg the question of why do you need all of these other characters and what is the hurry to unlock them when a character such as Cyborg can render all other 140+ characters redundant? I guess it is nice to see what some of these beloved characters would like in Lego form but it is sad that many do not even get a mention or a cameo in the game’s story or side quests and simply are there for you to select, have a little run around with until you realise that you need another character.
As the story progresses I began to realise that I would play the rest of the game switching between this limited set band of Heroes and Villains until the story is complete. I believe that this is a missed opportunity to further introduce an audience to DC characters that are not as well-known as the characters you control during the story and I can’t help but wonder why the developers over at TT games did not think to adopt a similar approach used during Lego Marvel where the story encompasses the entire Universe of characters and connects them all in to one seamless story, rather than focusing on one particular group of characters.
With all of this said, the team at TT clearly have a lot of love and respect for the DC universe with every single corner completely packed out with content. As previously mentioned, perhaps not all of it is capitalised on, but you can’t help but smile when you see Lego versions of Beast Boy, Deadshot and Red Hood with all of their likenesses and abilities beautifully captured and brought to life.
One particular addition I loved was Solomon Grundy. The raging undead behemoth is not only full of the charm you would expect from the Justice League Animated Series, but is also used in a way I did not expect. I figured the inclusion of Solomon Grundy would be simply for raw strength similar to that of The Hulk in Lego Marvel but this is not the case as he is able to interact with new soil patches scattered around the game. Standing Grundy on these patches causes the patch to come to life as vines tangle around Grundy and pull the undead character back in to the soil as he struggles against the force below him. While under the ground, Grundy will toss up useless, buried junk such as bike frames and washing machines until he finds an item which will help you on your quest. He tosses this to the surface before he will eject himself from the patch to re-join your team.
This is the kind of passion for the source material that I have come to love from the Lego games developers and you can’t help but take your hat off to such great game direction and design. Other touches include the Wonder Woman’s 60’s TV series theme song playing while she flies and as in Lego Batman 2, the famous John Williams Superman theme playing while Superman takes to the skies.
The release of the game also coincides with Batman’s 75th anniversary and there is plenty of nod’s to 75 years of history of the caped crusader with a 60’s TV themed Batman bonus level and plenty of different versions of Batman through the years. These include an Adam West Batman with the hilarious abilities you would expect such as a large bomb and pulling out a large magnifying glass when looking for clues. But perhaps the best touch is the iconic “Boom!” bubbles and sound effects when in combat or destroying Lego items.
Other versions of Batman include Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns where Batman is obviously a large minifigure to reflect the art style from the book and even a Batman by Gaslight version from the popular one-shot comic of the same name where Batman is set during the 19th century on the hunt for Jack the Ripper. Another little nod that I feel I must add is the under construction Batmobile from the upcoming Batman Arkham Knight! Go find it in the Batcave if you haven’t already noticed it! As with all Lego games, there is plenty to keep every completionist busy for hours with the usual character tokens, vehicle tokens, red bricks, gold bricks and the new Adam West in Peril which can be found in each level.
Unlike Lego Hobbit, Lord of the Rings or Marvel, this game does not feature a large free exploring world for you to explore. This time, TT have opted for various hub worlds for you to explore. Hub worlds take you from the Batcave, The Hall of Justice, The Watchtower and the Lantern worlds. This is a nice touch and helps break things up in to easier to manage chunks rather than a single massive world which can make you feel overwhelmed by the possibilities on where to even start. The change from one large world to smaller hub worlds does have a trade-off however. Rather than one big area which is full of life and character, we now have a selection of small hubs, all of which feel a little quiet and desolate. Places such as The Hall of Justice would have benefitted from a larger area full of tourists and civilians and The Watchtower being populated by workers and perhaps some heroes that did not make the playable character’s list. Where this issue becomes most noticeable however is in the Lantern Worlds. These worlds can be of a fair size and there is plenty to crack on with but these worlds become overly repetitive as you complete side missions for the over used Green Loontern (A Daffy Duck version of Green Lantern… Yeah, Seriously). These planets would have benefitted from an actual character who exists rather than a goof character which simply mocks the source material. What also does not help to alleviate these issues is just how lifeless these worlds are as you fly around from objective to objective.
The Green Lantern world Oa is perhaps the biggest victim to this. This world is large and open and focuses mainly on race related quests and it is on this world and this world only where you can use all of the vehicles you have unlocked. This is a huge waste and missed opportunity once more as there are no enemies or helpless civilian vehicles for you to plough your way through and with so many amazing vehicles such as the 1989 Tim Burton Batmobile, The Batpod from The Dark Knight Trilogy and the Adam West Batmobile to use, it begs the question why the minds over at TT would want to only place these amazing Lego constructed additions on a deserted planet with nothing to interact with.
One can’t help but feel as though the game would be better off with 2 or 3 medium sized cities to explore such as Gotham, Metropolis and Central City or Star City (home of The Flash and Green Arrow respectively). With populated areas, this could have helped to make your side quests feel more filled with purpose and made racing through the city and skies in the multitude of unlockable vehicles all the more enjoyable.
For those that have given some thought to the Season Pass content should seriously consider purchasing this great pack.
For £14.99 you get 6 DLC levels of which The Dark Knight pack, The Man of Steel pack, The Batman 75th Anniversary pack and the most recent release Arrow pack are available so far. As the title suggests, each pack focuses on a particular setting from the DC Universe and unlock various characters related to that scenario.
The first is a 75th Anniversary level which sees Joker and Harley Quinn crashing a party being thrown in Batman’s honour. The level is filled with fun nods to the 60’s TV series and the silver age comics such as the classic Adam West Bat-dance and the comic book versions of The Batmobile and the Jokermobile! The level is fun and feels like more of an expansion the Adam West level from the main game but many will find the highlight of the level the chance to play as Harley Quinn.
The next is the Man of Steel Pack which takes place on Krypton during the beginning of the Zack Snyder film of the same name. Jor-El must get back to his lab to send baby Kal-El (Superman) to Earth from the safety of the planets impending doom. This level is relatively straight forward but very fun with the amazing Hans Zimmer soundtrack from the film present in the background, helping to make your task feel even more epic as you battle Michael Shannon’s sinister Zod and his loyal followers such as Faora.
The 3rd pack is The Dark Knight pack which takes place during the second film of the Christopher Nolan Trilogy as you take control of Heath Ledger’s Joker (who is dressed as the nurse in the film for some strange reason, I would have much preferred to see him in his purple suit that he custom made!) Who is trying to destroy the SWAT van which is transporting Harvey Dent who is under arrest for posing as the Batman! The second half of the level switches control to Batman and Commissioner Gordon in his Gary Oldman appearance from the film as you attempt to free Harvey from his crashed SWAT vehicle. As a serious lover of this film, I did expect more from this pack and was slightly disappointed and found it odd that the Hans Zimmer Dark Knight theme was not used as background music to help place you in the film further as with the Man of Steel pack. With so many amazing scenes from the Dark knight trilogy, it seems a shame that this scene was under used and feels like a missed opportunity for something truly memorable.
The fourth is the Arrow pack based on the hit TV series Arrow starring Stephen Amell who reprises his role of Oliver Queen and does an amazing job doing so. Stephen Amell embraces the Lego humour with fantastically dead pan perfection and narrates the level which is set on the island alongside stranded island resident Slade Wilson as you battle your way to the enemy camp to destroy their weapons as seen in season one of the show. Stephen Amell’s voice work and the great theme tune from the show playing in the background help you to fully immerse yourself in TT’s vision of Arrow in Lego form and all of which help to make this the best DLC pack available through the Season pack to date.
Lego Batman 3 is an extraordinary celebration of the world of DC Comics and has more fan service nods than any Lego game to date.
Although the game has the usual fun factor you have come to expect from the Lego series and I found myself addicted beyond all measure (as usual!) but I could not help but feel a sense of: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Some of the changes that have been implanted here are not necessarily for the better such as the removal of one large exploration zone for your side quests and the multi-use and the addition of so many transforming characters which render a fantastic roster to nothing more than a fleeting sightseeing project rather than a quest to unlock a character you need to complete your free play and side quest endeavours.
You will get plenty of hours’ worth of gameplay for your money in Lego Batman 3 which is truly a rare thing in the games market these days and the game cannot help but leave not only a smile on your face but a sense of appreciation for not just Batman, but the DC universe as a whole, unfortunately this only makes some of the games short comings all the more frustrating. Lego Batman 3 is a Lego game that demands a play and does an amazing job with a universe that is only just beginning to blossom but as a DC Comics fan more than a Marvel fan, it pains me to say this… You may enjoy Lego Marvel more…