Do you have a spare planet Earth's by any chance?
This may seem an odd question to open this review but for anybody who is familiar with the DC Comics Universe, will know that there are besides our Earth, a multitude of alternative Earth's out there.
It's on one of these alternative Earth's that provides the setting for this game. It also provides a very dramatic backdrop for the adventure that follows, using the story lines from DC's rebooting of their Universe (and both Marvel and DC are guilty of doing this multiple times) and using their New 52 story arc's to give meat to the bones of the game.
On one of these alternative Earth's there has been a major catastrophe. The Joker, playing away from the gritty Gotham City, has committed the ultimate crime.
By detonating a nuclear device in the heart of Metropolis, some eight million people have been wiped out, and amongst them is Clark Kent's wife, and unborn child. It's not rocket science to figure out that Superman is not a happy camper, and after tracking down the Joker confronts him face to face.
But Superman, normally the paradigm of fair play and virtue, corners the Joker and despite protestations from this Earth's Batman, kills the Joker. He then proclaims himself as being the leader of the world's super humans. You are either with him or against him, and god help you if you are against him.
This naturally divides the loyalties of the Earth's heroes, and in events that in some way mirror the Marvel Comics Civil War, friends are now turned against one another.
But DC like to play on vast playing grounds, and these events send ripples throughout the multiverse and other Earth's and their own versions of well known heroes soon find themselves at the throats of their counterparts.
As the tale unfolds, you will see Superman arrest his Earth's version of Batman and sentence him to execution. You will see the Joker taking the place of his dead counterpart and not only winning the heart of that Earth's Harley Quinn, but stepping into his shoes as king of the criminal underworld. (It helps that they find a chemical that significantly boosts the Jokers strength, speed, etc.)
You will see many twists and turns to this tale before you reach it's dramatic conclusion. I won't tell you any more, we don't do spoilers here!
Can't we all just get along?
Well the answer to that is obviously no. Soon more than just words are being exchanged, it soon becomes a slug fest. The story progresses in chapters, like Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur, with a different hero starting the chapter, before focus shifts to another.
The game was developed by the company responsible for the Mortal Kombat reboot, and it shows. True, there are no gory, over the top fatalities here, but there are some very devastating powerful attacks unleashed nevertheless. These are powered up by successful attacks and combos, and once the gauge is full, a simple press of the R1 button unleashes chaos.
These attacks can be countered and even blocked but should they connect then they can tip the scales in a fight or even finish one.
There are some truly spectacular attacks here, and some not so spectacular but devastating all the same. The Flash for instance, goes tearing off around the world at maximum speed, returns and delivers a super sonic haymaker and Batman summons the Bat mobile by remote control which performs a driverless hit and run.
I think you get the picture, and I'll leave you to find the rest for yourself.
So you have the main storyline, but you also have the single player arcade mode. Through this each character can level up and gain tokens that can unlock material, and other challenge modes - and these are as varied and as numerous as you could ask for.
From fighting with a poisoned condition that drains your health as you fight, to having to deal with a chain of enemies in a gauntlet match to ...no I'll stop there, again you can find them all out for yourself.
And of course there is the online mode where you and ranked, or randomly picked opponents, can duke it out. This is as smooth as silk and there's no frame rate issues, drop out or lag that I have noticed.
There are other things to look out for as you fight your way through the different modes. Look out for a prompt to press R1 when engaged in a battle, this means part of the background setting can be used as a weapon.
An overhead pipe for instance in Arkham Asylum will blast opponents with a cryogenic blast that will freeze opponents and in Atlantis, you can flood the chamber and sweep your opponent away for a few precious seconds.
Fancy a gamble?
Another factor presents itself in battle, the wager mode. When this is triggered, the screen and action freezes and displays a gauge. A wager is placed by pressing triangle, square or the circle button. Get it right and you can regain health, energy or bonus damage to your next attack (advice, do this and use a combo attack for a more than meaty bonus) that will leave your opponent discombobulated. This is an interesting mode and I admit it confused me at first but you'll soon get used to it and the way it works.
They are not what you may call spectacular, but they capture the feel and look of the comic books they represent very well indeed. To be honest, I think that MK has the edge here but only just.
Costumes are well rendered as are backgrounds, and show damage as the battle ensues.
This where the game shines. Capes ripple with the players movements, hair flows and streams in the breeze. Movements are fluid and smooth, and when characters are hit they react accordingly to the blow and combos unleashed against them.
Like I said there are no Mortal Kombat Fatalities here, but there IS blood that spatters quite authentically. (This can be turned off in the options menu)
Adequate for the game. There are no top names attached to this game. Sadly there is no Mark Hamill providing the voice for the Joker, but whoever does the voice, captures the character very well indeed.
Batman (both versions) are suitably mean and moody, and it's a toss up who comes over as the most pious between Superman and Aquaman. (Aquaman is a king after all!)
Green Arrow has some very nice quips at his disposal. All in all though none of the vocals would win video game Baftas but they are more than up to the task, although I will say that Wonder Woman sounds a little butch to me, or am I the only one who will think that?
The game music is cinematic. Ranging from the dramatic to the truly epic, and I would like to hear this through a home theatre system. The music sets the mood beautifully, from a slightly melancholic theme for Superman, to the moody, dramatic theme you would expect for Batman.
And no, they don't cut corners and just use music from the movies, they have composed an original soundtrack. As a table top role player, I'd love to use the music as background for a super heroic RPG session or two. I like the soundtrack a lot.
Closing the deal.
To sum up, we have a decent solid beat em up game. With it's pleasing visuals, visceral combat and sweeping soundtrack we have a pretty pleasing package as far as I am concerned.
I have seen other review sites where they have beaten up this game and have, in my opinion, been too negative about this title. OK it's no Mortal Kombat, but for me it still can hold it's head up high with pride.
And when you unlock all of those challenges and engaged in online combat mode, the replay value is pretty high. Plus we now have Lobo and Catwoman on offer through DLC (and they promise more) and though it is disappointing they don't feature in the main storyline, it is still a nice addition to the roster (£3.99 for each character, that does not strike me as being too expensive)
So I have played this and have enjoyed it, and I still have quite a lot to discover and unlock for myself.
Give it a go. This is a must for comic book fans (especially for the DC universe) and entertains and excites in equal measure.