★ ★ ★ ★
Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes
WB Games PS3 (Review Copy) Xbox 360
I'm about to blow up the biggest assumption about those of us who write about video games. I'm not good at every game I play. There, I said it. Sadly it's true. When I tell people I write video game reviews, among the first things said is usually, "Oh, so you must be REALLY good at video games." Well... no. I'm REALLY good at knowing if a game sucks or not, but one look at my Call of Duty kill/death ratio will tell you all you need to know about my l33t skillz d00d. Nowhere is this more evident than when I sit down with my nieces and nephews to play a Lego game. Whether I be a Jedi knight or Indiana fucking Jones – almost without fail – I am the one not necessarily pulling my weight on the various missions. To which I'm treated to a chorus of "Uncle Bryant... THEEEEEERE! GOOO THEEEEEEEERE!" Luckily what's great about being a child is that while they're busy being disappointed in their uncle, they don't have to know that, in my mind, even though I'm having a good time, I'm also having a hard time deciphering the difference between all the Lego games I've played. Well, thankfully, with Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes, there are some new features to add to the familiar gameplay.
The first thing you'll notice about Lego Batman 2 is that, instead of just pantomiming throughout the game, the Lego characters actually speak. Which may actually catch you off-guard initially. Instead of the a character just hamming it up, they ham it up... WITH VOICES. As it goes, newly talking Lex Luthor teams with the Joker to cause mayhem in Gotham City, which Batman and Robin get to clean up. While deciding if the bad guys can posse up – and boy, can they – a handful of DC heroes join the fray (most notably the big Boy Scout himself, Superman).
The story plays out episodically (as it does in previous Lego games), but this time around, if you want to diverge from the story – or have beaten the game, as it's pretty short – Gotham City is a sandbox, with plenty to do within its confines. Of all the added features, this is among the most welcome, supplying a lot more longevity to the game on top of the standard free-play usually offered.
The actual gameplay in Lego Batman 2 remains mostly intact from the previous games, a mixture of combat and puzzle solving, along with Lego building to form the backbone. The AI is pretty bad, which feeds the game's intention to be played co-op. Batman and Robin will once again be using several suits to finish the missions... or you could just be Superman, whose powers make him only about one step above Easy Mode. He will at times need Batman's help to solve a puzzle, but while there may be situations where Batman needs to do several things to pass, Supes just breezes past... as it should be, BECAUSE HE'S SUPERMAN. Yes, about 50 characters are playable, each with different abilities, but most of the non-comics-following set will probably stick to the tried and true. (Not me, though – Green Lantern all day.)
Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes keeps what made the other Lego games successful, and tweaked and improved the parts that may have started to get stale. Decent PG humor, solid gameplay and a lot of real estate to cover make this easily the best Lego adventure yet. | RDW
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
Capcom Xbox 360 (Kinect Required)
When it comes to Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, I got the first inkling of what I was in for when I got a phone call from my girlfriend. I had just turned on the game, and completed the Kinect calibration at the beginning. I was meeting my squad mates for the first time, and was learning the in's and out's of my combat mech. It was here that I had received the phone call, gotten up to change the load of laundry, and when I sat down to play, in my absence, the Kinect had attempted to calibrate TO MY DOG THAT WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH. No matter what I did afterwards, short of resetting, the game would not let me reclaim my role as sole controller of the game.
Keep in mind. I've had the game on 5 minutes.
Things got no better as I tried again. As excited as I was for the opportunity to use the Kinect as a vital part of gameplay, my excitement quickly turned to frustration at the odd choices used for the control scheme. To change your view, you must wave your arms, which anyone with a Kinect would expect, but unfortunately, more often than not, the game would not register my movements correctly. I will openly admit that this may be my fault due to my calibration choices, but no matter how bad my calibration was, the fact that firing requires me to hold the controller while waving my hands, is just a little too much to take. And at certain points, the game even requires you to stand up. I'm lucky, I have a lot of room to fully utilize my Kinect, but for a good number of people who are trying to make due in smaller quarters, this concept goes south really fast. The easy solution would be to just play the game through the controller, but the dogged insistence on using the Kinect proves to be its downfall.
I will say that the story is interesting enough, and while your teammates may be a little one-note. Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor does accomplish one thing surprisingly well. Should any of your squad mates die during a mission, you will actually miss them. Few games get the emotional aspect of losing a teammate in battle, and it's a surprise that it happens here. In fact, that's worth half the star this game has earned. The other half is given on the hope that what was actually a novel idea of using the Kinect in a mech game, is handled much better next time around. | RDW