Turn your nose up if you will, but as a huge DC fanboy I’ve been massively excited about the release of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. With Arkham Knight not due for another seven months and the chances of a non-2D fighting Justice League game or a decent Marvel game remote this is absolutely the best we have for comic book superhero games for the near future. What makes that fact easier to swallow is that TT Games generally make really great games that are absolutely packed with fan-service. So is LEGO Batman 3 the best they’ve ever done or a complete reinvention of a now predictable formula? Well, read on.
Unlike most of TT Games’ licensed LEGO titles (Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Hobbit etc) their comic book games all tell original stories. They’re never particularly epic but they do their job, which is to create a fun scenario where loads of heroes and villains clash and go to interesting places. LEGO Batman 3 does this well, and there are even a couple of entertaining twists along the way. Basically it starts with Batman discovering an unknown ship approaching Earth, but his investigation is interrupted when Joker, Lex Luthor and a number of other villains invade the Justice League Watchtower satellite. The League goes to retake the Watchtower, but they soon discover that the mysterious ship belongs to Superman villain Brainiac, the cybernetic Collector of Worlds, who plans on adding Earth to his collection.
If you are a DC fanboy like me then no excuses - buy LEGO Batman 3 right this instant. The reason for this is simple: it’s pure, unadulterated, never-ending fan-joy. The story’s fun and frequently amusing, the gameplay I’ll get to, but the depths of the DC universe TT Games delves to is incredible. The crazy attention to detail was what I loved most about this game and the franchise commitment frankly isn’t done better anywhere else. Allow me to give a short list of the things that’ll mean nothing to most people but impressed the hell out of me for pure fanboy glee.
Dex-Starr, the angry Red Lantern cat who wears his Power Ring on his tail. Batman’s Power Suit looks like his Dark Knight Returns Superman-facing armour. Lex Luthor is voiced by Clancy Brown. Daffy Duck as the Green Loontern. Mr Freeze sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ace the Bat-hound, whose tail keeps on hitting his cape. Hold the ‘Switch Character’ button while playing Shazam/Captain Marvel and he yells “Shazam!” and a bolt of lightning transforms him into Billy Batson. Do the same with Superman and he quickly switches to Clark Kent, but do it again and Clark pulls open his shirt to reveal the ‘S’ shield and then pops into a phonebox to change. BAT-COW. Flying as Superman plays his John Williams theme, and flying as Wonder Woman plays her ’70s TV show theme. Then there’s everything to do with the Adam West ’60s show, which this game absolutely celebrates right down to having a poorly covered up moustache on Cesar Romero’s Joker. I could list all day. If you’re a DC Comics fan, as I’ve said twice in this review already and will do again, you have to buy it.
Now let’s talk gameplay. Let’s be honest now, the LEGO series is both in dire need of a complete revamp… and yet possibly still selling well because fans know what to expect. However despite a lot of tweaking the general gameplay hasn’t changed since LEGO Star Wars. Playing as at least two characters in a nearly fixed-camera world, you smash LEGO object to collect credit stubs, solve simple puzzles, and explore levels for secrets. Flying is still far more of a pain than it needs to be, driving is terrible, and the camera frequently doesn’t show enough of the action - oh, and there’s still no online co-op. TT Games may dress it up beautifully, but it’s still basically the same game we’ve played 15 times before.
Flying as Wonder Woman is the best... hang on, is that the new Batman V Superman Batmobile?!
And yet, if I may be hypocritically brutal I might say that TT Games have overcomplicated it a tad this time. Throughout the game there are different types of blocks or objects that require different abilities to deal with. Blue pieces require magnetism, black blocks require shrinking, gold blocks require lasers, silver blocks require blowing up. Solve technical puzzles with tech characters, flying puzzles with flying characters, stealth puzzles with characters that can turn invisible or construct puzzles require one of the various Lantern Corps. Some moments require specific characters (like a muddy patch of ground for Solomon Grundy or special casts for Plastic Man) and other characters have a range of abilities to be discovered.
The problem is that there are over 150 characters in LEGO Batman 3 and absolutely nowhere are you told which characters have what abilities. I want to play as Condiment King, Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow or Kevin Smith, but how do I find out their special powers so I know when they’ll be useful? It simply requires memory and an intimate knowledge of the entire DC universe in comics, TV, film and games (of course the Music Meister can control minds!), which is fun if you know but the younger minds that this game is aimed at will be lost. I played LEGO Batman 3 at a preview event and everyone struggled because there’s just too much to take in and work out, even with the lovely hints all over the place, and especially if you want your younger sibling or child to pick up a pad and join you.
None of which is that much of a problem but it’s certainly something to note, so on to another that’s mostly fine but is undoubtedly a disappointment. After LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel Superheroes boasted a full city packed full of secrets, citizens, missions and the ability to just fly around and have fun, it’s a shock to discover that LEGO Batman 3 has done away with this. Instead of one big hub world there are loads of smaller hubs connected together all based on locations from the DC universe, from well-known places like the Batcave and the Hall of Justice to more obscure ones like Qward and Odym. It’s still loads of fun to explore with plenty to do, but it was far more satisfying to fly around Manhattan as Iron Man, accomplish missions in the “real world” or race through the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile. Vehicles then are rather pointless, as they can only be exclusively used to race with.
Looks familiar... nope, can't place it.
Don’t be too disappointed though, since there is a ridiculous amount of things to do here. By the time I finished the story and had a bit of an explore I’d clocked 14 hours. Every time you complete a level, quest, or have grabbed all the collectibles, you get a gold brick. There are 250 gold bricks in the game, and it took me 20 hours to get 100 of them. Every level has freeplay, 10 Minikits, 3 hidden characters, a Red Block to activate special “cheats”, and an Adam West to save (yes!). In the hub world there are quests (that get unlocked gradually depending on how many Gold Bricks you have), races, Tron-like VR missions (that feel like they’re from a different game), over 150 playable Characters and Vehicles to find, not to mention all the fun little Easter Eggs TT Games has chucked in (why is there a dancing donut on Zamaron?). Then, just to make things even madder, I explored a bit, did a mission for Daffy Duck (yes!) and suddenly the hub world tripled in size and I found I could start exploring whole planets. I still haven’t visited half of them. I’m very grateful to TT Games for including a Map Screen on the menu so I can warp to any location or level with the press of a button. All this before I even bring the co-op into it, although as mentioned still no online. Please join the 21st Century TT, you must realise you have players who can’t sit down next to other friends in the world.
One final note to the DC faithful regarding the extremely tempting Season Pass. There are 6 DLC packs, and the first three you get immediately are ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’, ‘Man of Steel’ and a ‘Batman 75th Anniversary’ celebration hosted by Harley Quinn. All the playable characters you get are superb (Azrael! Heath Ledger’s Joker in that nurse outfit! A huge hulking Dark Knight Returns Batman!), but there’s only one short level for each pack with only one voice actor. Again, it’s great and quite amusing, especially when Russell Crowe’s Jor-El accidentally calls himself “Maximus”, but a “Man of Steel” level where you never play as Superman (it’s all set in the opening on Krypton)? A ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ pack with no levels from Batman Begins or The Dark Knight Rises? And why does Man of Steel feature the real music from the movie but The Dark Knight doesn’t, even though they’re both composed by Hans Zimmer? It’s fun but definitely less spectacular than I’d hoped, so think carefully before you buy - or wait for the Steam Holiday Sale.
LEGO BATMAN 3: BEYOND GOTHAM VERDICT
Seriously DC fans, buy LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. It’s pure DC fan-service in game form. Yes it’s the same old LEGO gameplay and mechanics first pioneered in 2005, but it’s still very addictive. It’s all a lot of fun and never failed to put a smile on my face. It’s definitely a shame TT Games ditched the open world city design, so consequently vehicles are worthless, but the large Super Mario Galaxy-style planets you can visit and the sheer mind-boggling amount of content softens the blow. I had a lot of fun playing it, I’ll probably spend another 30 hours getting 100% everything, and… wait, did Kevin Smith just reference Tim Burton’s failed Superman Lives project? BEST GAME EVER BUY IT NOW.
TOP GAME MOMENT
I’m going to pick flying as Wonder Woman to her ’70s theme song. Then again, playing as ’60s Batman and having onomatopoeic words like ‘Pow!’ and ‘Zoink!’ appear when you hit something is awesome too.
Fan service is amazing, if you're a DC fan you must buy this
Many, many hours of fun, addictive content
Yes, it's still the same LEGO gameplay
No more open world city, which makes vehicles pointless