back and ready for action once again. After starring in one of the most
notoriously bad games of recent memory on the N64, Superman is trying to
make amends with the gaming public on the PS2 in Superman: Shadow of
Apokolips. Sadly, Shadow of Apokolips is just an average game where
little technical problems ruin the whole experience.
The story in
Superman: Shadow of Apokolips is pretty bland. Darkseid is supplying Lex
Luthor with an endless supply of robots, and they kidnap all of the
scientists in Metropolis. A few thousand laser blasts later and the day
is saved, thanks to Superman.
important element in any superhero game is making sure the heros super
abilities are recreated faithfully. In SOA, most of Supermans abilities
are intact, but none of them really seem all that super. Hes faster
than a speeding bullet, yet enemy rockets can catch up to him with ease.
He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, so long as the building is
below the height restriction of the game. He has super strength,
provided you are standing in the perfect position to pick something up,
otherwise Superman just stands there as you pound the button to make him
pick up a tiny crate. He has X-Ray vision, but it only works on about
three walls in the entire game.
Supermans laser eyes and super breath are the only abilities that
arrived intact. Superman blows, and he blows hard. Great gusts of wind
that can put out fires and blow enemies back. His laser eyes deliver
great energy blasts that take out enemies quickly, or can become a slow
steady beam for when you want to set stuff on fire. Of course, Superman
can pretty much fly anywhere and everywhere, so at least they got that
right. Superman can also fly into enemies and objects at great speed,
and it is this ability that provided me the most offense.
off putting regarding Supermans abilities in SOA is that you can only
use them a few times before your ability meter runs out. Yes, Superman
is now limited in his use of the powers that we thought were bottomless.
You can only use the laser eye beams three or four times before the
meter runs out and you have to recharge; you can only fly at super speed
for a few seconds before Supermans mojo runs out. When the ability
meter runs out, you have to chill for a little bit while it recharges
and then its off into battle again. Your health bar will also slowly
recharge after you take damage, but having to wait around for your
health and ability meters to recharge simply ruins the otherwise fast
pace of the game.
There are a
ton of different levels split between a handful of different
environments. You start off soaring high above Metropolis, but the game
quickly shifts to a dam, then to Lexcorp, then its off to an
underground nuclear reactor--and that is just the beginning of the game.
The mission objectives at each of these locations boil down to three
things: Rescue scientists, carry object A to point B, and destroy all of
the enemies. There are some different objectives thrown in, but the game
becomes rather repetitive as you complete the same objectives over and
over. The only missions that really stand out in my mind are when you
have to use stealth as you guide Clark Kent into Lex Luthors
laboratory. The only other missions that stand out are the ones where
you have to do a "Test of Strength". This test of strength requires you
to rapidly push the X button to help Superman push things around. It is
fair to say that I absolutely hate these tests of strength and wish
great harm to anyone that would cause my fingers so much pain. Most of
the other levels are the same three objectives over and over again and
get boring rather quickly. Along the way youll do battle with Metallo,
Livewire, and Parasite. These battles can be tackled in a few different
ways, including taking advantage of the environment to deal the
deathblow rather quickly, but they dont really succeed in breaking up
the monotony of the other levels.
Superman: Shadow of Apokolips looks almost identical to the animated
series. Whether or not you like this ultra simple, ultra bland style of
animation is up to you, but it is recreated perfectly here. The
animations for Superman himself are perhaps the most noteworthy aspect
of the graphics. As he flies around, one arm is tucked by his side as
the other one is stretched out in front. When he turns, fans will giggle
with glee as his arm shifts up and down, just as Superman fans have come
to expect. Also impressive is how Supermans cape billows around him
freely in the wind, yet manages to never get in the way. These little
details on Superman himself only make the environments look even more
stale. Cars and tanks are just blocky piles of polygons with no texture
detail whatsoever. There is very little detail on the walls as well,
whether you are inside a building or in a dark cave. This just makes the
whole environment repetitive, and it can be quite easy to get lost due
to the lack of distinguishing landmarks.
The sound in
SOA is everything one should expect from a game based on an animated
series. The same heroic orchestral themes make up the music while all of
the voice actors from the series make up the dialogue. The gangs all
here, even Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The sound effects do a pretty good
job of giving Supermans punches the right thud and his X-Ray vision the
right sci-fi sound.
downfall of SOA is found in all of the little technical problems that
add up to one big mess. First off, the load times can be measured in
minutes rather than seconds. Even worse is that when you die or fail a
mission, the whole level has to load again so you wind up spending a lot
of time looking at loading screens. Take one look at the lengthy section
of the manual titled "How to Fail" and you know youre in for a bumpy
ride. One glitch I experienced several times was the game freezing up
completely. One place in particular was when I failed to save some
scientists and a screen came up saying "Failed to protect scientists"
and froze there about four times in a row. Also aggravating is the fact
that Superman can become trapped on walls, crates, enemies, and just
about everything else in the game and the only thing you can do about it
is to restart your PS2 and wait through the agonizingly long load times
again. These glitches only make the game even harder than it already is,
and it is already quite difficult--to say the least.
tragic about Superman: Shadow of Apokolips is that the first couple of
levels are actually really fun. I was completely drawn in by the way the
game looked and I really felt like I was Superman as I soared above
Metropolis in the first level. Everything felt right and at that point I
was thinking that I would give Superman a decent score. A few levels
into the game, the glitches started showing up and the game started
freezing and everything started to become repetitive. It seems as if the
developers simply stopped caring about halfway through the game and
half-assed it from there. I really wanted to like it, but there are just
too many problems to ignore. The moral of the story is to not judge a
book by its cover or a game by its first few levels.
Shadow of Apokolips is far from a horrible game and probably stands as
the best Superman game ever. It isnt a great game either, however, and
just screams, "Im average" at every turn. Repetitive gameplay, less
than super superpowers, and glitches galore spoil what otherwise could
have been a lot of fun. Superman fans will probably like it quite a bit,
and adventure fans will find some enjoyment from it. Give it a rental
first and see what you think. At the very least you can rest assured
that its better than Superman 64.