New York Comic Con 2014: Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Panel and Hands-On

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With the 75th Anniversary of Batman, Warner Brothers has opened up the vaults and made pretty much everything in the DC Universe available for the latest Lego Batman game. I know what you’re thinking, sure they’ll put all the popular characters that we’ve all seen before into the game, and you know what? They will, but they’re also digging deep. How deep? How about Bat-Cow, because yeah, Bat-Cow is a playable character in the game.

When it comes down to it, the Lego have always been a little off-kilter and more whimsical so adding all the oddball characters into the game turns it into a love letter to Batman on his 75th Anniversary and it gives hard-core fans little room to complain about this character or that character being left out. Lego Batman 2 had fifty playable characters and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham has bumped that up to over one-hundred-fifty. You’ll get Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Joker, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern and everyone else you’d expect, but you’ll also be getting the Sinestro Corps, the Red Lanterns, the Indigo Tribe, Plastic Man, Crypto, Polka-Dot Man, Comdiment King, even Duck Dodgers as Green Loontern?!? The list goes on and on and is sure to surprise pretty much everyone picking up a controller.

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So how does the game play? Very well from the time I spent with it. I sat with Assistant Director Stephen Sharples and we talked and played the game for more than an hour. Clearly, the folks at TT Games are thrilled with the creative freedom they’ve been given and it came across in his enthusiasm in talking about the game. We played through the special 60’s Batman level which is a reward for completing the Story Mode and it’s everything a Batman fan could hope for. The campy style and sets, the BIFF!, POW! word balloons, and the signature Lego humor all combine for a genuinely fun time.

For the main game itself, Brainiac has grown bored with shrinking cities and is now looking to shrink entire planets. The fun begins when he shrinks the Earth and all the Lego cities are reduced to the smaller Lego pieces. With our heroes and villains left unaffected, they suddenly have to work together to set things right again leading to some uncomfortable (and uncomfortably funny) team-ups. This also means we’ll finally get to play as both the heroes and villains in Story Mode and Free Play. Some characters have even received an upgrade with the recent introduction of Big Figures into the Lego games, Killer Croc being the first to benefit.

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Deemed too restrictive, the Suit Signals from Lego Batman 2 are gone. They’ve been replaced by a push of the Triangle button which brings up a Suit Wheel allowing you to instantly select any (unlocked) suit at your disposal. This isn’t for every character, just the ones that made sense. So Batman, Robin, Cyborg, Joker and Lex Luthor will each have eight suits available to unlock. Real people are being incorporated into the game as well this time around with DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, Filmmaker/Podcaster/Geek Legend Kevin Smith and even Conan O’Brien all playing themselves.

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This will also mark the first time a Lego game has included a Season Pass. There will be six DLC packs adding more than forty characters for $15. Each pack will also include a level available for Story and Free Play Modes. The three available at launch will be the Batman 75th Anniversary Pack which focuses on the legacy and history of Batman, The Man of Steel Pack with characters from the recent film on a Krypton level including baby Superman and The Dark Knight Pack which includes the Harvey Dent chase scene, Bane, Catwoman, and Nurse Joker.

The Panel gave us the fourth DLC pack when surprise guest Stephen Amell was introduced. The Green Lantern pack will include the island and a Lego Diggle among others. Amell talked about how he got involved in the game when he asked Geoff Johns, “Can I do this?” and Johns replied, “Will you do this?”. He said that he felt a sense of ownership over the Oliver Queen/Green Arrow character and he didn’t want anyone else playing him. It’s great to see how vested he’s become in the character and how protective he’s become.

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The passion in everyone involved in the project was evident on stage as even massive Batman fan Kevin Smith had a touching story to tell about his part in the game. He spoke about how he had played the Lego Batman games to death with his daughter Harley Quinn Smith when she was younger. When he got the call about being in the game, (and subsequently picked himself up off the floor), he rushed to tell Harley. She was just as excited as he was that he’d get to be in a game series that they enjoyed so much.

The rest of the voice cast is stellar as well, at least the few we were told about. With Adam West, Troy Baker as Batman, Laura Bailey as Wonder Woman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, and Travis Willingham as Superman, it’s clear that both DC and TT Games are working hard to make this the Batman game to end all Batman games.

All in all, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham seems to be where TT Games finally gets to let loose and make a game that includes pretty much everything they ever wanted. It’s looking fantastic and I believe it’s going to raise the bar for what we’ll expect in Lego games from here on out.

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