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Superman: Shadow of Apokolips Review
game: Superman: Shadow of Apokolips
three star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Infogrames/Atari
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Oct 20th, 2002
last revision: 07:48 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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Superman is 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.

The most important element in any superhero game is making sure the hero\'s super abilities are recreated faithfully. In SOA, most of Superman\'s abilities are intact, but none of them really seem all that super. He\'s 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.

It seems Superman\'s 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.

Even more off putting regarding Superman\'s 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 Superman\'s mojo runs out. When the ability meter runs out, you have to chill for a little bit while it recharges and then it\'s 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 it\'s 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 Luthor\'s 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 you\'ll 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 don\'t really succeed in breaking up the monotony of the other levels.

Graphically, 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 Superman\'s 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 gang\'s all here, even Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The sound effects do a pretty good job of giving Superman\'s punches the right thud and his X-Ray vision the right sci-fi sound.

The major 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 you\'re 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.

What is 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.

Superman: Shadow of Apokolips is far from a horrible game and probably stands as the best Superman game ever. It isn\'t a great game either, however, and just screams, \"I\'m 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 it\'s better than Superman 64.