Comic book heroes soaring to video games

Good news for comic book fanatics not yet sated by all the superhero flicks this summer: The action is soon coming to a small screen near you.

No, we're not referring to DVD or Blu-ray releases for The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk or Hellboy II— rather, a handful of superhero-size video games based on familiar comic book characters are in the works for this year and next.

The following is a look at four to watch for.

'Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe'

Consider it a battle between two billion-dollar franchises: Midway's Mortal Kombat warriors — such as Scorpion and Sub-Zero — face off against DC Comics' iconic superheroes including Batman and Superman.

Available this fall for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a fighting game that features signature attack styles and special moves, multiple solo and multiplayer game modes and never-before-seen environments.

More importantly for comic book enthusiasts, perhaps, is an intertwining story line penned by the Mortal Kombat creative team in collaboration with celebrated comic book writers Jimmy Palmiotti (Painkiller Jane, Marvel Nights) and Justin Gray (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, JLA Classified).

'DC Universe Online'

Unveiled at the recent E3 Expo, Sony Online Entertainment's DC Universe Online is an action-heavy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) slated for a late 2009 launch on the PlayStation 3 and PC.

You first create a unique superhero or supervillain from scratch — by selecting from hundreds of appearance and ability options — and must progress throughout interactive worlds, such as Gotham City and Metropolis. Depending on your role and the missions you accept, you will befriend the likes of Superman, Flash or Batman — or vow to destroy them.

Jim Lee, a legendary comic book artist who founded DC Comics' popular WildStorm Productions, is serving as a creative director on the project.

A physics-based combat system allows for epic battles that let you use items in your surroundings to inflict damage, such as tossing a bus or streetlights at foes.

'Spider-Man: Web of Shadows'

Set in an apocalyptic New York City, Activision's Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is a nonlinear web-slinging adventure that gives you complete control over the game's direction, including which missions to partake in, what kind of abilities to upgrade, and where the epic battles should take place.

You will also be able to select which Marvel heroes or villains to bond with, and be able to switch between the agile red suit or deadly black suit (as seen in last year's Spider-Man 3 movie). Depending on your actions, New Yorkers will either cheer on their hero or cower in fear.

The game will be out this fall for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. Game-play features will vary between the three versions.

'LEGO Batman: The Videogame'

Following the critically acclaimed and commercially successful LEGO: Star Wars and LEGO: Indiana Jones video games, an all-new adventure starring the Caped Crusader is nearing completion as you read this.

As with its family-friendly predecessors, LEGO Batman: The Videogame from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, fuses the beloved children's building toy with familiar superheroes and villains.

Played from a third-person perspective, you control Batman and Robin in an original story line that has the dynamic duo take on Gotham City's most notorious criminal masterminds including the Joker, Catwoman, the Penguin, the Riddler and Scarecrow.

The game will be available in September for all major consoles and handheld systems.

Other comic book superhero games on the horizon include Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's Watchmen and an unnamed game based on the record-shattering The Dark Knight feature film, along with Activision's Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion and Sega's Iron Man 2, Captain America and Thor.

Contact Marc Saltzman at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.

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