DCU: One Year Later

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It feels like Iíve been covering DC Universe Online forever. I took a quick look when it was first announced and spent the better part of an hour playing through multiple character builds during E3 2009. This year, I was able to spend a little more time with a rebuilt version of the game and now I canít wait for the final build.

Compared to last year, DC Universe Online feels like a completely different game. Last yearís build felt like an MMO still in the early stages of production. Missions didnít work right and everything felt stiff. In other words, it felt like an MMO. This year, I came away with a completely different take. The game looks better and provided an incredibly stable experience, but what really stuck out was that the game didnít feel like an MMO at all. It felt like an action-packed, single-player superhero game.

Missions are broken up into segments called Episodes. The E3 2010 episode involved the Joker and his gal Friday, Harley Quinn, held up in the Amusement Mile park with plans to gas Gotham with Joker gas. Batman and Robin were called in, but Robin was captured. Your job is get into the facility, foil the Jokerís plan and rescue Robin.

Gameplay is incredibly fast. I tend to stay far away from MMOs simply because I canít stand the current ďhit the button and keep swingingĒ mechanic. DC Universe Online has more of an action feel to it. You can pull off a number of combos using the attack buttons, or activate special abilities by pressing either of the shoulder buttons and a corresponding button. Hitting (R1) opens up the four abilities on the right side of the abilities bar, while hitting (L1) opens up the left side. Itís a slick interface and works well in battle.

After working my way through the park, I came face-to-face with Harley Quinn, who was already occupied with the Gotham PD. I immediately jumped into the fray, unleashing all of my characterís electricity-based powers. Soon I found myself in the middle of a huge battle between Gothamís finest, the Jokerís goon squad and a overly-happy Harley, who merrily skipped around the area tossing out taunts and taking potshots with her mallet.

Defeating Harley earned my hero a Jim Lee illustrated cut scene depicting his continued adventures and a special upgrade for his costume. I really like the way SOE is handling player-created characters and armor. Rather than give players items that resemble iconic DC costumes, theyíre crafting a number of really cool looking parts. Though some parts (and colors) are associated with powers, thereís a clean split between the two. The idea is to offer enough variety and flexibility to encourage players to create something of their own design rather than server full of Batman, Flash and Green Lantern clones.

However, the game will include special armor sets bearing traits of classic heroes. As you play through the game, thereís a good chance youíll end up saving Metropolis and Gotham more times than youíll care to count. As a special reward, heroes will bestow you with unique armor sets. Superman will give players the ďArmor of El,Ē which looks like a cross between Steelís armor and the crystalline walls of the Fortress of Solitude. Also on display was Batmanís armor, which resembles a beefier version of the Batman Beyond costume.

No matter how many times I see it, DC Universe Online continues to impress. Thankfully, the previews end this November.

STAT BOX
Product
DC Universe Online
Company
Sony Online Entertainment
Date
06/25/2010