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City of Heroes: Special DVD Edition

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NC Soft
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: MMO
Genre: MMORPG/ Online


Graphics & Sound:

Look at any MMO on the market and youíre likely to get one of two things: a fantasy-themed world where elves skip through the magical meadows while slaying trolls or a war-torn, futuristic world teeming with technology and guns-for-hire. City of Heroes makes a break from the typical and tries something new: the action-packed world of superheroes.

Visually, City of Heroes is more about style than actual poly-count. Character designs are a little more varied and realistic than in other stylized MMOs (such as World of Warcraft), and still manage to hold onto a comic book feel. The visual side of the character creation process is very good and allows for lots of variety. In fact, the system is so good that some people have managed to make characters that look so close to trademarked superheroes that itís drawn the ire of comic book companies.

NPC characters are just as varied as those created by players. Youíre sure to come across a few clones during your adventures, but thereís much more to see, keeping staleness from setting in. Special effects and lighting compliment the gameís visuals. Powers look impressive and even the most basic of powers can put on a brilliant light show.

Environments are varied and retain a single cohesiveness. Each area is scattered with little details and have their own style. At the same time, the transitions between areas keep the overall feel of the game. Thereís never a point in the game where youíre left wondering why an area feels completely out of place.

Ambient noises help to sell the experience. When I logged into the game for the first time, I was amazed with just how much life seemed to be going on around me. Itís fortunate the ambient sounds are good because youíll hear them a lot. Music is one of the gameís weak points since there really isnít enough of it. Other sound effects, like super powers, also make you feel like youíre in a living comic book.


Gameplay:

At one point in our life or another, each of us has wanted to be a superhero. Whether you were running around the house with a blanket securely fastened around your neck with a safety pin, or were answering the question ďIf you could have any power...Ē for one of those internet quizzes, the thought has crossed your mind. City of Heroes allows players to don a cape and rescue Paragon City from the clutches of villains.

You begin your adventure as a rookie superhero. The character creation process may seem limited at first glance, but allows for a wide variety of combinations -- allowing you to build your super-powered alter ego nearly any way you want. Heroes all fit within a set grouping of character types. Scrappers are your fighters while Tankers can take massive amounts of damage. Other types include Controllers, Blasters, and Defenders. The types are pretty self-explanatory and serve as the basis of your hero.

After selecting a type, you have to choose your origin. Were you born with your powers or are they the result of an experiment gone wrong? Are you a tech head or just a normal guy with an amazing I.Q.? Once your type and origins are set in place, you get to choose your powers and abilities. Which powers you can choose are determined by your style and origins, and they are limited in the beginning. As you progress through the game, youíll be able to learn new skills or upgrade your existing ones.

When youíve finalized your hero, itís time to move out into the world. Your adventure begins in a tutorial area that will get you acquainted with the game. After completing these quests, you can move on to the gameís newbie areas and start making a name for yourself.

Contacts are your main source of quests. Starting missions are small, but as you gain their trust, youíll be charged with harder missions. Each contact specializes in different criminal organizations. Some will have information on the Skulls or Hellions, two of the biggest gangs in Paragon City, while others will know about the Circle of Thorns, a cult. Missions are mostly set up to aid in both solo and team play. Taking a mission by yourself results in fewer enemies, while large groups generate larger groups. Missions are randomly generated, allowing for players to game with their friends without worrying about other players spoiling their fun.

Thereís no real loot or money system in the game, at least not in a traditional sense. Youíll sometimes loot objects that give you power enhancements or short boosts, but thatís the extent of things. Instead, youíll gain influence points that help to establish your heroís reputation.

City of Heroes sucks you in immediately. Thereís always something to do and very little downtime between adventures. The game doesnít quite facilitate limited play time like World of Warcraft, but at the same time, you never feel like youíre wasting your time, even during short play times. One of the more impressive things about the game is the dedication the developers have to keeping the game fresh. Updates seem to come in at a regular basis and always offer something just a little different to do, creating one of the most dynamic setups Iíve ever seen in an MMO.

City of Heroes also allows for life beyond maxing out your character. After hitting the level cap, you can unlock special character classes, offering more powerful abilities. These not only allow older players the opportunity to experience content they may not have been able to at lower levels, but they also add playtime. Players can also accept other players as sidekicks, which is a great way to help lower-level friends or meet new people.

Special in-game goodies, like a cape, are available to players who get the Special DVD Edition, as well as some out-of-game goodies like a Limited Edition HeroClix figure of Statesman and a comic book.


Difficulty:

City of Heroes comes with the same difficulty issues as any MMO. Venturing into areas that are too far above your level will spell instant death, resulting in a much harder experience than if you stay in areas that are more your speed. Grouping with other players is, of course, suggested since it will benefit you in the long run and keep you alive longer.

The death penalty is set up to be punishing, but not brutally punishing. Death results in a loss of experience points, which go into your experience debt. What makes the system workable is that you still gain experience after death; half goes to pay off the debt while the other goes towards your progress.


Game Mechanics:

City of Heroes sticks to what I consider the standard action game setup. Movement is handled by pressing the WASD configuration used in most FPSs (or third-person action games). The mouse controls the camera and allows you to perform other actions. All powers and other game functions are handled via the keyboard. The setup is fully customizable, offering flexibility to suit any playerís needs. All of the information screens are smartly laid out. Everything is right where you need it to be and easy to access.

Lag was rarely an issue during my playtime. There were a few hiccups, but nothing that made the game unplayable.

City of Heroes is strong enough to stand up against the best of the MMO genre and unique enough that it doesnít get lost in the shuffle. Best of all, it offers players the chance to finally live out their childhood fantasies and finally take off the safety-pin fastened blanket from around their necks.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/2000/ME/XP, P4 1.7 GHz or equivalent, 512 MB RAM, 16X CD-ROM, 64 MB VRAM, DirectX 9.0
 

Test System:



Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, Radeon 9100 128 MB, 40 Gig HD, 640 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c

Sony PlayStation 2 NFL Street 2 Windows Hearts of Iron II

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated