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DC Universe Online PS3 Review - -

Gameplay 7.1
Graphics 7.0
Sound 7.3
Value 7.2
Distributor: Sony
Review Date:
Jan 2011
Andrew Bistak


DC Universe Online

I must admit that I was pretty pumped for this game to be released in Australia and it's finally here.  With some great PR from DC Comics and Sony, DC Universe Online has been in development for a considerable amount of time and after some lengthy delays, the game finally got into my grubby little hands after so many cool trailers and press releases.

Upon receiving my review copy, I was ready to jump into the game and start my courageous superhero career but unfortunately I had to wait again. Firstly, my PS3
needed a software upgrade and then the game commenced downloading several gigabytes to patch the game. My heroics would need to wait.

When the patches and upgrades were finally installed, I was finally able to get into one of the most anticipated games of 2010... Just like a DC comic book, the game starts with an amazing cinematic which introduces the player to this super hero universe. With a classic good versus evil storyline, the game commences with the Justice League of America getting their collective hides handed to them. As the villains defeat iconic super heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman but as opposed to defeats, these heroes are actually killed in this alternate future.

Unfortunately for Lex Luthor, his victory is bitter sweet because the mastermind alien, Brainiac commences his invasion on Earth with its heroes dead and with it, mankind is doomed. Luthor does the unthinkable and steals the exobytes from Brainiac in order to travel back to the present day to infect everyday civilians. The technology behind the exobytes will transform these citizens into heroes and villains in order to help stop the deadly invasion by Brainiac. That's the plan... and this is where you come in.
From here, the player needs to create their superhero avatar which includes their appearance, super powers, mentor and which allegiance they will have in the DC Universe. Your mentor (e.g. Superman) will dictate which type of powers are accessible to your character such as a technological advanced hero with gadgets, thanks to Batman or magical based powers, thanks to Wonder Woman's tutelage. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Fate fan, a DC character who has been around since the 40's and I was hoping to use this character as my template into the DC Universe. Could  I do it? Yes but more actually... no, but we'll get to that later.

The character creation tool on the PS3 is a little clunky at best which allows you to choose gender, body shape, appearance and more importantly, your costume. The tool works but it is a little fiddle some due to the limitations of the PS3 controller but does give you a plethora of options when designing your character. Choosing your super powers is fun as well, whether strength based like Superman or how you get from point A to point B such as flying or super speed.

Characters are also fine tuned by not just their super powers but also the gadgets and weapons they have access to which does mimic the traditional MMO experience. As opposed to some other MMO titles, I was quite impressed by the scope of customisation options for your characters which really makes you an individual in this online gaming universe and I have yet to see someone look like my character. Iconic abilities are available after level 10 for classic powers such as super sonic flights and other interesting and fun super abilities. When it comes to basics, when you create your character, they do mirror the traditional MMO classes such as fighter, mage or healer.

Cameos, cameos and more cameos. This game contains more DC comicbook characters than you can poke a stick at. Whether you are visiting Aquaman in the Justice League Watchtower to purchase some mystical artefact for your character or rescuing Zatanna from the nefarious villain Felix Faust, the fan service here is quite unparalleled. Many of the missions that you engage in will see you bumping into familiar DC comic characters and whether it was my character teaming up with Superman or rescuing Zatanna, it does create a sense of connectivity this impressive universe.

Unfortunately some of this connectivity is lost in the massive size of the gaming environment. The first night I played DC Universe online (DCUO), it was like flying through a town that has been devastated by some contagion or Zombie outbreak. Even though you can fly through the majestic streets of Metropolis or the dark and gothic alleys of Gotham City, they are quite underpopulated in terms of NPC citizens. Depending on what time you play, the universe might even be lacking quite a few player characters and thankfully things have gotten better as there are more real players joining everyday.

City designs is another issue with the game. Everything looks a little too perfect and pristine and has this dated feel to it as well. Though there is a great mythology behind this title, quests are pretty much your standard MMO affair. You are given a mission to either defeat an enemy, defeat a set numbers of enemies, rescue someone or recover some kind of artefact then repeat the process. There are however some mini-games that are littered through the game such as speed races or flight races that are kind of cool. It kind of works but doesn't at the same time.

The developers of DCUO also boast that traditional MMO titles are grind fests which force players to spend countless hours of their life searching for experience points as they fight enemy after enemy. DCUO is far more generous and like the Flash, levelling is not a chore and after playing it religiously for a few weeks now, my character is rather powerful for a DC mystic. Although I have been beaten quite a few times by the League of Sin, a group of player characters. Grr...
But in order to embark on missions, you need to fight. In essence, DCUO is a button masher and I do mean that in the literal sense. There are however a variety of combos to use and also power-ups that does mimic the super hero genre well but for the most, I felt like I was just mashing buttons on the controller. If you have played other MMO's before, combat is a little on the easier side, unless you accidentally fly into a lair full of villains and their henchmen which does make things tough. However if you take your time and use your wits, you will be more successful than not. The highlight of combat was accessing your super powers that was actually fun but I always craved for more abilities. Your super power skill trees does allow for some great replay value for other characters but when you are out in the real world fighting crime, you are limited to a set number of superhero powers.
Combat does allow you to team up with other players but then you have to access the socialising facet of the game. Unfortunately on the PS3, communicating with other players is a chore. Using your DualShock controller to type out a message, one key at a time can be excruciating. There are however some set communication menus that lets you choose pre-typed sentences and of course, the social gestures. But this is one game that definitely needs a keyboard if you want to maximise this experience. Voice chat is available but I have yet to meet one player who utilised this.

Player vs Player areas can be a little scary if you're new and joining a group is your best chance of surviving as you unleash your abilities towards your new found foes. From securing mystical artefacts to my favourite, Legends PvP. This allows you to take control of either a superhero or villain base as you try to stop it from being overrun by your enemies. I know it has been done before but seeing some of the iconic places from the comicbooks did put a smile on my face. If you do get "killed", you will flee from the scene and appear in a safe zone until you can fly back to the battle. You are rarely penalised.

Graphically, DCUO is an interesting game. The cutscenes look amazing but some of the cities and areas that you visit have this dated look to it. The music is too generic and lacks that superhero oomph. Voice acting ranges from good (Zatanna) to poor (Wonder Woman) and at times, the sound effects kept on disappearing for me. Another issue with the graphics is that the game suffers from pop-ups. However, I've seen some wonderfully designed characters though and all the official characters do translate well.

Final Thoughts?

I've tried two different characters in DCUO with Superman and Wonder Woman as my mentors and unfortunately I've pretty much seen it all now such as the dark and gloomy streets of Gotham to the clean and bright streets of Metropolis. The cameos in the game are very cool and being a comic fan, it's a true experience to come face to face with these characters to either interact or assist them on a mission. It is easier than most MMO's but for me, something was missing. The characters that you create are too generic and at times when I was flying through the streets, it was like seeing World of Warcraft characters walking around. That shouldn't happen in a superhero game. Then you have the sometimes long loading times and updates that does put a thorn into this game not to mention the monthly membership which should be a little more affordable. For now, DC Universe is a little rough around the edges and hopefully the developers will release additional areas in the upcoming months but for now, my experience was a little less than satisfying.


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