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DC Universe Online Preview

by on January 7, 2011

DC are one of the most iconic comic book creators in the world and have brought us some of the world’s most popular comic book characters. They have sold a countless number of comics all over the world and played their part in producing some brilliant films, but apart from the stunning Batman: Arkham Asylum, they have yet to leave a proper mark on the gaming world. With the upcoming release of DC Universe Online (DCUO), every DC fan and MMORPG lover will be hoping that is all about to change.

As some of you might know, the DCUO Beta recently closed its doors on the PC and PlayStation 3, just a few days before the official release of the game. If you didn’t manage to get your hands on a precious access code then you are probably dying to know what the game is like, right? Well, fear not citizen, the superheroes at God is a Geek HQ have been playing the Beta and are here to give you the low down on this eagerly anticipated MMORPG. Is it shaping up to be a game worthy of Superman himself or is it all just a bit of a joke? Read on to find out.

N.B. This preview relates to the PlayStation 3 version of the DC Universe Online Beta.

The game starts off with a brilliant opening cinematic, which is set in the future and sees the city of Metropolis laid to waste by an all out battle between the Heroes (Wonder Woman, Batman, the Green Lantern etc) and Villains (Lex Luthor, Joker, Black Adam etc). Things are not looking good for the Heroes as they are getting their asses handed to them, with the Green Lantern being the first to drop. Luckily, after charging up his powers in front of the sun, Superman comes back to earth to dish out the pain. Things start to look up until Batman and Wonder Woman follow in the Lantern’s footsteps. Following all that carnage the battle comes to a dramatic end when Luthor succeeds in destroying Superman with Kryptonite. However, Luthor doesn’t have long to celebrate as the evil mastermind Brainiac fills the Earth’s skies with his warfleet in a bid to take control of our lovely planet.

The scene then shifts to the present-day, where the future Luthor is telling this story of destruction that you have just witnessed to the present-day Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Luthor explains that he was only able to kill Superman because Brainiac had been slowly stealing power from the Earth’s heroes over time. Brainiac intended to use this stolen energy to create an army of metahumans under his control so he could succeed in his conquest of Earth. However, this plan was discarded because Luthor and his allies were able to destroy the Justice League. Luthor explains that he was the only survivor of the war and could do nothing to resist Brainiac’s subjugation of the planet.

Luthor goes onto further explain that he was able to steal the stolen energy from Brainiac’s mother ship in the form of “exobytes”, nanobot-sized devices that can project the energy into a living host. Luthor has traveled into his past to release the exobytes into the atmosphere of present-day Earth. The heroes are outraged, but Luthor explains that because he has done this, soon thousands of new metahumans will be created from ordinary humans. He implores the Justice League to find and train these new metahumans, because Brainiac is coming and the Earth must be ready to succeed where Luthor has failed. As you can tell, this storyline has all the makings of a brilliant DC comic book series and as you progress through the Beta you learn a bit more whilst enjoying various little cinematics that focus on your favorite DC heroes/villains.

Once you get through the cinematic, you then get to create your own superhero or villain. You can choose to base your creation on one of your favorite DC characters or design your own by choosing the gender, size and personality of your superhero or villian. You also have to choose a mentor and following that, depeding on whether you’re a superhero or villain, the game will assign you a corresponding storyline. Next up, you choose your characters main power (fire, gadgets, sorcery etc), weapon of choice (brawler, duel wield, pistols etc) and movement power (flight, acrobatics or super speed). Whatever you choose during the part of the creation process will determine your combat strategy and role in groups. After all that is done, you are free to customise your characters wardrobe, hairstyle, accessories and (most important of all) colour scheme.

There are a quite a few options to choose from, but at first glance it all seems slightly limited. However, as you progress through the game, you obtain many different items which allow you to customise your wardrobe with a bit more freedom. With regards to powers, at first you feel as if there are not enough to choose from, but as you level up your character you obtain skill and power points. These will give you extra abilities for your fighting mechanic, powers and (after you reach a certain level) movement powers and iconic powers (i.e. your favorite characters powers).

Once you have sorted out your character, you first have to escape one of the spaceships under the control of Brainiac, which is a tutorial to get you used to the controls and the main menu. The fighting mechanic is very simple; the square button is your normal attack and triangle is your hard attack. As explained previously, the more you level up, the more moves become available. Also, by holding down the L2 or R2 buttons and pressing the face buttons you use the powers that you obtain as you progress.

Once you escape the ship you then enter the city of Metropolis. It has to be said that the size of Metropolis and Gotham City are absolutely staggering! They are absolutely HUGE! Also, all the buildings are well designed and, more importantly, they have their own unique look. There might be a few similar buildings in these massive cities somewhere, but you will have to look very hard to find them. You do have to wait a while for the city to load up, but once it is loaded, you literally have the entire city at your disposal. By any standards, that is one mighty impressive achievement.

Mission wise there is plenty to do. You have your main missions to go through under the guidance of your mentor as well as side mission involving your favorite characters. Instead of enemies just randomly roaming the streets, they are situated in certain areas of the cities. When a mission comes up, you just go to the area, complete your mission whilst hammering the enemies there and then proceed to the next mission. However, if you want to gain some XP or assist lower level player, you can go back to previous areas you have been to and they will still be there.

If you just want to go around the cities on your own doing missions and saving the day then DCUO will not disappoint. However, the main draw of any MMO is the social aspect and being able to play with other humans across the globe. This is another area where DCUO excels greatly. As you progress through the game you will meet other human players, see their creations and team up with them to tackle a mission or two. In addition to that, you will also be able to join forces and create your own group or “League” so you can play through the game together. Arena and alert missions offer up another rather nice way of playing together with human players. In these mission types you either work together to defeat an enemy or take part in capture the flag style games. There is so much to do and to think, this is just the Beta!

After investing many hours into the game (and on a personal note, having never played a MMORPG before), it must be said, the DCUO Beta was an absolute joy to play. The interesting story combined with the enjoyable gameplay and massive cities filled with content are enough to keep any gamer occupied for hours upon end. There were a few issues at first, mainly relating to random crashes and PSN account sign outs. However, these scenarios decreased in their frequency as the Beta progressed and, of course, it must be taken to account that this is a Beta so some issues were bound to pop up expectedly. We expect these issues to be ironed out in time for the games release on Januray 11th in North America and January 14th in the UK.

Being a MMORPG, after the purchasing the game, you will have to subscribe and pay monthly to play DCUO. This might discourage some people from buying this title, but if you’re a DC enthusiast and/or fan of the genre, this really shouldn’t be an issue. If the full game manages to live up to or surpass the quality content in the Beta, then DCUO should be one damn good MMORPG.

Expect an in-depth review of the full game on GodisaGeek.com soon after the official release of DC Universe Online.