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PlayStation 3 Review: DC Universe Online

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DC Universe Online is an online only role-playing game set within the fictional realm of the DC Universe (in case that wasn’t clear from the game’s  title). You create your own super being and make various choices about who they are and then go off on missions, and as the character is such a huge part of the title, that’s where we’ll begin the review.

The inception of your character kicks off with their gender, a quick choice between male and female. I think they missed a trick by not includfing ‘Robot’ as an option here.

You then proceed to decide your character’s build. Whether your character is of enormous, average, or munchkin proportions does not affect any of their attributes. This, of course, is unrealistic. If you have a seven foot bruiser, he will cause far more damage than a five foot speedster. The builds could (and maybe should) have their own advantages and giving the player a choice which would affect the character’s statistic would have created a greater sense of immersion in the game.

Next up with character creation is superpower.  You decide your character’s specific one from a set list. This has more freedom but is still restricted. You get a choice between fire, ice, mental abilities, sorcery, nature, and gadgets (the latter of which is most certainly not a super power). These abilities give some room for variation, but where’s the ability to walk through walls? Where’s technopathy? Where’s magnetism? The options are good but a revised list could be better. You choose your character’s ‘movement’ — a means of travel to differ from the default casual stroll. Every character in the game can run with superspeed, fly, or perform acrobatics. I understand why it’s necessary to force at least one of these options onto every character — if they don’t move fast then the game would become very dull very quickly. However, it’s not plausible to believe there aren’t any super beings without any of these abilities, especially as there are such individuals in countless comics; the Joker, Bane, Aquaman, and Killer Croc to name a few.

Your final decision in the character creation is whether you want Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman mentoring you if you’re a hero, or Lex Luthor, Circe, or the Joker if you’re a villain. I have no complaint about this option; these are all suitable mentors on account of their being the most famous characters from the DC Universe, and bitter enemies with one another.

The narrative is surprisingly good. The opening scene depicts a battle between famous and infamous DC characters in a gritty future with a catastrophic result. Lex Luthor becomes one of the few surviving characters and finds he lacks the ability to stop Brainiac conquering Earth, using data Brainiac has collected over the years and creating his own meta-human army. Lex Luthor returns to the present day and informs Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Luthor brings back the downloaded meta-human data which explains the sudden surge of new characters (the player-characters). The rest of the game involves following regular hero storylines of thwarting villains or regular villain storylines like beating up cops.

Beyond the character creation issues, I find the gameplay lacking any fundamentally engaging quality. Missions tend to follow a routine: locate a specific area on a map then defeat a set number of enemies and/or destroy specific items (which should be easy to spot as they would only appear in that one area of the map). This is repeated five or six times and then you have a boss fight. Boss fights themselves are unique and do need to be praised — no two boss battles come to mind that were similar and it’s far more fun to face a character you know than the average enemies you face on a mission. I found much more enjoyment in squaring off against Bane, Raven, or even Doctor Psycho compared to the nameless henchmen sprinkled in every corner of the map.   Unfortunately, out of the boss battles there is no originality and after playing the first set of missions found myself increasingly bored.

Character death is also an issue in the title. You need a sense of impending danger to become even a little involved with a game much less fully immersed. Here though, when your character is knocked-out, you respawn not too far away and continue with your mission without any hindrance; it is beyond unexciting.

To be a good game there also needs to be a degree of freedom. Thankfully, DC Universe Online allows you to explore all around the map and you don’t need to be on the set missions to be facing the foes in a specific mission’s location. Flying or speeding around the buildings and all over either Metropolis or Gotham City can be amusing and the ability to explore does allow a greater degree of presence to the player.

DC Universe Online, rather shockingly, is an online game! It promotes socialising with other online players with missions that you can only complete in a team. Impossible-to-defeat-by-yourself opponents include the Minotaur and Bizarro. Better hope you have friends that also have the game. Another more successful way they promote socialising is with ‘Alerts’. You receive a message saying your help is needed elsewhere on the globe. You arrive there with other player-characters and complete a number of missions with them, including an end boss. It’s more effective in terms of socialising as it’s necessary to work together to complete the objectives, but it’s good also as you can spend sometime outside of the two main maps. After spending hours on end in Gotham City and Metropolis, Area 51 is the perfect vacation hot spot.

The concept of DC Universe Online is good, however if more time had been spent on the gameplay it could have been a great game. I wouldn’t recommend buying the game for yourself; if you want a good DC narrative without terrible and frustrating gameplay; you’re better off reading a DC comic.

DC Universe Online is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PC.

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About Kane J. Harrison