|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cryptic Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 1, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: MMO||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
There are a ton of thrills to be had in the realm of spandex suits and superpowers, which is why crafting a totally unique superhero and charging head first into the troubled Millennium City in Cryptic Studio's new MMORPG is immediately gratifying. The action-focused heroics in Champions Online are fast, furious, and truly fun. As with any MMO, the game is a constantly evolving work in progress that's still being tweaked and expanded. Comic book fans will find lots to enjoy here, though more work will have to be done before Champions reaches its full potential.
It's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options you're presented with in creating your superhero character. Drowning in choices isn't a bad thing, and Champions ratchets-up character customization to absurd levels. You can tweak colors, body types, individual limbs, faces, costumes, accessories, mutations, and much more using the easy to navigate menu system. There's also an option to shuffle everything at random and pick one of the often hilarious characters the game spits out for you. It's possible to go back and tweak your costume and other features as well after-the-fact, so there's no harm in being a little indecisive. The level of creativity this fosters is almost limitless. Some players have even modeled their heroes after well-known individuals and characters. We fought along side a very compelling Michael Jackson lookalike as well as a burrowing hero that was the spitting image of the xenomorphic creature from Aliens. This just goes to show how versatile the outstanding character creation component of Champions really is.
This extreme level of decision-making possibilities carries over into how you'll shape your hero's powers and areas of expertise as well. 18 different ability frameworks leave a lot of wiggle room to pimp out your hero with a broad range of superpowers and abilities. You can specialize in elemental skills (fire, ice, electricity), tech-heavy skills (gadgeteering, munitions, power armor), physical abilities (dual blades, fighting claws, martial arts) and mental arts (telekinesis, telepathy, force), among others categories.
Each framework has its own subset of specific abilities you can pick from, unlock, and improve, but there's plenty more ways to beef up your hero. It's even possible to customize the look of your power effects (erect a pink force field, shoot neon green eye lasers, etc.). Additionally, quite a few unlockable travel abilities give you some cool options for getting around the game world in style. If that's not enough to chew on, there are three different specializations that let you assemble components and craft different artifacts and items to use. With all this power out there for you to gradually obtain, you'll quickly crave ample opportunities to use it. There's little to worry about in this regard.
Champions favors quick and crazy combat over more deliberate strategizing. It certainly fits the cartoonish atmosphere of the environments you'll adventure and brawl through. All heroes have a weaker default power that can be used at any time in battle. Each successful hit helps boost a stamina meter that's consumed when you use more powerful abilities. It's important to balance more powerful, energy-consuming attacks with these quicker, regenerative jabs to ensure you don't wind up in a tough spot.
From insectoid aliens and irradiated crazies to militant brutes and flying beasts, there's plenty of enemy fodder for you to battle as you seek to help the citizens of Millennium City and dispatch evil in its various incarnations further along in the game. Once you reach a certain level, you get to craft your own super villain nemesis that will stalk you and attempt to thwart your do-goodery at regular intervals. It's a very cool feature. Unfortunately, it takes quite a while to level-up to this point.