|System: PC, PS3|
|Dev: Sony Online Entertainment|
|Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Release: January 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
Even the death system is improved. Those who read my Cataclysm columns know how furious it made me when I'd walk into the middle of a bunch of enemies, die, and then have to walk right back into the middle of those same enemies to revive my character. Here, you're still sent to the nearest checkpoint/graveyard when you die, but you don't have to find your character to revive him. This isn't perfect -- you still don't lose any progress most of the time, and the punishment still amounts to wasting your time intentionally -- but it had me screaming at my monitor a lot less frequently. If you like playing as a lone wolf, leave WoW and come to this game.
Another aspect that sets DC Universe apart is graphics: The visuals here put World of Warcraft to shame. The opening cutscene is photorealistic, and the in-game graphics are terrific, perfectly capturing the atmosphere of a city under siege. We did notice some pop-in (especially when flying above the town), some bad lip-syncing, and the occasional weak texture, but that didn't detract from the overall experience.
The voice acting is good as well. Many of the characters are voiced by their long-time actors (such as Mark Hamill as the Joker), and most do a great job of drawing you into the story. We haven't been able to confirm whether Catwoman is Kelley Huston or Adrienne Barbeau (who's 65!), but whoever it is did a really sexy job. Perhaps the only issues here are that some of the dialogue clips from low-level characters (street thugs, etc.) are overused, and that some of the lines are cheesy.
The quests are fairly simple and repetitive; typically, a new story development will require that you go to a certain part of town and beat up a certain number of people, or defeat a boss. Other times, you'll have to work your way through an indoor environment, killing everything that gets in your path. Usually, you'll also have to collect some small items from the foes you defeat, and/or perform some sort of menial task along the way. Nonetheless, thanks to the addictive fighting system and the well-told story, the action doesn't get old quickly, so this isn't much of a problem.
Most of the lower-level MMO systems are stolen directly from World of Warcraft. You have to constantly update, repair, and sell your equipment, for example, and your spells take some time to recharge. When you join up with other players, it's called a "league" instead of a "guild." Your health and mana bars look uncannily like the ones in WoW.
Unfortunately, the problem with button-mashing gameplay is that it doesn't translate well to multiplayer. There are player-vs.-player modes in which you can play as your own character (Arena) or a famous one (Legends), but I found PvP action to be relentlessly hectic, so much so that it was actually boring.
I have to end this review, as I do every MMO review, with a caveat: It's early yet, and the quality of an MMO depends on how well it can update its gameplay and maintain a solid player base. However, enough money has been sunk into this project ($50 million) that Sony won't abandon it easily, and the early signs are that it's a terrific game. If you're a fan of action, MMOs, or comic books, and if you're looking to commit a lot of time to a single game, DC Universe Online will not disappoint you.
CCC Freelance Writer