Slugging It Out in the DC Universe Online Beta

Immovable Rock vs. Unstoppable Force

The heroes and villains realized within DC’s comic books are some of the most popular and recognizable icons throughout the world. There have been many attempts by various developers to create videogames based on some of the most well-known among these characters, the most obvious being Batman and Superman.

Generally, these projects culminate in less than stellar results, with only a few bright stars shining through. Now, Sony Online Entertainment is gathering all of these heroes and villains and releasing them in one big MMO universe where players will traverse the iconic locations alongside them with their own player made characters. Welcome to “DC Universe Online.”

Being an MMO focused on caped crusaders battling dastardly fiends, it’s only natural to compare “DC Universe Online” to its fellows within the genre, “City of Heroes” and “Champions Online.” Obviously, since it’s in beta, many of the features in “DC Universe Online” can and will change before its retail release. So, the details herein are certainly subject to change, and these impressions are for the PlayStation 3 version of the beta.

First and foremost when loading up the game is character creation. Most of the options are the standard fare one would expect, but with slight twists. Players have the option of choosing a power set such as fire, gadgets or mental.

The selection is somewhat small, though these actually end up being secondary in combat to what you choose as your weapon. Weapon options include bows, dual pistols, hand energy blasts, staves and several variations of bladed weapons; whatever weapon you choose will be your primary form of combat.

Strawman Defense

It’s surprising to see the signature superhuman powers take a backseat to standard weapons, though perhaps it’s because “DC Universe Online” is more action oriented than others within the genre. Battling with your weapon consists of using two buttons, “X” for melee attacks and “▲” for ranged attacks, and combos of the two buttons to perform upgraded combos that are unlocked as you progress through the game.

Power abilities are accessed by holding down either “R2” or “L2” and then pressing the corresponding face button on the power bar. These abilities can be used to stun enemies, call forth NPC helpers or unleash potent superpower attacks. Superpower attacks are devastating but require certain quantities of superpower, which is gained over time during combat.

There are a few other defining choices to make as well. “DC Universe Online” gives the option of being a hero or villain, with PvE and PvP servers available. Players must also choose a superhero/villain mentor who will determine the missions they will undertake and communicate with them over a voice communicator.

Traveling across the sprawling worlds that MMOs offer is a necessity, and “DC Universe Online” offers three options for travel powers to expedite the process: flight, super speed and acrobatics. Finally there is the character’s personality, which initially may seem like an important choice to make, but simply ends up determining the character’s idle stance.

Obviously, being in beta, the developers are working out bugs, glitches and other problems before release. That said, the game is either draining on the PlayStation 3 hardware or the servers are under heavy load — or perhaps both. Pop-in and stuttering is very noticeable, and it takes several seconds to load each menu screen as you scroll through.

The user interface definitely feels like it was dragged over from the PC version, as maneuvering through the menus with a controller can be a frustrating process. This is particularly noticeable when trying to access the party menu to get a team formed and chatting with other players, detracting from the whole MMO experience; my teammate and I were even at a loss how to get our headsets working within the game.

For those who would like to participate in the beta test, simply pre-order the game at any retailer, and then upload a photo of your receipt to the official website. Beta keys aren’t unlimited though, so hurry up and snag your chance at checking out this upcoming game and helping work out the kinks.

Crisis on Infinite Servers

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