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Review: DC Universe Online

I jumped at the opportunity when the question arose as to who would like to review DC Universe Online(DCUO). I have been playing MMO games since way back when World of Warcraft didn’t even exist. I’ve played Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Neocron 1 & 2, Eve Online, the short lived APB and several others as well. The first MMO on the PlayStation platform that came out at exactly the same time that the PC version came out was one I had to play.

I came home after a stressfull monday only to find a mysterious package in the mail. DC Universe Online had arrived. Within the package I found a nice leather bound map featuring villains on one side and heroes on the other. Included are two discs, a game disc and a disc with promotional stuff. I popped in the disc and it asked me to redeem the voucher code.

After booting the disc I’m welcomed to download v1.03 which entails a staggering 10GB. As if that itself isn’t enough, another 3GB download starts after the installation of the initial 10 GB. Thank god for 30 Mbits/s Cable or I would have been up all night waiting for this download to finish 🙂

Finally the game boots. I choose a PvP server and start making my first DCUO Avatar. The first choice you’ll have to make is whether you want to battle evil or be evil. In every RPG game I’ve ever played I have always been the holy-always-do-good type of guy. This time it won’t be any different. I choose Hero and start configuring my very own superhero “Mr Niceguy”. Mr Niceguy is a hero of the flying type who likes to kill his adversaries with his fists and by throwing ice picks in their eyes.

After carefully picking my new hero’s wardrobe I started up the game for real. The game drops the new players right into the action with a fast paced tutorial level. You are trapped on the new arch enemy Brainiac’s ship and need to break out. The tutorial lays out the basic controls and holds your hand along the way out. After completing the level my new superhero Mr Niceguy had reached level 3.

Once outside the game holds your hand and points you to the next mission marker, a bit like Saints Row 2 does. All the action is fast paced and at least at these lower levels you don’t really die, but you get worn out and need to flee the battlefield. After reaching level 5 my first session came to a stop after my wife reminded me I promised to put our baby to bath, which I forgot. That means that the addiction levels are spot on. My social life will have known that I’m playing this game.

Something totally different that I noticed is that there isn’t much going on on chat channels. Chatting is implemented as in PlayStaiton Home. A big keyboard comes to the front where you can type your sentence word for word, well actually letter per letter. This is in my opinion a real drag and seeing that the game is action packed, it’s an ideal time to get ganked as well.

In my following sessions I explored what team play can do for your game experience. When each of the team is on a mission it is really fun. The funniest part being that you can’t predict who the person you team up with is and how he or she is like. I teamed up with one guy from Manchester who was burping, singing (out of key) and from time to time ranting about bugs he found. In real life I would have run away from this person, however in-game I found it quiet entertaining.

It was then that I first tasted PvP in the game, it hasn’t been the last time either. Especially when you are grouped or when several hero’s are in the neighborhood it is common for the heroes to go after the villains and vice versa. On one occasion I just postponed one of my missions because there were to many villains around. It seems that both camps are required in the same hunting areas, only the bad guys have other orders then the good guys.

There are several kinds of missions to be run, going from sightseeing tours, to single player missions, to raids (group missions) and arena’s. Most of the special missions which are amongst others the raids, alerts and arena are initialized from the menu. You’ll be queued up to enter an instance and when it’s ready you can go and play it. The main heroes are Superman, Wonder woman and Batman. Each of their hometowns is in the game. All single player missions are located in this world.

A typical mission starts with a hero in need of your help. You start slowly with taking out some minions and searching for clues. Not that you really have to do anything besides bashing your DualShock3 controller. After the first area you move to a second, a third and as finale you have to enter a separate dungeon. After fighting your way through the dungeon it is time to save a hero and together you beat the villain that captured your hero friend in the first place. Typically the boss will spawn minions that you have to fight before his invulnerability field drops so you can bash him. After four to five waves you slay the boss and you’ll be shown some exclusive DC comic animation. Job well done, now it is time to hit the safe house and read your mail and receive your mission reward from the hero you just saved.

The safe houses for heroes are the police departments scattered over the world. Each police department has a transporter to the space base of the heroes. There you can remap your skills, hang out and do some side missions. You’ll also be able to transport to any police department from the space station.

So far the contents of the game. Lets have a look at the technical side of things. In general the game plays fluent and the graphics are on par with what you can expect from such a title. The in game menu’s are very intuitive. There are however some downsides too. The in game menu’s are prone to lag. In general you have to wait about a second before the next window pops up. I’ve found the connection to the game server to be unstable, especially when a player idles around. When the connection drops the game informs you that a connection with the PlayStation Network is needed in order to play. I checked and I wasn’t disconnected from the PlayStation Network. I know that it is a minor detail, but I still found it strange.

During my playtime I had one game freeze where the only thing I could do was reboot my PlayStation 3. During game play one can notice the lag on the mini map. Luckily WB Games and SOE opted to prioritize the targets on the map. This ensures that you can see the villains before spotting the hordes of NPC characters.

The game itself plays like a good action bash’em up. It did keep my attention span for a couple of weeks where I would invest as much of my free time that I could spare. Unfortunately the lack of inter player interaction meant that players are generally pushed to perform the single player missions, which become pretty repetitive after a while.

  • Move to area
  • Find NPC for side quest
  • Bash away
  • Repeat about 3 times
  • Go to boss den

Even with a great variety in enemies, bashing is bashing and if you have to repeat the above the whole time the game gets dull. Unless you don’t mind paying the subscription fee and just play it on and off whenever there is a gap within the release schedule of your favorite future games.

A final point of grief is the downloads and installs necessary for this game. As reported in the beginning of the article I had to download gigabytes of data to update my client. Now while writing this article I’m updating to version 1.05 and again I have to download about 2 Gb? The game told me initially that the update would only be 121 Mb. I can’t believe that the bug fixes in this patch alone account to 2 Gb of data. So I’m left wondering why I have to do such a big install.

To summarize it’s a fun game if you’re a DC fan of the first hour and love to mindlessly bash on buttons the whole time. It’s an enjoyable game if you like to play it on and off now and again, but then you have to cancel and resubscribe when you feel like playing the game. For most players however it is a title that is fun to play for about a month and then let it go and move on to greener pastures.

[review pros=”DC Lore
Atmosphere” cons=”Huge Downloads/Installs
You feel so lonely in game
Lack of depth” score=65]

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of DC Universe Online provided by Sony Online Entertainment.

* A copy of DC Universe Online was provided to by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe for reviewing purposes. The game was played on the PvP server “Absolute Power”. The character has been played for a month and is currently level 17. Unlocked content was played as much as possible. Most of the game is tested on version 1.04. Version 1.05 was downloaded during the writing of this review