DC Universe Online Beta: Hands-On Preview

You would think a comic superhero’s world would be easy to translate into a decent videogame, but their track record isn’t too good. Only Batman Arkham Asylum and Spiderman 2 have received critical praise, and Superman has appeared in more turkeys than sage and onion stuffing. Warner Bros and Sony hope to remedy that fact with DC Universe Online; an ambitious MMO action game where you create your own superhero or villain, and then battle to save or destroy the DC Universe.

After the huge 15gb download, which thankfully you can do in several sessions rather than all at once, you watch a video that maps out the plot of the tale. The story shows a major battle in the future between the Justice League of superheroes and the supervillains. In the ensuing mayhem most of the heroes and villains are killed, which enables the evil Brainiac to turn up and take over the now defenceless Earth. Lex Luthor is the only survivor, and he travels back in time to warn the Justice League what will happen, and that both hero and villain must work together to stop Brainiac’s evil scheme.

The amount of customisation options to create a character is staggering.

You start the game by creating your own superhero or villain. You can use Superman, Batman, Joker etc as a template, and then alter the look and powers to suit your own taste. We used Superman as our starting point, as we felt flying around Metropolis would be good fun. You also get to choose your mentor from three heroes (Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman) or villains (Joker, Lex Luthor or Circe). We chose Superman again, and were then taken to what was basically a tutorial, inside one of Brainiac’s spaceships. This taught us how to fight and use our powers. After several skirmishes with robots and exploration of the ship, we ended up trying to destroy the ship’s power generator, which would enable us to escape. You are taken through this tutorial by a guide called Oracle, who keeps you informed on what is happening, and what you need to do next. There is also a helpful arrow that you follow, so you know which direction you should be heading in. After destroying the ship’s power supply Superman (or Lex Luthor, if you’re an evil character) turns up and you fight alongside him against an array of enemies. Once these are despatched, you are free to return to Earth. Depending on your mentor, you end up in either Metropolis or Gotham City to start off with.

This could be mistaken for a Lord of the Rings game!

When we got to our headquarters, we were told to go and speak to various characters, who told us what was what in the DC Universe. We then went on our first mission, which was to take out some Gorilla creatures who had invaded the Metropolis boardwalk. Flying around was good fun although it was very slow, and it took us ages to reach our destination. Hopefully this power can be upgraded as we gain experience, as floating along as if you were in a bubble just isn’t the superhero way. Fighting works well, and you have a lock-on which is helpful in the mayhem that occurs. We used an ice power, which was quite satisfying, and we took out the Gorillas with our snowball blast quite effectively.  After completion, we got experience points that enabled us to upgrade our powers. The list is vast, with everything from ice and fire powers to weapons. We chose to upgrade our icy powers, which enabled us to turn into a spiky iceman for a period of time, while dishing out some spectacular melee moves.

Every power that you can imagine is in this game.

The gameplay does start off as a button masher, much like Dynasty Warriors; however, as you unlock combos and extra powers, things get a bit more interesting. The missions we played did feel a tad repetitive however, with players being asked to destroy so many fuel cells, transporters etc, or killing a certain amount of bad guys. We hope that as the game matures, there will be a lot more variety to the mission structure, because as it stands it won’t encourage players to keep levelling up if that is all there is to it. Getting caught up in a major brawl as you are starting out is also not recommended, as more often than not you’ll end up being felled, which forces you back to your base, and another floaty flight back into battle.

We did enjoy our time in DC Universe, but it needs to do a lot more to keep players engrossed, and to keep them forking out their monthly fees on top of the outlay for the game. If you’re an MMO and DC fan, then we’re sure you’ll love DC Universe Online, but Joe Bloggs might take a bit more convincing. We’ll find out if it’s all worth it soon enough, when the game hits the shelves Friday.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!


  1. steven /

    I have to say it first like a bad grinder at first, pretending to be a Gd of War fighting clone. A bad one. But once I started to level up, I got it into it, and started to believe in my character. One of the aspects I liked about it (As with many MMOs) is the way anyone can jump into a fight and help another hero, even if thats not their mission. Once you tag an enemy and hit it you will then share in the XP whoever kills it.

    Also one of the clever things about DC online is that if player ‘A’ picks up a car and throws it down a street, then all people near them WILL see that car fly. It’s nice that environmental stuff is shared across the network too.

    Ive put in a pre-order (which on Game, is going up in price for some reason), will pay through the trial and then hope there is enough in the game over time to encourage me to subscribe. BTW any chance of Sony offering PSN+ subscribers a discount on the subs????

  2. Stephen K /

    This is the sort of game that makes me wonder exactly what it can offer in order to justify an active subscription. Unless it’s very substantial, it seems awfully tempting to just pick up good old Marvel Ultimate Alliance and scratch the Super Hero itch that way.

    Of course, the reason I want to play this particular game is because of the character customization. I could spend hours making goofy and/or rad heroes without actually playing the game!

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