I played the Champions closed beta only until level 4 or so in the introduction instance.
Likes: Amazingly deep character creator (spent an hour making my demonic transdimensional warhawk enhanced by cybernetics), immense versatility with powers (picked sorcery/life-tapping melee hybrid), public quests, and fun combat that feels heroic.
Dislikes: Performance wasn't so hot on my sweet gaming rig (e.g., lag and command responsiveness) and the intro area was full of the same 'ol gameplay that you'll find in a dozen other MMOs (I hear it gets better though).
Wanted to test but didn't: PvP. I think it has a lot of potential given the variety of power-sets and travel abilities.
I went into this beta expecting City of Heroes 2, because that's what everyone kept telling me. I really enjoyed City of Heroes, so this wasn't going to deter me from playing. With that in mind, I did make many parallels between the two, but Champions just kept coming out on top. I love the art style, I love the character creation process and I absolutely adore the travel powers. At E3 this year I said Champions was the game of the show for me. I don't completely feel that way any more, as there are other games that have grabbed my attention more since then. I wasn't impressed with the starting area at all, but I did have more fun later on. Despite that experience, looking back, my favorite part of the game is still character creation. I won't be subbing right away, but that's mainly because I'm not as engrossed into the superhero genre as some of my colleagues. Maybe in a few months.
Likes: Customization, plethora of power sets, great animations, fun voice acting, lack of servers means everyone can play together
Dislikes: Standard starting zone MMO blues, but yes it gets MUCH better after that. Optimization is indeed an issue, although my so-so gaming rig actually handles the game pretty well at 1680x1050 at medium settings.
Overall, Champions Online delivers a lot of what Cryptic promised, especially when it comes to improved customization and combat that's more engaging. While some may decry the combat for being too familiar, I think that's its strong point. The game is most definitely a next generation superhero MMO, and if you don't like that then go and play one of the many fantasy alternatives on the market.
I can't shake the overwhelming feeling that I'm basically playing City of Heroes 2 – and that's a good thing. I see all sorts of points of commonality, from character design, even to the way the graphics modes are initialized. And all of this is taken further, with fun generously poured in on the top. It does a good job of making my character feel super. Far less heavily instanced than CoH, it might be a bit under-instanced, as players madly pile onto limited numbers of open-map quest targets. It's genuinely grabbed me, and I wasn't expecting that. It might be time to retarget my monthly subscription spend.