Landing in the lobby of Gotham's East End police station gave me the first opportunity to sample the full user interface -- but first I had to snap a photo with Commissioner Gordan
. Say cheese, guys! I don't know whether it's because it makes things easier for the PS3 users or it was just me, but the user interface seems a bit big and clunky. I do have a PS3 controller that I plugged in at a later date, and the UI still seemed a bit off, but I'm not a big console player. I felt the UI just took up too much space, especially for a game that relies so heavily on button combos. I will keep in mind that the game is still in beta, and usually the UI is one of the last things that is perfected before launch. I will assume this is still being heavily worked on.
This is probably a good place to mention that the social aspects of the game appear to be a bit broken. At one point on another character, I teamed up with Krystalle
. We could speak in group chat fine, but coordination with my character via direct messaging was nearly impossible. My character had two names, and the "/tell" command seemed to only work for characters with a single name. I could send a message to her and she could "/r" to reply to me, but she could not initiate the conversation.
Continuing on the adventure... Oracle was still using voiceover, which I was quite impressed with. Usually, by this point in an MMO, if the game were still using VO in the tutorial, we would be into quest-text territory, but the game developers decided to continue to use voice talent to propel the story. I found this extremely immersing, even if they still had temporary voices in some areas.
That reminds me of something I found funny, but please, understand that this will probably not be in the final product. After Oracle gave me a tour of the East End station/safe house, she told me to speak to Officer Doak and said that "he" would have a mission for me. The minimap had the usual exclamation point over Officer Doak's location, and so did the clearly female police officer. I spoke to the officer, who sounded very female, about Scarecrow's antics, and she told me to find out what Scarecrow was up to. I was about to run out to the city proper, but I accidentally held the action key (E) instead of the move forward key (W), so I spoke to the officer again. Apparently, Officer Doak was transgendered and hadn't perfected her vocal coaching to sound female all the time. She clearly sounded male the second time. I commend SOE for being so progressive.
The voiceover continued with Batman speaking to me via communicator pop-out from the minimap. Again, I am going to commend (seriously this time) SOE on the lengths its development team went to to maintain immersion. I do not think there is a more appropriate voice actor to portray Batman than Kevin Conroy
. He mastered the Caped Crusader's deep dominating tones in Batman: The Animated Series
and subsequent animated films. I was extremely glad to hear him speak to me in comms.
The next couple of legs of the mission were pretty typical MMO missions of defeat 10 thugs, collect five items, or destroy seven things. The difference here is that the combat itself was very action-oriented. As I clicked on a button or button combo, my character performed the action instantly, so I believe the first few missions were more to familiarize the player with how the game works.
One very interesting concept is the idea of physically picking up objects and carrying them to another location. The third leg of the Scarecrow mission focused on this. The HAZMAT team was containing the Scarecrow's fear gas, and it was my job to defend one of the HAZMAT workers until he had time to contain the gas. As an added mechanic, when he was finished working, he would ask me to lift the tank and carry it to the HAZMAT station just outside the area's parameter. This required me to lift the object and carry it through a hostile area. There was the very real chance that I would drop the container because an NPC would attack me.
This is probably a good place to mention the locations. As you can probably see from the screenshots, Gotham City is a real work of art. It is immense. It literally spans miles. Well, literally spans virtual miles. There are also points of interest that any fanboy will absolutely eat up, like the one my character is standing in above. I stumbled onto this location just outside the HAZMAT area where I was carrying the containers. Crime Alley is the place where the parents of millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne were killed by some random criminal. Batman drops roses in this location to help remind him why he does what he does and to remember that is it possible to make Gotham a better place.
In each safehouse, Booster Gold
has kiosks that grant tour missions. Each one of these level-appropriate guided tours takes you to all the important places around Gotham City and Metropolis while the tour guide gives humorous commentary about himself and the various locations.
My next trip took me into the sewers of Gotham to rescue Batwoman and face off against the Scarecrow and his hallucinations. Most of the details of this battle were seen when Chris Cao ran through this instance at NYCC
, but nothing really compares to actually playing through it. The whole instance seems to never stop. The voiceover from Scarecrow and Batwoman give you story-driven instruction on what is coming next and how to overcome it. Following my heroic victory over the Scarecrow, a short animated comic played, one that featured original work from comic book penciler and DCUO
Art Director Jim Lee
Overall, I am quite impressed with the game. In a part of the gaming industry in which you pretty much get the same game with a different skin, I commend SOE for stepping outside the box to make an immersing action-packed game. I can truly see why SOE wants to release this game on a console at the same time as on the PC. It feels like a fun meld of a console platform/action game and the multiplayer MMO environment.
The game still needs some work before I would call it polished -- especially in the social aspects of the game -- but that will not stop me from recommending it to some of my friends. And it will definitely not stop me from saving the earth from Brainiac and other criminals who would seek to thwart truth and justice.