But as an experience, DCUO (as it's been labeled in the acronym-loving MMO community) is more Aquaman than Superman. The game is buggy, and even with sizable updates already released and more on the way, I've still experienced multiple freezes, almost constant sound issues, terrible menu lag, and lots and lots of UI and gameplay frustrations. DCUO is a respectable MMO, but the console version is far from being an ideal way to play it.
%Gallery-108233% The game's at its best when letting you just live in the storied DC Universe, fighting with and against many of the comic' classic characters. Rather than selecting from the standard "race" options for created characters, players instead choose "mentors" from among the DC icons -- Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman oversee the Tech, Meta and Magic hero types; while Joker, Lex Luthor and Circe handle those responsibilities for villains. Mentors not only influence the abilities players can access, but they determine the starting area and the heroes and villains you'll interact with as you play.
Things start well enough with an excellent expository cinematic (in short: "exobytes" have been unleashed on the world, turning normal people into super-powered beings of all types), and then jump right into combat aboard a Brainiac-controlled ship. The storyline eventually funnels into either Gotham City (for Batman protégés) or various parts of Metropolis. From there, you're thrown into a series of questlines, each culminating in an instanced boss battle and an animation drawn by real DC artists upon completion. Predictable, sure, but this is a time-tested formula that works just as well here.
There's plenty to do on your own, but also plenty of opportunity to fight along iconic heroes like Batman. It can also be fun just to explore the vast, familiar spaces of Gotham or the Justice League's watchtower satellite and perhaps spot one of your favorite minor DC characters. As you level up, you're eventually introduced to an arena player-vs-player mode, Legends PvP (which allows you to actually play as the famous heroes, instead of your own super guy or gal), and Alerts and Raids, which is a standalone set of group instances that takes you to classic DC locations like Oolong Island and Smallville.
Unfortunately, a lot of that fun is hidden underneath a set of incomprehensible menus and fun-killing bugs. It starts early -- the character creation screen is powerful but ugly, and some textures are just plain unlabeled ("Human_skin_03" appeared as an option for me). Fights will bug out, bosses and players will get caught in the walls and enemies that are supposed to spawn won't (or won't load visually, causing you to take damage without realizing why). Various channels of sound almost constantly cut out, ruining immersion. It's great to hear and interact with familiar DC personalities (many of the voices are straight from properties like Batman: The Animated Series), but no fun when their lines cut out mid-sentence.
The text chat window uses the PS3's XMB interface, so it lags while loading, making chatting to teammates during a fight completely unfeasible. Many of the social functions aren't listed in the manual or the social screen at all -- it was only because of my previous MMO experience that I knew to type "/shout" or "/g" in the chat channel to speak on various tabs. In many MMOs, deficiencies in documentation can be shored up by social interaction, but no one I played with was using a microphone, and even with a USB keyboard, the chat interface was slow and painful to use.
Until then, it's tough to recommend even the basic DCUO experience on the PS3, unless you're a real MMO or comic enthusiast. It's fun to make a superhero, and it's great to wander around the world, see the DC sights, and take down Poison Ivy or Bizarro with a few friends. But especially on the PS3, the menus and various engine bugs really make it tough to justify the initial purchase (with one free month of gameplay), much less the eventual monthly fee.
DC Universe Online may prove that a full-featured WoW-style MMO is possible on a console interface, but it also confirms why the genre has been so PC-centric in the first place.
This review is based on the PS3 retail version of DC Universe: Online purchased by the reviewer. The review was based on 24 hours of play in which the reviewer's character reached level 20. He was mentored by Batman but did quests in all three zones and played all modes except raids (which require players to reach the maximum level).
- Key specs
- Game format Optical disc, Downloadable
- Online features Multiplayer, Voice chat, Video chat, Store, Browser
- Drive capacity 250 GB
- Controller type Wired, Wireless
- Motion controls Accelerometer, Gyroscopic
- Video outputs HDMI (v1.3), RCA / composite
- Released 2012-09-25