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E3 2010: DC Universe Online takes it up a notch

Dan O'Halloran

We've seen SOE's superhero MMO DC Universe Online. We saw it two years ago at the San Diego Comic Con where its physics-based badassery allowed us to pick up cars, lampposts and anything else we could get our costumed hands on, and use them to knock our foes across three city blocks. Two years later we expected to see something substantially new and excited and we were not disappointed.

Creative Director Jens Anderson took us through a walkthrough of the latest build of the game and we saw boss fights, PvP gameplay and endgame armor sets themed to declare your allegiance to the most popular superheroes in the game. Read on for the latest details!

Gallery: E3 2010: DC Universe Online | 16 Photos

PvE in action

First we were shown what a PvE storyline would look like. Each one is being called an episode. In this one, the Joker and his sidekick Harley Quinn have taken over the Amusement Mile and are going to gas the city. Batman and Robin have been sent in and Robin has been captured. Now you must head in to save the Boy Wonder.

Using a gadget-based character, we saw the action-based combat we've seen before. Combos, real-time combat and picking up items in the instance to throw or smash villains with. The impressive part was the room full of 10-foot billiard balls. Once one is knocked into the others, fighting the bad guys suddenly includes dodging a room full of bouncing, crushing objects. And of course, you can grab them and use them, but so can the NPCs!

Boss fights

When our gadget guy entered Harley's room, the camera suddenly zooms in on her and you hear her cackle in insane glee at how she is going to kill you. She had a number of special attacks, but each one disabled her temporarily. Her spinning attack, for example, left her dizzy for a few seconds afterwards, making her vulnerable to attack. There was also clearly a sense of humor to this encounter. Her mallet rampage attack ends with her smashing her own toe. All the while, she is yelling out emotes.

When Harley is defeated, a special cut scene launches. Hand-drawn by Jim Lee, the cut scene tells Harley's story and advances the storyline the player is experiencing. Dynamic 2D visuals, solid voice acting and music make it a great character touch and sets boss fights apart from becoming generic.

Gadget spec in action

We got to see the gadget build in action. Not only did his different weapons give him different combo attacks, but his stealth mode brought up special stealth-only abilities. During combat, he was able to summon a battle robot that attacked villains with rockets. He also was able to encase one mob in a force field bubble for 10 or so seconds, disabling the bad guy (while letting him roll around the room to comical effect) while shooting a second mob with a grappling hook device to pull that one close enough to let lose some combo moves.

Cosmetic armor system

After dispatching Harley, a rare hat dropped. Upon adding it to the gadget character's equipment slot, it presented a cosmetic problem. This super-stealthy, slick gadget superhero is suddenly wearing a jester's cap on his head. You want the stats, but not the look. You can now change the cosmetic appearance of any item your character is wearing to look like any other item for the same slot you already own. So you can keep the stats of new drops, but maintain the appearance you like in the game.

Next we got a look at endgame armor sets. Essentially, as you level up through the game, you will gain the respect of an iconic superhero or supervillain of your choice. You will then be able to wear an endgame armor set from your mentor. It's not an exact duplicate of the iconic hero's outfit, but the inspiration is clear. The Batman armor set we saw was in the same shape and design of the Dark Knight, but it was all shiny metal like a suit of armor with a red bat emblazoned across the chest. Superman's armor set, on the other hand, was created out of the crystals of the Fortress of Solitude. There will be endgame armor sets from all of the 80-90 iconic characters in the game including well-known ones like Wonder Woman and the Joker as well as less popular ones like Metallo and Doctor Psycho.


Just as PvEers will hear events being broadcast across the server, PvPers will get a call to action to join a battle. We saw a scenario in which players were trying to take control points on a map. Scattered throughout the area were switches which would create an AoE blast knocking the enemy out of the nearby control point and allowing the rival team to rush in. Also, certain switches are trapped, encasing the player in a force bubble temporarily. Between the mechanics of the battlefield and the special abilities available to the players, it looks to be a dynamic, fun system.

Question and answer

We asked you what questions you had for the DCUO team and I was able to get a few answers at the end of the presentation (sorry other journalists at the presentation, better luck next time!) Most of the answers were "no comment" or "we're not ready to talk about that, yet" including updates on the in-game economy, the crafting system and the secret identity feature. I did learn that player housing (and superhero HQs) will not be in at launch. The game will NOT be free-to-play, but will have a standard $14.99 a month subscription plan when it launches this November.

That's it for the presentation we were given. Later today I will get my hands on a demo station with the current build and will report back on my impressions. And don't forget to check to check out our exclusive DCUO Mass Animation trailer from earlier in E3!

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