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February 25, 2011
DC Universe Online - PS3 Review Page 2
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/1/2011SonySonySony Online Ent.None2+
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc15GB720pNoNoM

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Other missions include various races found throughout the world, which start off easy, but soon become quite challenging and earning the platinum award is a great achievement. Many characters from the DC world do not have story missions, but can be found roaming the world. Characters such as Dr. Freeze, Clayface, Bizarro and Full House roam freely but with bounties on their head, encouraging you and some friends (trust me, most of these people require help to beat) to team up and take them down. Even after you've defeated them these characters continue to roam the world, so you can fight them multiple times if you want extra experience.

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Is that the work of Mr Freeze?
Speaking of multi-player missions there are also a variety of ‘instances' you can participate in. Instances in DCUO are missions that take place in a separate area, independent of the main game. Some instances, such as raids and duos can only be played by characters already at level 30, whereas alerts and the PvP (player versus player) Legends and Arena matches can be played at much earlier levels. In raids, duos and alerts, players work together to achieve objectives much like those of normal missions, i.e. defeat a certain number of enemies, or activate a number of objects. The loot found in these missions is usually better than you find in the main game, so there are rewards for playing, and the boss fights themselves are a drawcard. In the PvP missions the objective is to find and hold a resource from your enemies, decreasing their score all the time. Legends PvP battles can be fun as you get to take control of actual DC heroes and villains like the Joker, Robin, Harley Quinn and Nightwing. These battles are independent of your level outside of them so rely far more on tactics and team-work for success rather than straight power.

However you earn your experience, when you level up you earn Power and/or Skill points to spend on new powers. Skill points are spent on weapon upgrades which add more moves to your repertoire, or movement talents which add movement-based attacks or change the way you move around the world, usually by increasing your speed. Power points are used to add new powers to your skill-set, either in your chosen power or by choosing Iconic Powers such as Heat Vision, Super-Strength and Freezing Breath. All skills and powers are in ability trees, so you can't always select the one you want straight away. Some have to be unlocked by choosing a certain skill first, while others can't be selected until you reach a specific level (this is especially true of Iconic Powers). Choosing the right skills and powers for your character isn't always easy, but lucky by the time you reach level nine you'll come across a machine that can re-spec all of your skills and powers for a small charge. This is a great way to experience the different weapons in the game, as you can choose and re-choose which second weapon you want to specialise in. It also helps with choosing powers as you can try out powers that sound great, and trade them in if they're less impressive in practice.

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Batman and The Joker do battle.
I have to say that I had a lot of fun with DCUO but at the same time I had a number of issues with it. The biggest issue I had is how samey the missions are, which makes the admittedly fluid combat get repetitive. Probably 90% of all missions are of the ‘go here, defeat ‘x' enemies, find ‘y' objects' type. For quite a while you'll forgive this same-ness, but by the time you reach the latter stages of the game you'll struggle to muster enthusiasm for more missions. Within combat there are some frustrations too, firstly the automatic targeting can be rather hopeless, often forgoing nearby enemies to target a new group of far-way enemies, or even worse a barrel. When you're surrounded by three or four enemies it frequently overlooks the most dangerous opponent, which can lead to death all too quickly. Another annoying thing is that enemy attacks will often hit you for damage despite the fact that their attacks clearly miss you on-screen. It doesn't appear to be a collision-detection issue; rather it is the way the game is programmed.

The second most frustrating thing for me was that the game makes little to no attempt to explain many aspects of the game. Some things it overlooks are small like how to get from Metropolis to Gotham City, or how to join instances, or even what instances are and can be figured out easily enough. Other subjects like which role you should select for your character at level ten and why some gear cannot be bought despite having enough money can be harder to figure out by yourself, and in the case of the role, it cannot be changed. The game also misuses the mini-map in my opinion, frequently failing to direct you where you need to go, relying instead on generic on-screen comments like ‘Go to Metropolis to continue your mission'. It shouldn't be too hard for the game to put a marker on a police station or teleporter or whatever you need to use in order to get to your destination, but they are frequently overlooked.

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Scarecrow in DC Universe Online.
One last issue is that the game is both huge and slow to install. At the moment the game takes up a rather large 15GB on my HDD, with the promised monthly updates adding to that. This week's monthly update weighed in at around 2.3GB, so you can see the install size growing to unwieldy size, especially if you only have a 40GB HDD. One last point on this is that the majority of your download is done through the game at much slower speeds than you get when using the Playstation Store. The internet connection here is capped at 1MB/s and will download at that speed through the PS store, but in-game the speeds were closer to one-quarter of that. It makes for a very slow download when you have 2.2GB to get. None of this is a problem really, but it's worth noting I think.

Graphically the game excels more in its scale than with whiz-bang visuals. Both Metropolis and Gotham City are huge, with many recognisable landmarks such as the Daily Planet, Arkham Asylum and Star Labs. The freedom you'll feel, regardless of which movement type you select, is nearly unparalleled, with only some Spiderman titles coming close to replicating it in my opinion. The responsiveness of combat must also be commended, as you're able to string together long combinations without any evident latency between your controller and the on-screen action. Given the size of the cities you're exploring and the speed with which you move, it's no surprise that both pop-in is prevalent, so it can be largely forgiven, though there were time that entire objects failed to appear unless I went away and came back. There are some other graphical glitches too, including an invisible wall barring the way, being stuck on invisible objects in the sky or falling into the environment. None of these happened often to me, though one could say that once is enough for each of them.

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The Flash runs up a building...
I found the sound to be disappointing in many ways, though there are occasional high-points. There is little music in the game, but every now and then you'll get a short tune that reflects what's happening – tranquil music if you just happen to be exploring or tense if you're engaged in battle. The voice-acting is quite mixed, though it is below average overall. Even Mark Hammill as The Joker wasn't as good here as he was in Arkham Asylum; he started to sound a lot like Stewie Griffin from Family Guy in patches. Most of the lines you get from other characters are instructions, so it's not easy for those to be particularly entertaining, but some of them are quite dull with Adam Baldwin as Superman leading the list. Often, two characters will try to talk to you at the same time, and the result is something quite unintelligible. Missions will often take place in a specific area for lengthy periods of time, but unfortunately NPCs only have two or three lines, which you'll hear repeated ad nauseam while you're there. This wouldn't be the end of the world except that the lines are poorly delivered and often take you out of the moment, giving you time to reflect on just how pointless the task at hand is.

Despite all of the shortcomings I found in the game, DC Universe Online actually manages to be fun a lot of the time. The world is undeniably cool, much of the artwork is top-notch, and running around as your very own superhero or super-villain is great. The problem then, is that after a while all of the missions become samey, and even though there is plenty to do once you reach the level cap at level thirty, you'll realise it really is just more of the same. I know that once my initial month-long subscription is up, I'll probably be happy to put the game away, at least for a while, and that's not the way it should be for a subscription-based game. If you're a fan of DC comics, then this game is well worth checking out. For everyone else it's hard to make a strong recommendation to pick up this game, even though there is fun to be had. In the end SOE has crafted a good, but not great game, one that in my opinion doesn't represent value at its current pricing structure.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe scale of the game world is impressive, as is much of the artwork. Lots of little glitches though.
76%
SOUNDLargely disappointing, particularly the voice-acting. The sound effects are decent, and the music is ok if sparse.
65%
GAMEPLAYIt's great to have super-powers and the combo system and powers are fun. Unfortunately it gets repetitive after a while as the missions don't change much.
73%
VALUECurrently $99 at stores, with an ongoing $20 monthly subscription. This game is not value at those prices, particularly given it cannot be re-sold.
61%
OVERALLDespite some short-comings DC Universe Online is fun for a while. The same-ness of the missions will wear you down before long however. One for the fans then.
69%

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