Thursday, December 16, 2010

DC Universe Online PS3 Beta Impressions

In the DC Universe there's always a super-hero to save you in the nick of time.

It's a place where mischievous villains hatch diabolical schemes in a secret safe-house.

It's a place where your cape will never end up stuck over your head, causing you to crash or trip.

I've played the PS3 beta for about 3 days now and definitely know the direction that SOE are going with this fresh take on the immensely popular MMO genre.

First off, let's get the negative thoughts out of the way. Although, they can't hardly be called negative since this is a BETA test after all. The final product will no doubt be very different than what we're all playing right now. In fact, SOE wrote a great post on the Official Playstation Blog letting all the players know that they are aware of the issues and an incoming patch will eventually arrive.

So far the worst problem I've encountered is the freezing. Sometimes I'll just be flying around Metropolis, minding my own business, when suddenly.. out of nowhere... the game freezes up. In 3 days and probably 10 hours of playtime, It's probably crashed around 20 times for me, which is pretty terrible. However, not once was I frustrated, this is a beta test and I expected just that.

Some of the other issues I've noticed are pretty much well known by now. Some random graphical issues as well as the small text problems where you can hardly read anything on the screen. I've also heard some funny audio where a voice actor clearly screwed up their lines, but continued to finish after a brief pause.

I'm actually having trouble thinking of any more issues that I've had. Lag has been mostly non-existent for me, for the most part. Some of the user interface is a bit wonky, I'm sometimes having trouble navigating because the glowing button that lets you know where your cursor is, disappears. Voice chat sometimes works, but was a hassle to get set up. There are probably a few minor things I'm forgetting but again, the only real issue with the beta so far is the constant freezing.

If anyone knows how to take screenshots in the PS3 version, please let me know. Otherwise, I want to mention that none of the pictures I've provided on this article are taken by me, or are of my character.

Now that the negative beta impressions are out of the way, let's get into the good stuff. There are so many things going right in this game that it truly blows my expectations out of the water.

First up is the battle system. This system is nothing like any massive multiplayer game I have ever played before. This is truly action based and I have no idea how the servers keep up with everything being so frantic. Everyone is speeding, flying, and acrobating (?) their way around the screen everywhere. There is just so much going on around you that it really is amazing to watch. It's even more fun to jump in though.

When you have a target picked out that you want to attack, you simply face it and you'll see a target redicule indicating who you're about to attack. If you want, you can hold L1 to permanently target that unit but to be honest I haven't really used that much. The automatic targeting works fine for me so far. You press the X button to jump, or hold it to fly (in my case it's to fly, you can also press L3 which activates your movement mode as well) and square is for your melee attack. Triangle launches your long ranged attacks, R1 is for block (and dodge when you tilt the analog while blocking) while circle will activate anything in the environment that you can interact with.

Once you've killed a few baddies and finished a few missions, you'll be able to upgrade your skills and powers. Thus unlocking more combo's involving square and triangle, as well as new powers. You can access these powers by holding down either L2 or R2 which brings up your power bar. While holding L2 or R2 you can select a power to use by pressing the face buttons. All of these powers on the bar can be customized on the loadout screen.

You can purchase new combo moves to execute when you gain enough skill points. So you can, for example, tap triangle, triangle, and then hold triangle to do a special move. Or triangle and then square which will result in a projectile attack followed by a melee. There are some excellent looking attacks with some great effects that I've obtained so far for the Hand Blaster weapon type. I literally have blasters on the back of my hands that shoot out energy, pretty awesome stuff.

So far for me the quest system has been great. You can find random heroes and police officers on the street that will ask for your assistance. I find the quests to actually be pretty interesting and not repetitive at all. Unlike the mmo's I've played it's always "kill so many thugs" and "collect this many loot drops" but with DCUO so far, those familiar quest types are almost always mixed with something interesting. Sometimes you may need to carry civilians to a certain drop where paramedics await, or you may need to help out wounded soldiers to get them back into a fight. In the short time I played as a villain for the Joker I saw some really entertaining quest types. One had me strapping bombs to police cars and then later the Joker had me strap bombs to the actual police officers, good times. Confetti everywhere.

I'll end on one of my favorite parts of DCUO, equipment and styles. As any DCUO fan would know by now, anything you equip you can change how it appears on your character. This works brilliantly as I find myself changing my entire super-costume daily, depending on my mood. I just found a jetpack today so I ditched my cape and now it looks like I have a reason to actually fly around. The only thing I want right now is the ability to change my colors after you've already selected them in the character creator. You can change your outfit and your hair, why not the colors? Hopefully they add this eventually.

Also, How cool would it be to have saved costume selections that you could jump back and forth on whenever you want? Have maybe 5 costume setups saved somewhere on a menu. This way you could have an alter ego costume, then switch to your super-costume at the first sign of trouble. I think that's a great idea that I'd love to see implemented, especially once you start grabbing the Iconic Armor.

I have some more things I want to talk about but I really want to get back to playing... er... testing. I had an extremely entertaining boss fight I did a couple hours ago with a friend, but I'll save that for my next post some other time. If you are reading this and you have access to a decent internet connection (it took me about 2 hours to download the beta with a 21.5mbps net connection) then go out and purchase 3 months of Playstation Plus service. Not only will you get all kinds of free stuff (like Crash Team Racing and the entire Sam & Max series) as well as discounts, but you'll also get access into the DCUO beta.

If you have any interest, give it a try. Once you get used to the controls and the interface (and the freezing that's going on currently) you'll have a moment that just clicks for you. You'll start unlocking super-powers, go on missions, see lots of other super-heroes and villains doing their own thing. It's great and I couldn't of asked for anything more. SOE just needs to make sure to get these issues fixed and keep up their current reputation with this game. Things are looking fantastic. Be excited for Q1 2011.