Let's start with the good.
Customization is excellent. People may want to say it's not as robust as COH or CO was at launch, and they're somewhat right, but not in terms of the costume choices. The critical difference between DCUO and COH/CO is that all of the styles (except for veteran rewards) were available to you at the start from COH/CO whereas you have to unlock styles through gear acquisition in DCUO. Even after you've parted with a piece of gear, the style remains and you can mix and match pieces and individually color them within the color palate. Customization is certainly a strength. If, however, you want to customize every single facet of your character, meaning things like your face structure, or your female toon's bust size.. well, you'll be disappointed. CoH and CO certainly wins on the microcustomization front.
The story of why there are so many new heroes, knowing that the DC Universe technically has thousands of parallel universes, makes great sense. The story arcs do a good job making you feel like you're a hero or villain in this particular universe. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that many of the large arcs are completely linear, and you only ever return to quest NPCs at the mid-way or end point. The exception to this are side-quests which often make you return to the NPC for that specific side quest.
Those are the overwhelming "good" things about the game. There's one aspect that is simultaneously good AND bad and since it does not fit neatly into either category, it deserves its own listing: The combat system. The combat system is somewhat refreshing for an MMO. DCUO's combat system utilizes combinations of button holds and taps to attack, block and perform special moves, similar to other Action platformers. The bad, however, is that the game relies heavily on aim assist and often doesn't properly register your input. It is very inconvenient to have to hold L1 to target lock, but if you don't you might just attack an enemy across the street, or a barrel next to an enemy trying to smash your face. Additionally, many times I've tried blocking where the game simply doesn't register it on a simple, blockable hit. While they achieved their goal of preventing the repetition of another plant-and-cast MMO, they seem to have overlooked the fact that hitting the same combos, over and over, for 30 levels and end game, is JUST as repetitive. Despite being a refreshing change of pace, the Action platformer, button combo, style of gameplay is decent, but not great, and certainly pales in comparison to other Action titles like Devil May Cry, God of War, and Dante's Inferno.
Now for the outright bad.
Graphically the game is terrible on PS3. I have never had a game on the console chug to keep up as much as this one and, while I expect that in large player populated areas, it happens even in secluded corners of Gotham and Metropolis. Texture pop in is horrible on static models which doesn't come as too much of a shock because the game uses Unreal Engine 3 which is prone to frame drops and texture problems when not properly optimized. There's nothing quite as disappointing as being point blank with a building and waiting for the texture to show up. The more people you get in one area, the worse the graphical problems get. While a problem like this can be addressed on PC by upgrading components to handle the increased graphics, no such remedy exists for PS3 so the onus was on the developers to optimize the graphics and code to prevent such problems. It feels like they didn't even try.
The cities might look pretty but they're smaller than they appear. By utilizing crafty, distanced 2D art with distanced lighting the cities look large but are actually pretty small and repetitive and, unlike other MMOs, they're the only two active zones you have (the Watchtower and Hall of Doom are just staging zones). One of my biggest complaints about City of Heroes at launch was that there was only two zones we started in - Galaxy City and Atlas Park. However, once you reached a certain level, you left these zones for others. In DCUO, you start in either Metropolis or Gotham, regardless of whether you're a hero or a villain, and you stay, exclusively, in these two cities. They get boring fast.
The voice acting is absolutely terrible. While some people may be glad they don't have to read quest logs, I find myself reading them and ignoring the terrible voice over work. To give an example, Wonder Woman sounds like Annie the Chicken Queen, the woman Popeye's uses for their fast food ads. Yeah, it's bad.
The game, itself, doesn't help newer users to understand the roles available to them. At level 10, every character becomes a hybrid. Either you're healer-dps, tank-dps, or controller-dps. But the game does not properly explain how to switch stances into your various roles, or get into the nuts and bolts about the team dynamic of each role. Instead, if you want to learn these things, you have to go to the official game site and read the myriad of game guides they posted. Why? These are very critical functions of an MMO, and players should be gradually educated into these roles. The fact that stance switching and role synergy is not well explained is easy to spot when you go into your first On Duty dungeon and everyone shows up in a DPS role. Likewise, players can easily go from 1-30 without ever grouping, and then get to 30 only to find out grouping is mandatory for character progression.
The User Interface is an absolute travesty, probably one of the worst I've seen in any MMO, and you can't control any elements of it. You can't move any parts of it nor can you resize any parts of it. It is how it is and you're stuck with it. Communication, as part of the UI, is absolutely terrible. Trying to type, even using a USB keyboard, causes you to stop anything you are doing on screen as it brings up the on screen keyboard while you're typing. Voice chat works only sporadically, at best. Communication is critical to the success of MMOs where grouping is necessary to progress, and DCUO's Communication and User Interface is a hindrance more than a help.
While there may be decent quests from 1 to 30, 30 becomes a brick wall of boring repetition. At 30, all there is to do is stand around in a safehouse and wait in the On Duty queue - single server pve and pvp queues whose wait time fluctuates - to get into your daily PVE and PVP runs, which you will be sick of after a week. There are two raids, which have one week lockouts. This repetition is marred by bugs that should have been addressed before the game left beta, bugs such as doors to the final boss not opening and loot either not appearing or disappearing from inventory after killing a mob or boss. Since the queue system isn't robust, it could throw 5 DPS together and then put you in a bugged instance, forcing you to leave and try again. There's no reputations to manually grind, no items to go farm, no crafting system, and you can't even manually go to the instances themselves. Once you hit 30, the entire game revolves around joining the queue and waiting for Alerts (the same ones you've done while leveling), PVP (the same PVP arenas you've done while leveling), the newly unlocked Duos (which are rehashed, harder versions of instances you did while leveling) and the two raids. While the level of content launched with DCUO is, admittedly, infinitely better than the first two months after the launch of City of Heroes, it's lighter than any other launch MMO in recent history.
If you're looking for a Super MMO with a moderate customization, decent story lines and a polished presentation, know that DCUO only delivers on two fronts. If you can overlook everything this game does poorly, you will likely get your $60 out of it, when it's playable, but there's little here which makes it worth a recurring subscription fee, even at the newly reduced $29.99 per 3 month plan.
Not sure how to rate it middle-of-the-road here, so I'm just giving it a -1 to indicate middle ground.
Summary & Closing comment:
Review summary: DCUO is a game which tries to ambitiously combine the MMO and action-platformer genre and does neither very well. Socialization is difficult, communication and game navigation, such as the basic UI, is a chore, and the game frequently experiences bugs, glitches and graphical problems which only serve to add an extra layer of annoyance on top of the repetitiveness.
The game could become better than a 5/10 (-1), but it depends on how much work SOE wants to put into it. Given their lack of communication on the official forums, the fact that they have been deleting threads with constructive criticism of and suggestions for the game rather than addressing them, and the fact that they do not disclose patch notes to the playerbase, even if said patches are simply for server-side issues, I simply cannot believe SOE will support this game for the long term. With Rift, Guild Wars 2 and SWTOR on the horizon, I expect DCUO to be all but forgotten by late summer unless SOE pulls a very large rabbit out of their hat
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