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Dana Massey Posted:
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DC Universe Online: E3 2009 Preview

SOE had the game on the floor, hands-on to anyone who walked by. We took some time and ran through a Villain mission with Senior Producer Wes Yanagi.

Watch the Interview with Jens Anderson

For the first time publicly, SOE showed off DC Universe Online using a Playstation 3. It’s been known for quite some time that the game was headed to both the console and PC, but for this show, people could get a sense of how it worked with the controller in hand.

Unlike most MMOs, DC doesn't usually give the players 20 possible attacks in their hot bar at any given time. It's a simpler, faster experience and depending on the user's comfort with a console controller (specifically the camera), should be very familiar to that brand of gamer.

The bottom line is that the game looks and feels like a super-hero experience should. It's fast, things are exploding and flying around. There's nothing quite like a running street fight at 200 mph to make someone feel heroic.

For a few more details on the game's nuts and bolts, check out this hands-on preview we did a couple months ago in Austin.

The demonstration showed what has become a hallmark of their game. Competitive quests with mutually exclusive goals for heroes and villains. In our demonstration, the villain group was tasked with stealing the source of a virus that turned regular people into mutants, while the heroes had to contain and cure it.

Naturally this all went down within the iconic Star Labs, a never-ending parade of bad ideas in the heart of Metropolis.

The mission gave them the chance to demonstrate some of the day-to-day gameplay. In this case, the villain characters had to help some iconic bad guys at each step of the way. It began with a stream of Star Labs mutated security that had to be knocked out and collared, with a special tool the Joker provided, to make them follow orders.

Of course, the bad guys wanted to harness the mutants for their own evil ends.

On the way down the hallway, they showed us their rapid fire gameplay that uses the game’s physics to good effect. There were explosions, people zooming around and whizzing through the air. Even within rather tight hallways, the battle looked pretty heroic.

Eventually, the villains came up against a super-mutant who they had to defeat to capture the specimen. Again, iconic characters were around, but it was up to the player to fight along side them. In this case Bizzaro and others. Once defeated, the specimen itself, naturally the size of a small car, had to be carried to an end point where it could be nefariously put to use.

Luckily, the villain wasn’t just walking around with her pants down as she lugged the thing. It became a physics object too and she used it to slaughter a few bad guys, before continuing on her way.

In the final encounter, the Green Lantern was on hand to try and take the villains down. These iconic characters can be defeated, but obviously never truly killed. Senior Producer Wes Yanagi mentioned that in true comic book fashion, that while the player may have to defeat Superman in a mission, there is usually some extenuating circumstances, such as a case of Kryptonite in the room. For example, when a player takes down Doomsday, he doesn’t just fall over dead. Instead, he is knocked out and they have to bind him and ship him off before he wakes back up.

Once victorious, they showed off a couple new systems. The player achieved a “Headline,” which popped up in old newspaper style to taut the achievement. They also got encounter loot.

In super-hero games, people spend a lot of time on the look and feel of their characters. SOE wants to preserve that hard work, but they also want loot and items to be an important element of the game.

In this case, the player received a new helmet. Like normal loot, it has intrinsic benefits and can be worn. The game automatically applies the hero or villain’s color scheme to it, so it fits right in.

But what if you don’t want to have a helmet? No issue. Once you get it, what you wear and what you see are not always the same. People can hide the visual representation of that helmet and still hold the benefits. What’s more, if they later get another helmet with an even better bonus, but that would replace something they loved from before, they can equip the benefits of the new helmet, but still retain the option to look like they have the old one on.

It’s a flexible system that defies logic, but so does superheroes in tights.

At E3, DC Universe Online represented one of the most complete, visceral experiences available for hands on time. The game seems to be coming along quite nicely and while there is still a lot of development to be done, it bodes well when a developer is confident enough to leave those controllers open on the floor for anyone who passes by.


Dana Massey