E3 2010: DC Universe Online Hands-On PreviewBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Jun 04, 2010
We've been waiting a long time for Sony Online Entertainment to deliver DC Universe Online. The company has been letting people go hands-on with the superhero MMO at Comic-Con every year, but whenever someone (read: me) asked about a release date, they were met with silence. At some point, you have to wonder if something went wrong. Is it ever coming out? Thankfully, the answer's yes. DC Universe Online is coming this November. (And yes, it's November 2010).
I've been keeping a keen eye on DC Universe Online for a very specific reason: I don't like MMOs. For one, they're a timesink and I'm someone who moves from one game to the next every few weeks. And while I've admittedly only tried a few of them -- EverQuest II was the sole MMO I dumped a serious amount of time in to and came away bitter from the experience -- the reason they've failed to connect with me in any meaningful way is your detachment from combat. You click and things happen, then wait for the thing to "cool down," then click it again. Repeat.
DC Universe Online has promised to alter that mechanic in a meaningful way, and at a pre-E3 event in Los Angeles, I got to see -- and play -- with what they're proposing as the game reaches the final stretch of development. DC Universe Online isn't really about ditching what we've come to know about MMO combat, but when you press punch, that punch happens in real time. Or jump. Or kick. Or press them together and start stringing together combos. There's no cool down, no waiting. It's not melee combat on the level of something like Devil May Cry, but in moments, I felt more engaged with the on-screen action than I've been with any other MMO. Outside of melee, DC Universe Online plays more like a traditional MMO -- yes, with cool downs and all. Simply having melee feel dynamic and real-time, however, went a long way with me.
The combat's enhanced by the game's real world physics, too. I was given a chance to run through a Harley Quinn dungeon a few times. Each instance was a little different, as my character could push several balls around the environment to inflict additional damage to enemies, making combat more random than usual. I'm curious to see where else physics pop up.
Unfortunately, character creation, a big part of why people want to play DC Universe Online, wasn't present in the pre-E3 demo. I was instead shown several kinds of characters and assured that while players won't be able to play as the main heroes, a la Batman, you can start character creation with at Batman "foundation" (meaning all his skills and abilities) and modify from there.
It's possible my experience was also colored by playing with a Sixaxis controller. DC Universe Online is coming to both PC and PlayStation 3 in November, as planned. Technically, I was playing the game on a PC with a Sixaxis attached via USB, but a producer told me the game was designed from the ground up to work perfectly either through a Sixaxis or a mouse and keyboard. In fact, DC Universe Online will switch control methods on the fly if it suddenly detects a Sixaxis.
Whether PlayStation 3 and PC users can ultimately play together hasn't been decided just yet.
DC Universe Online may be the first MMO I give a legitimate shot in years. That should speak volumes about where Sony Online Entertainment's headed, especially if you share my concerns.