Video Game Review: DC Universe Online

By Michael Vass | January 28, 2011

The craze to convert comic books into other forms of media has now come to include the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online games) genre. Which can be a great idea. Everyone wants to be a super something. Whether a hero or villian, not being ordinary is worth the money – which also explains most of the fashion trends seen.

But the DCUO MMO is hardly anything to cheer about. In fact it’s hard to even call this an MMO. We will say it up front and save you time, don’t buy the game, ever. Now let’s explain why.

DCUO costs $50, not including the $15 a month fee. It is run online by Sony Online Entertainment, which is the current king of MMO hosting. That said, Sony makes sure that even though the first month is free for DCUO, you need to sign up for another month of fees in advance (charged to your account after the first 30 days). Such a scam to take your money is never a good sign on the quality of any game.

It goes down hill from there.

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As you can see in the character creation video, a lot is lacking. There are alot of limits on what can be done. There can be a lot more creativity in the look of the character, but ultimately the costumed person running around is the main look that you or others will see. So spending an extra hour getting the hair just the right tint, and adding the tattoos, and making the character anything but the default Anglo just isn’t really worth it.

Once you have a character what then? It won’t take long to realize that the most exciting sequences in the game is the opening set-up. It has artistic scenes with good detail. It has bright colors. And you get direct interaction with one of the key heroes/villians in the DC Univers of comic books.

Outside of that intro, things slow down massively. The quality of the voice acting stays consistent and strong throughout the first 9 levels we have played so far. But the quality of the city of Gotham, and Metropolis, is a real miss. It looks phenomenal from a distance, but up close you can see there just is no real detail.

[flowplayer src='' width=320 height=193 splash='']

Add to that the fact that there are no interiors in the game. You are always outside the buildings in the world. You never go into a door, through a window, or even affect a building. You never see anything inside. The same is true of moving cars, and most any aspect of the game. You just have the surface detail and it’s shallow beyond that.

In the few times that DCUO will take you to an interior, its in an instance. Whether that is the nightclubs and police stations, or boss battles, it doesn’t matter. Every nightclub is the same, all the police stations are the same, in fact the hero and villian hangouts look identical – no matter where you are in the game. Even the boss battle interiors look identical to each other, and highly similiar to the hero/villian spots. The bit difference is that boss zones have more levels.

It will not take any one, who is no more than a sporadic player of DC Unicverse Online, long to realize that the details of the world for DCUO is basically a very large copy and paste. Not that there is that much to the Universe – 2 cities. Wow, big universe.

Ok, so the art gets a 5, the game layout design a 3.5. Add to that the 4.5 for character creation, and a trend seems apparent. Still none of that matters if the game play is fun. Well the voice actors sound like they had fun and really got into the roles. Especially the Joker. That part of the game is a 7.

How does it feel to be a hero in DCUO? Do super villians have an advantage? How cool are the powers? All great questions that the designers of the game or DC Comics should have asked.

There is no real difference in playing for the good guys or bad guys in DCUO, just who you get cameo instructions from. But the essence of the game is get mission, travel to spot X, kill bad guys, repeat. Sounds like the grind of most MMO’s, except that’s all there really is. Plus it isn’t even remotely fun or interesting.

We have played Everquest, World of Warcraft, Conan, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars Online, Star Trek Online, as well as several others not including the betas of dozens of MMO games. When we say gameplay will devolve into a mindless and boring routine winthin the first 45 minutes of play, we have a clue what we mean.

The powers of the characters are less than interesting. The visuals of those powers is even less interesting than the description. The diversity tree is about as deep as a wading pool. The cannon fodder that must be beatdown are as droning as the missions sending you after them.

Making this mockery of a comic book conversion even less appealing is the fact that it was not made for computers. This game is designed with a controller in mind. It is a twitch (button mashing) heavy reaction game that becomes a chore for anyone on a computer – even after remapping all the keys from the default settings.

But that hits the nail on the head. This game appears to have never been intended for computers. It looks and feels like a game never intended for MMO. Someone in DC Comics got a bright idea, that they could cash in on the comic book craze with a video game like Matrvel has been doing for some time. Thus this game was designed for a console format.

Then someone must have a kids who likes MMO’s (likely WoW). They checked out how much money is spent month after month. How much money is made on each expansion. They got dollar signs in their eyes. Suddenly the decent video game became a horrible MMO with recurring fees. Add in a couple of really cool cut scenes that can be used for advertising, and you have the current incarnation that is DC Universe Online (DCUO).

Suffice to say that gameplay is a 3. Replayability (as a hero or villian or with new powers) is a 2.

DCUO is the equivalent of Star Trek Online. A great concept that banked on hardcore fans and their fantasies to generate a huge recurring sum for the owners of the franchise. There is a saying that you never buy the videogame of a movie based on a comic book, with good reason. Expand that saying to also include the MMO of comic books too.

Misc Info – 3 PvP servers, 6 PvE servers

Total rating: 4.2

art: 5
game layout design: 3.5
character creation: 4.5
voice acting: 7
gameplay: 3
Replayability: 2

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