The lights are on
I'm as surprised as anyone that I've found a lot to like while playing the DC Universe closed PC beta. I've never been much of a believer in the game – it has showed poorly at two consecutive E3s, and Sony Online Entertainment doesn't have a great recent track record – but I've come around in my week tooling around Metropolis. It's definitely still a beta, but DC Universe has come a long way since last I saw it.
5. This is first and foremost an action game.
The other two major superhero MMOs (City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online) pushed online role-playing games toward the action end of the spectrum, but DCU goes a country mile further. I emphatically suggest playing it with a gamepad on PC (sorry, no hands-on with the PS3 beta yet!). The two-button combat, defensive rolls, and dramatic power activation just feel right on a controller. Chatting is harder, which is a bummer, but that's a price I'm more than happy to pay for the solid action-style gamepad controls.
DCU is hardly God of War, but it honestly does feel closer to X-Men Legends than World of Warcraft.
4. Wrecking dudes: still fun.
One of the biggest issues that traditional MMOs struggle with is the immediacy of combat – specifically, their lack thereof. Pick apart the World of Warcraft UI, for instance, and you'll notice a dozen little tricks that Blizzard uses to make combat feel awesome without functionally changing anything: screen-shaking abilities, animated critical damage numbers, and the like. In DCU, I can shoot a rope of vines that captures an enemy and pulls him toward me, light him on fire with a flamethrower, then tumble backwards while shooting him with enough force to pop him into the air. From level one, you absolutely ruin dudes' days without hardly trying. I love me some WoW, but this is a whole different animal than pressing two buttons to have my death knight perform a pair of identical-looking axe swipes that make big numbers pop up.
3. Voice makes all the difference.
I've read the equivalent of the collected works of Dostoyevsky twice over in boring, typo-ridden quest text in my time with MMOs. DCU doesn't ask players to read any more than the names of your equipment – and often not even that, as a handy color-coded cheat sheet pops up showing you the difference between a new piece's stats and your existing equipment. Every quest I've encountered has had a fully voiced description. Think about it: You could never have to skip through quest text again and still get the story. Most of the time, you don't even have to stand and listen to someone talk; an animated portrait shows up while someone talks to you via communicator as you go on your merry way. This may sound like a boring bullet point from a press release, but it makes a big difference in the way you play the game.
Next up: Why solo instances work here, and why I'm pumped to get to endgame