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DC Universe, Champions: NYCC (Much) Cop?

Pants on the outside, gameplayability on the inside. Also, genitalia.

[NYCC is getting ever more distant, so this is probably the last of the round-ups of games I played swiftly there. Unless I do a round-up post of the things I played hyper-quick or just watched. And… go!]

This is a Comicon. Clearly, I couldn’t help but play these two. With the two competitors for the MMO Superhero crown within twenty or so metres of one another, it makes a lot of sense to play one, then immediately head over to the other in a feat of superhuman videogames journalism. By which I mean, playing a game and saying what I think of it. I’m hardly Batman.

The immediate difference was one of simple preparation. The Champions Online stand was very much dropping you in an area with a pre-generated character and letting you wander around and fight people. The DC Universe was created an active demonstration. with a miniature plot which the people on the stand encouraged you to play though. So I walked away from he DC Universe having fought my way inside Star Labs and then teamed up with Lex Luthor to take down the Doomsday (and got insulted by baldy for the trouble) with Champions Onlne, I hit some baddies with a sword, then hit some more and hit some more and eventually wandered away, trying to decide whether I should play some more games or try and get some of the surprisingly acceptable convention Chinese food.

In other words, DC Universe made a better impression of itself at least as much because it tried to make a better impression of itself. It dressed up proper for the occasion and, as such, was the more satisfying experience.

(Talking about dressing-up – neither game showed any sign of the character design stuff, which is a shame. It’s the area that everyone is clearly dying to get hands on with. There was the running theme at the DC booth of people fending the “Can’t I be Superman?” esque question, to which the answers were impressively polished.)

The second thing to note about the pair of games – DC Universe’s booth, as far as I could see, only had joypad controllers. Champion Online had – equally, as far as I could see – only mouse and keyboard controls. I also wonder how much this directly influenced how it was to play. Champions Online, despite the systems we’ve already talked about, felt very much like City of Heroes or most other trad-MMOs. DC Universe felt more like Final Fight – or, with its small party set-ups, a combination of Final Fight and Phantasy Star Online. While I was paying some attention to powerbars and health and similar, much of my time I re-connected with my Inner-Haggar and amused myself picking up things and smashing the living hell out the opposition with them. Having played the game briefly before at San-Diego Comic-Con, I managed to actually get appreciative gasps from the crowd when I froze Doomsday with my earth-powers, picked him up, and used him as an improvised melee weapon against a few other people.

MMOs are big games. You worry about depth in DC Universe. Well – you wonder about depth in either. But DC Universe, at the show, seemed to be much more in its element. Both in how it was presented and the elements of the game it has a sense of showmanship which Champions Online didn’t display. And, in its brutal-fighter-esque way, seems to be the game that most obviously offers something different from the standard MMO experience. This competition remains one of the most interesting in the coming year, but I’d say that in the Comicon-confrontation, DC Heroes came ahead.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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