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Every new character begins by escaping from Brainiac's ship, which is a nice way to introduce players to the style and pace of their characters' fighting moves and movement. The fighting in DCUO is very different from the standard MMORPG system of target something, hit it until it dies, collect rewards, repeat.
Rather, you will often find yourself in the middle of groups of attackers; attacking with guns, knives, or knuckles depending on your fighting style; and breaking stuns and integrating special moves to level your enemies. The combat is very similar to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum, in that you often have to manage groups of enemies. The targeting and direction of your swings largely take care of themselves, allowing you to plan a more complicated series of attacks. It is possible to lock on to one enemy but, in the lower levels, it's rarely necessary.
With the CGI and character creation out of the way, my character was dropped into a Brainiac ship, and had to battle my way through minions to get back on the ground. Basically, this whole first section is a tutorial in disguise and it shows you the ins and outs for combat, movement, power management, etc. It seemed simple enough, and most of the common commands could be mapped to a controller if you chose to do so. Of course, you had to use the menu to get to a lot of stuff, but the controller is a viable option, and should put PS3 players at ease. As I worked through the tutorial, I found combat to be fairly easy, with left clicks of the mouse representing light attacks and right button mouse clicks representing slower, but heavier attacks. Combat does seem to get a little more complex as you earn unlocks, which require clicking combinations to perform them successfully. Nail one of these combos, and your enemies will experience a lot of damage.
At a point, you pick up your first power point in the tutorial and get the chance to add your first real power from the selection trees you chose during the character creation process. For me, I had Telekinesis, so my first power was a mind blast that could knock players off their feet and hit them for big damage. Powers were easy to trigger, and by default were mapped to the quick access toolbar as you got them. Hitting 1-8 on the keyboard would activate the corresponding power.
I would have liked to see some more environmental interaction available, I mean you can pick-up some barrels and things, but you can't just pick-up a car or rip a telephone out of the ground. Also while you can do some decent destruction to things like fences, piles of boxes and other objects, they do re-populate really quick, which looks a bit funky. Obviously that's something that I'm sure they can and will tweak over-time. My biggest graphical negative would be the HUD, while the color scheme and icons do have the comic feel, the HUD itself is just big. It just doesn't have a sleek clean feel and seems like it takes up a lot of space and blocks the gorgeous environments. Besides the HUD the game is graphically very pleasing.
DC Universe Online is a decent mix of MMO and action RPG. The few hours I've spent in Gotham and Metropolis have been quite enjoyable. The action based controls in an MMO world are quite fun, though a bit of a shock when coming from a game like World of Warcraft. I can see the game really started off as a console focused game, as the controls have been simplified quite a bit. I'm curious how the actionbar/powers/skills will work once I move above level 9. The visuals are a big plus for the game and the world design is amazingly well done. The art team has done an amazing job bringing these comic book cities to life. Character creation is also decent, while a bit limited in some costume choices to start, I do have a feeling the higher level gear will fill your costume desires, also the ability to turn on/off visible costume parts will lead to some neat looking characters. So far I've only played through the first 9 levels and will be bringing you another preview soon of my experiences through level 20.
And then there's this hour-long video interview/preview on GameSpot.