Earth stands a chance in DC Universe

Players help Flash stop Gorilla Grodd in DC Universe Online for the PlayStation 3.Players help Flash stop Gorilla Grodd in DC Universe Online for the PlayStation 3.
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Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at DC Universe Online (from Sony Online Entertainment and Havoc, reviewed for PlayStation 3, rated T for teen, $59.99 plus $14.99 per month).

This third-person, massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) experience stars the heroes and villains of a legendary comic-book publisher. It allows players to create superpowered avatars that band together to tackle missions spread across the legendary pop-art landscapes of sunny Metropolis and dark Gotham City.

What’s the story? From the game manual: In the future, all of Earth’s heroes and villains are dead. Their endless bloody conflict blinded them to the true threat: the planet-devouring alien intelligence Brainiac. As Brainiac amasses all of Earth’s powers using his vicious Exobytes, only one man is left standing, the last son of Earth, Lex Luthor.

As Brainiac prepares to assimilate the data from the Exobytes, Lex Luthor makes a final attempt to save his planet. He steals the Exobytes and flees backward through time. There he detonates the Exobytes in the atmosphere, blasting ordinary humans with ultracondensed meta, magic and tech powers that were drained from Earth’s future.

With this new generation of superpowered heroes and villains, Earth stands a chance against Brainiac.

Play the role: The gamer finds himself caught up in a battle of good versus evil and must quickly make some complex decisions that will bring his avatar to life and align with the Justice League or Legion of Doom.

Players can build a character from the ground up or select a model (such as Catwoman, Deathstroke or Green Arrow) and tweak to their hearts’ content. I found this part of the game to be as entertaining as it was time-consuming, with a nice selection of possibilities.

With my love of supermight, I built a male hero named Zadzooks made of hardened volcano ash (with veins of lava). He wields a bow, can control fire and has the power of flight. He has a spiky green hairdo; wears spiked gauntlets, a red cape and Lobo-style boots; and sports a large red “Z” on his bare chest.

My hero-mentor would be Superman (other choices include Batman for the technology fan and the magical Wonder Woman) and I would receive tips and mission instructions from Oracle, the former Batgirl.

Players can create up to eight characters, so I went back to the development process and created an equally cool male villain. Named Badzooks, this brawling, green-skinned reptilian behemoth, with superspeed and the power to control nature, answered to the Joker (I also could have chosen Lex Luthor or Olympian Goddess Circe) and took directions from the Calculator.

A completed character enters a world ripped from the comics and fights alongside such stalwarts as Batwoman, Robin and Parasite while going on quests, bounties and alerts that range from escaping Brainiac’s massive ship to exploring Watchtower or the Hall of Doom, stopping Scarecrow from releasing nerve gas, visiting Booster Gold’s kiosks, capturing Bizarro and seeing the Joker’s home, Amusement Mile.

Suffice to report, the comics fan will be in virtual heaven.

Get to the action: After about two hours of downloading and configuring content  your PS3 will need 16 gigabytes of free space, ouch  it’s time to do some damage.

In a very uncharacteristic design that doesn’t cater to the hard-core MMORPG crowd, Sony and DC offer less in the areas of meticulous item bidding and intensive inventory management and simply let players wander around massive locales to interact, collect and beat the tar out of the good or bad guys.

Leveling up is the key to success because that leads to more powers and access to more weapons. Unfortunately, that often requires button-mashing battles that will exhaust a player’s patience and thumbs. In fact, expect to spend lots of time on quests and leveling up before an avatar has a chance of surviving consistently.

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