CCI: "DC Universe Online" Hands-On Demo

After more than four years of press, development, demos and questions, the end is in sight for Sony Online Entertainment's DC Universe Online. The MMO - massively multiplayer online - game is due out on the PlayStation 3 and the PC November 2. The game will allow players to create their own superhero or villain, and run amock in places like Gotham City and Metropolis, as designed by DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee, where you'll earn experience, work with a mentor (like Superman or the Joker) and eventually team up with them to fight or commit crimes.

Up until recently, that appeared to be as far as you could go - having a "Brave and the Bold" style team-up with Batman, versus playing as Batman himself. But as fans learned at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year, where SOE once again demonstrated the game, the company has added a new bonus mode that will allow players to do what many have been asking about since the game was announced -- play as the "iconic" heroes that inhabit the DC Universe.

Senior Producer Wes Yanagi, who has worked on the game since Sony started developing it, showed me this bonus mode in San Diego. He said during the regular game, players will earn sim cards featuring various DC characters, which will allow them to access a player vs. player area where they can team up with or fight their friends. When the game comes out, this mode will feature characters from the Batman line of characters, but Yanagi said they hope to add other characters (like Superman) down the line. And Batman himself is a pre-order bonus character - so if you want to play as the Dark Knight, you'll need to order the game before November from one of seven retailers.

Part of the reason why developers added this mode, Yanagi said, was to not only give fans the chance to play as the heroes they recognize from comics, movies and television, but also to allow them to play as a different type of character from the one they customized in the main game. So if you've built a flying character in the game, you can play as an acrobat (i.e. Batman) and see how his power set works in the bonus mode. Or they can play as a similar type of character to the one they built and test out different fighting techniques.

In the demo at the Sony booth, players could assume the roles of various Batman-related characters. I played as Nightwing and teamed up with Batman against the Joker and Harlequin. And, quite frankly, got my butt kicked. The battle took place in a recreation of the Batcave, complete with giant penny and various Bat suits, so I was probably a bit distracted while playing. Nightwing, armed with his billy clubs, also seemed a little undermatched for the Joker, who wore a jet pack, had guns and kept calling in his goons to help, but that could have been due to the player (cough, cough) rather than the game itself.

As expected, Sony has made a lot of progress on the look and feel of the game since I first played it two years ago. The interface for the controls has changed and looks a lot slicker, and the game play itself seemed a lot tighter than in the previous demo I played. And while I'm not all that excited by the bonus mode addition - I'm more interested in building my own hero and the bigger game, honestly - I can see it being a fun diversion, especially with friends and especially if they add some more characters to the mix, outside of the ones you'd expect.

Like a lot of people, I've been waiting for this game to come out for a while, and the demo only made me want it even more. With great visuals, fun game play and the best line-up of characters an MMO has seen, DC Universe Online should be a fun and worthwhile addition to your PlayStation 3 library when it arrives in November.

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