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Since the advent of the WoW era, countless subscription MMOs have begun with a fanfare before slowly fading into free-to-play obscurity. While many fun games in this genre have been created, the life-blood of any MMO’s long term success hinges on one all-important factor: end-game content. If there isn’t something fun to do once you’ve bumped up against the level cap, players will eventually move on to the next big thing.

This is why I was impressed with the way Sony Online Entertainment chose to show off their superhero MMO on the E3 floor. Instead of a standard PvE walkthrough of features, when I picked up the controller for some hands-on time with the game, I was thrown immediately into a PvP battle with other live players, intended to be one form of endgame content once the game launches.

The SOE demo consisted of a 10-minute match of heroes vs. villains, and to satisfy my curiosity I sat down on the dark side to see if I could pimp-slap a few do-gooders into submission. Spoilers: I totally did.

The characters in DC Universe Online fall under different classes; depending on your class, you will have different skill and upgrade tree loadouts. Whether hero or villain, you will have a big name mentor from the DC universe to help guide your progress.

For example, I was a villain with a gadget specialty, so Lex Luthor was my mentor. A hero with the gadget specialty would have Batman as a mentor.

The match took place in a sprawling rocky environment, with 4-5 different structures acting as capture points. The environment was known as a place to mine for trace deposits of kryptonite, so the game gives players a reason to engage in PvP combat. If the villains win, they gain control of a tool to help weaken one of the major heroes in the universe; the stupid heroes obviously want that not to happen.

My character had an exoskeleton load out and plenty of ranged capability to go with his augmented brawling, so I jumped into the match and immediately looked for a hero to wail on. Traversal of the environment was surprisingly entertaining. Since my villain had an acrobat loadout, I could jump and glide and run up walls, which made getting to capture points quick and fun.

Once I got to a capture point and spotted one of those despicable tree-huggers, I got to work. A standard melee attack and a standard ranged attack could be used in combos, while special powers, gadgets, and abilities were displayed across the bottom of the screen.

Triggering special abilities was achieved by hitting a combination of one of the two shoulder buttons and a face button. Cooldown timers were clear and readable along the bottom of the screen, which helps you stay more focused on your opponent. It’s clear that they’re looking to give the game as much of an action focus as possible for a MMO. In my short-hands on time, I got the feeling that they’re at lease close to that goal.

Those who are fond of massive amounts of hotkeys and ability icons in their MMOs may be a little disappointed here. The combination of the L1/R1 shoulder buttons and face buttons allows for a paltry 8 skills to be triggerable at any one time. However, this seems like a reasonable trade-off considering the greater focus on action and the need to make the controls console-accessible.

It’s good to see that DCUO seems to be headed in the right direction with their approach to end-game content, where variety is a must. Whether or not they do enough with it to make it worth the $15 monthly subscription fee remains to be seen. Either way, it looks promising, and it’s always nice to see someone besides FFXI take a legitimate crack at bringing this genre to console owners.

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