When you think of superheroes, you think of high-energy combat filled
with exploding environments, daring acts of aerial acrobatics and
punches capable of sending foes flying across the battlefield. None of
these are absent from DCUO and every last one is just as satisfying as
they look on the pages of your favorite comic books.
Did somebody order a
Perhaps the best gameplay feature of DCUO is the design of its default
UI layout and keybinds. Instead of the standard MMOG mechanic of
"tab-target, auto-attack, fire-all-your-cooldowns-and-wait-for-refresh"
that leaves you a slave to whack-a-mole style hotbuttons and timers,
DCUO maps the entirety of your primary weapon set to a single button.
Through a series of "clicks" and "holds," your avatar will execute
different combinations of superpowered techniques that are the bread
and butter of your life as a hero or villain. The additional powers you
can use are yours to command at YOUR discretion, not the whim of a
global cooldown, and you may find yourself going as long as an hour or
two without needing to activate a single one. This combination of
simplicity and freedom allow you to do something that has become less
common in MMOGs - you can actually watch the action unfold
instead of always having your eyes fixed to your hotbars. This also has
allowed the DCUO devs to include clever boss fight mechanics that
include a reliance on environmental awareness, since it's easier to see
what's going on around you.
It's ironic that the UI is also one of DCUO's weakest features. In
addition to the sparse default layout, there is also a 10-page UI panel
which is used to access players' inventories, appearances, social
interactions, mission journals, and more. This is, in my opinion, the
single largest feature that makes the PC experience of this game feel
like a lazy console port. Besides being difficult to navigate and
poorly designed in some instances (mission entries take up too much
space and the map and social interfaces are completely unintuitive),
many of these submenus simply cannot be bound to keys requiring you to
open a random menu just to access the submenu bar and then
switch to the menu you wished to access. Given how much of a
character's progression is determined by picking the right gear,
queuing up for PvP or Alerts and choosing the right missions to
complete, it's a shame that these tasks require so much work to
accomplish due to poor UI design.
Foot, meet Face.
Integrated voice chat is a feature that has seen very little adoption
in the MMOG industry as a whole, but SOE was smart enough to recognize
it as a necessity in an action-based game like this. Combat is simply
too fast-paced for you to take the time to type out instructions in the
heat of battle, and even travel frequently requires your hands to be
"at the wheel" much of the time. As such, DCUO features a
fully-functional integrated voice system that can be used in groups and
raids with ease, and even allows for different input and output devices
to be assigned, as well as featuring an automatic volume reduction of
game sounds whenever you or a teammate is speaking.
The ease and excitement of hands-on action, coupled with voice chat and
the universal use of voiceovers (which I'll discuss more in the "Sound"
section) have come together to give gamers an action-filled experience
that many MMOGs lack. The feeling that a hard-won victory or a sudden
defeat is determined directly by your actions, rather than just a
string of random number generators, gives DCUO a tactile, visceral
spirit that is deeply satisfying and completely enjoyable.