Superhero Showdown! COH vs CO vs DCUO

Updated Tue, Jul 19, 2011 by jeffprime

superhero showdown coh vs co vs dcuo

It’s the cataclysmic showdown that comic-book gamers have been waiting for. Which of the three superhero-themed MMOGs rules the roost? To determine that, we’ll examine of the three contenders (City of Heroes, Champions Online, and DC Universe Online) in a variety of categories and see who comes out on top. Now, let’s don our cape and up, up, and away!


The visual element of a superhero MMOG is vitally important. Comic books are a visual medium and the creation of our favorite four-color superheroes served both as entertainment and inspiration to many a person. Artists like Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and Todd McFarlane were a huge influence upon comic-book (and thus, superhero) culture. Thus, the visual element of a superhero MMOG is as important as graphics are in the comics.

While City of Heroes recently upgraded their visuals and Champions Online chose a bold style, the clear winner is DC Universe Online. It may not be fair as that DCUO is the newest hero in town, but the game is simply gorgeous to look at. From the majestic skyline of Metropolis to the gritty streets of Gotham to the orbital views from the Watchtower, the settings, denizens, and foes are all visually striking. I’ve found myself spending a good deal of time just looking at the scenes laid out before me, sometimes not realizing that I’ve gotten to close to an enemy who’s behind me and I’ve aggroed him! The various power effects as you use your abilities really add to the epic heroism feel that any superhero game should look to aspire to.

Winner: DC Universe Online

DCUO is stunning, visually.


A superhero has to have things to do to be heroic; he can’t just stand around weaving a carpet. No, sir! He’s got to have enemies to fight, crimes to bust up, alien invaders to beat back, and so on, which means that there has to be a great deal of content for our hero to partake in. DCUO has been adding new content since their launch, CO has recently beefed up their content with the weekly comic series, but the clear winner is City of Heroes.

COH has been around for seven years, and NCsoft hasn’t wasted their time. They’ve put out twenty issues of content for players to enjoy. With adventures spanning the gamut from time travel to fending off alien hordes, there is a lot to do in COH. My personal favorite is time travel. Going back in time to a lesser-powered version of your hero is eye-opening. You quickly realize how much you’ve gotten used to the higher powers in your power sets, and you have to adapt to being limited to just your first few starter powers. In addition to their normal content, COH really blows their competitors out of the water with their Mission Architect system, where players can design adventures of their own and let other players use them. A rating system helps you wade through the thousands and thousands of adventures that have been created for all level types. If you can’t find an adventure in COH, then you’re just not trying.

Winner: City of Heroes

city of heroes
There are so many player-created missions to choose from in City of Heroes.

Character Creation

More than any other genre, character creation is key to superhero MMOGs. Your superhero outfit serves both as a uniform and as your identity as a hero (or villain!). We know instantly if we’re looking at Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man based upon their costume. Thus, it should be the same way in the superhero MMOGs that we play. A superhero’s look never goes out of style.

COH set a very high bar with their character creator system with an almost infinite amount of combinations to create a truly unique hero. In fact, most new games today don’t has as robust as a character creator system as COH. I’ve written on how disappointed I am with DCUO’s character creation system. I know that you can modify the costume as you pick up costume pieces during your adventures and you can easily choose which options you want to showcase. In their most recent webcast for Update 4, they also announced that there will be a greater number of options to character height, which is a welcome addition. That being said, I want the most options available to me when I begin my superhero career. Did Superman modify his costume over time? Has Captain America’s look changed over the decades? The answer is no. I don’t mind that there might be some special options only available if I unlock them, but I want a huge amount of choice when I initially create my hero or villain.

The clear winner in this category is Champions Online. They took what COH had done before them and added to it. Being able to modify practically each body part (length of arms, length of legs, chest size, muscle mass, bust size) really allows you to customize the hero themselves before you even get into the costume. With robotic, animal, alien, demonic, and even zombie options thrown in the mix, the sky’s the limit on what kind of hero you can create.

Winner: Champions Online

champions online
In Champions Online, you can modify more than your basic costume.


How information is presented to you and your interaction with NPCs can really immerse you into the comic-book universe of a superhero MMOG. While both COH and CO have good presentation and COH has a really good contact system (where you can just call them after you’ve done a mission or two with them), DCUO is the winner here. I absolutely love getting a mission as that the contact’s image will appear in your quest log and there’s a full voice-over describing the mission to you. While not only bringing that contact to life in the player’s eyes, it also helps to immerse you more deeply into the game’s setting. Call me a geeky fanboy, but I still get jazzed when I see, and hear, Superman congratulating me and giving me details on a follow-up mission. If that’s not immersion, then I don’t want to know what it is!

Winner: DC Universe Online

Superman is talking to me! <fanboy squeal>

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