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City of Heroes Review
developer: Cryptic Studios
PIII 800, 256MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Apr 27, 04
|» All About City of Heroes on ActionTrip|
Super heroes have (finally) been getting a fair shake by the entertainment world in the past few years (ignore the Daredevil movie and this theory holds water). The argument could be made that this is due to the advances in technology that finally allow movies and video games to represent heroes in a way that equals or surpasses the images found in a comic book. Of course, the argument could also be made that it's not the technology that has made the dramatic difference but that the people using the technology are themselves true fans and, therefore, know what elements are needed to ensure a quality product. After all, look at what Peter Jackson was able to do with the Lord of The Rings series. While the movies were not perfect translations of the books, just imagine what the films would have been like if, say, David Lynch had directed them. Sure, the man knows a thing or two about dwarves, but personally, I cannot picture Kyle MacLachlan in the role of Aragorn.
City of Heroes... a whole city of 'em!
Playing this game makes you feel like you're in a comic book!
While Cryptic Studios does not know much about dwarves, I'm sure they know quite a bit about super heroes and game design in general. Their first game (keep this fact in mind), a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, City of Heroes, has been out for a month now. If you read our preview a few months back, you have some idea of how much I was enjoying the game at that time.
For those of you that did not read the preview here is a quick summary: The game allows players to create a super hero, choosing the powers, costume and even catch phrase for your crime fighter. The playfield is Paragon City, recently ravaged by an alien attack and as rebuilding takes place; it shines like a beacon attracting criminals and crime fighters alike. The new hero then hits the mean streets of Paragon City to help combat various factions of evil doers and make a name for himself in the process. As the player completes missions acquired from contacts around town, their hero gains new powers while uncovering the motivations that drive the bad guys.
While this is an apt summary, it cannot convey the sheer fun the game offers or how true it stays, graphically, to the comic books that inspired it. City of Heroes is a MMORPG; however, it does not have some of the same features that many veteran players have come to expect from a MMORPG or do things in the same way. This may be viewed as a plus or a minus depending how you view the current crop of games on the market. While character creation is limited to base set of five classes, the power sets that can be combined as primary and secondary choices are typical for super heroes: Fire or ice manipulation, mind control or flight are just a few of the fifty that can be used to dispense justice to criminals.
After selecting your powers, you then customize the look of your hero using one of the most detailed costume creation systems around. Players choose between sex, height, weight and how athletic the hero will appear (meaning how much body mass the hero has). Then you get to choose your color scheme and move on to mix and match different body parts and costume styles until your hero looks just right. The only thing that is sorely missing here is the ability to add a cape to your costume. When asked about this missing hero hallmark at E3, Cryptic Studios said that is something that they will be adding on later, possibly with the recently announced City of Villains slated for release next year.
Once you have created your hero, it's time to hit the streets and take out some punks. You can either roam around finding packs of criminals as they loiter around parks and buildings or visit one of the NPC contacts for a mission. Missions range from the typical delivery missions (take item A to person B), hunting missions that require you to take out a certain number of gang members or finally, 'door' missions. These missions require you to visit a place on the map like a building or cave that leads to an instanced dungeon that only you and your group have access to.
Door missions offer good experience as there are quite a few enemies for you to fight and you don't have to worry about anyone not in your group running up and whacking your thug (so to speak) and stealing some of the experience reward. This happens from time to time and makes some people wish the game had some form of Player vs. Player combat so you could put the smack down on the less courteous players. I have not had too much trouble with kill stealers and the ones who have tried to help themselves to my targets have responded to a friendly reminder to mind their own damn business and keep their meat hooks to themselves. As mentioned before, City of Villains will include some form of PvP, so that should make people happy who are spoiling for a fight with other players when it ships.
Another thing City of Heroes does differently is that there is no equipment to outfit and upgrade your character with. Instead, when defeating enemies you receive 'enhancements' that boost the various aspects of your powers and 'inspirations' that grant a temporary boost to defense, chance to hit or damage you inflict. This means there is no crafting for players to take part in. Again, to some MMORPG veterans this is a handicap, but frankly I do not miss it. Sitting my super hero in front of a sewing machine to churn out countless pairs of tights to sell to other heroes does not fit my mental image of a crime fighter. This is not to say I don't enjoy crafting, it just does not lend itself to this game.
The downside to no equipment is that once you have spent time in the wonderful costume creator to make your outfit perfect, you had better be happy with it. Because you will be stuck with the same look until you retire that hero and create another one. If you join a Super Group, which is essentially a clan or guild, you will be able to alter your color scheme and wear a Super Group symbol if you like, but the basic style and look will be the same. Again to me, it's a non issue but others may miss the option that exists in other games to change your look. To be fair, even Superman, Spider Man (among others) have gone through costume changes over the years.
What the game has loads of is combat. You can strike out on your own, but you will find that you may not be able to knock down thugs as quickly than if you were part of a group. And you will be missing out on the magic that happens when a well balanced group fights their way deep into enemy territory.
Great graphics & sound, comprehensive costume designer, action packed game play, different take on the MMORPG, combat heavy, ability to create and play your own super hero;
No PvP, no capes yet, long log out time.