City of Heroes/City of Villains Combined Review
|Release Date:||29th September, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Craig Laycock (Cragtek)|
I have to admit something very secret. You might not like me for it. In fact, some of you may hate me for it. The thing is, a lot of MMO games annoy me. I've played a fair number of them over the years and part of me thinks they all take themselves far too seriously, particularly the fantasy variety. That goes for a lot of the citizens too: just a tad uppity, some of them.
So when City of Heroes / City of Villains Good Vs. Evil Combined Edition (try saying that without your teeth in) landed on my desk here at gameSlave towers, I was sceptical to say the least that it would be able to offer me a rewarding gaming experience. Thankfully, I was completely and utterly wrong.
POW! The character creation screen hits you first. Without a doubt CoH/V's trump card, the depth and freedom of this part of the game is pretty much completely unmatched in the market. I choose to be a hero and immediately was presented with an absolute wealth of customisation options, all of them hilarious. I create 'The Germanator' - an absolute monstrosity of a hero. Imagine all the German baddies you've ever seen, but an awful lot camper. All knee-high boots, no trousers and bright orange underpants-and-top-hat-combo. After penning him a short tragic-comic biography to fully explain his lack of trousers, it was on to the most important choice of all - picking an origin and archetype. The archetype influences how you'll play the game, so it was important to choose wisely. I pick a scrapper (melee specialist) scientist - all that was left to do was issue him with the custom battle-cry ("Ooh frauline!") and it's time for this hero to enter the troubled world of Paragon City...
WHAP! And it's onwards to the excellent tutorial. Unlike countless other games of its type, it eases you into the basic mechanics of the game without ever feeling patronising. It's a world apart from the confusion I've felt when starting some MMO games and I was never really in much doubt about what I should be doing. It was the same when I entered the game proper - there wasn't a feeling that everything was esoteric and designed to perplex, as I've experienced in the past. Furthermore, the community are among the nicest I've come across, eager to help if your hero is in strife. A badge system rewards you when you've completed certain tasks, achieved certain things and have explored various areas - and collecting the first of these exploration badges is a great way of getting started and finding your way around the world.
CRUNCH! Hitting the streets is immediately satisfying. The busy world of Paragon City is densely populated with NPC lawbreakers and victims, meaning that if there are not a lot of people online on your server, you can always find something to do. Your powers (which you select at the start of the game and add to as you progress through the levels) allow you to beat up baddies to your hearts desire and, later in the game, to do fancy stuff like flying about. In fact, knowing the fun that is to be had, the developers allow you to fly pretty early on in the game. In the city itself, everywhere you turn, people are smashing up cars, stealing handbags or beating up innocents. It doesn't feel like work; it feels like you're saving the day. Of course, what you're really doing is gaining experience points - it's just you barely notice as it's so much less of a bore than it often is with other MMOs. But, while the game is quite solo-friendly, the real rewards lie in the team-based missions. Lots of experience is there for the taking, whether it be by thwarting bank robberies, rescuing hostages, defusing bombs, or just good ol' beating up thugs.
ZZAP! Throughout your journeys in Paragon City, there are bound to be times when you need a little boost - enter the inspirations system. Clicking on of these collectable icons will present your character with a temporary stats boost. They can be used to stiffen your defences, bolster your firepower, or even resurrect yourself when you've died at the hands of that pesky nemesis of yours. For a more permanent boost, you can collect enhancements. Each of your main powers can be bolstered through enhancement slots. As you level up, more of these slots are opened up allowing you to drag and drop enhancements into them, which provide permanent stats boosts. The enhancements each have a level number, at which they are their most effective, so it's important to make sure you're using the right ones for you. Fancy making your own enhancements? Fortunately, City of Heroes lets you do that too. The task of 'crafting' follows the same sort of style as with other MMOs. You collect ingredients (known in the game as salvage), buy - or find - a recipe and then create. If you're short of components, you can buy them from other gamers at the local consignment house. Indeed, you can buy or sell anything at the consignment houses - including user-created enhancements. All good stuff.
SPLAT! One of the great things about City of Heroes is that it didn't require my fancy desktop computer graphics card in order to run. In fact, things ran tremendously well on my business-esque laptop and, while the graphics aren't anything special, they certainly do the job of painting a world of superhero comic-style intrigue very well. The scalability of the engine is certainly a plus point in my book - and that far outweighs the negative side of the slightly dated visuals. While we're on the subject of downsides, a bit more variety in the missions and tasks you can take on would be nice - many are just slight variants on a theme - but to be honest, it's hard to find too much fault with the game.
City of Heroes / Villains is without a doubt the best MMO I have ever played. It may not have hardcore statistical depth to the extent of games like World of Warcraft, but it's certainly more fun to play and doesn't take itself half as seriously. Hardcore RPG-ers may sneer, but there can be no denying that this game re-injects a bit of downright good fun back into the genre. Plus, you get to swan around in underpants, which just so happens to be my favourite activity.
- Bustling, lively game world
- A bit of good, old-fashioned fun
- Awesome character creation system
Not so good stuff
- Missions not always varied
- Not as in-depth as some MMOs
- Aging graphics
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