A word of warning, too, on your microphone: you would be wise to know in advance that push-to-talk is not enabled by default. Change your settings, unless you want your domestic life to be broadcast to your new friends. A Saturday spent in the company of someone else's screaming baby led me to disable voice-chat altogether.
As for the voice acting, performances range from the extraordinary to the abysmal. Mark Hammill's reprisal of his role as The Joker is superb, although it's disappointing that your first encounter with him as a Hero takes place in The Vault, a shallow event that sees you invited to his madhouse in order to rush around, smash presents for rewards and then walk out when you tire of it. It feels needlessly shoe-horned into the game to maximise exposure to his involvement.
But even allowing for the more pantomime theatrics of the comic-book narrative, something has gone terribly awry in audio production. During the beta, certain NPCs carried developer-read placeholder dialogue. While it's impossible to verify now, so awkwardly flat is some of the delivery that I suspect some of these lines have persisted into the final release. Furthermore, switching your mission mid-narrative or accepting a new mission immediately after handing one in often leads to a muddling, schizophrenic rambling of voices talking over each other.
There are certainly great achievements in DC Universe Online that raise it above the median: the gloriously rendered cities, the freedom of movement and exploration – not to mention a refreshing approach to combat in a genre dominated by spell-casting and global cooldowns. Despite the significant kinks that need to be ironed out, these are all welcome additions, and server-wise it's been a remarkably stable affair – no mean feat at launch.
While there's likely more long-term appeal here for devoted fans of DC, let's also be clear in saying that 'niche' is not a dirty word. It may be that, in the passage of time, DCUO becomes to its fans what EVE Online is to System Architects: a little slice of heaven, and profitable for the publisher to boot.
But the game currently suffers from a fundamental crisis of identity. Interface issues notwithstanding, is it deep enough to provide a satisfying experience for the PC audience, should console owners find themselves turned off by a subscription of Ł9.99 (€12.00) per month? Equally, is it accessible enough to a player community less familiar with the subtle allures of the MMO?
If it's a casual experience designed to be enjoyed in short, thrilling bursts, then the pricing structure is misguided. In trying to be all things to all people, while at the same time attempting to bridge the gulf created by the subscription model, this hedging of bets may be the game's undoing. Only time – and the promised monthly content updates – will tell.
As a standalone online action game – albeit one with improved missions and realistic content pricing – DCUO would almost certainly fare better in the final analysis. But this is a subscription MMO. As such, it needs to be compelling enough to draw you into the world for months – if not years – to come, and reward the significant investment of your time and money. Without changes to some fundamental aspects of the game, it's hard to imagine that the potential for that longevity exists.
PC gamers accustomed to feasts of content and polish will likely feel short-changed from their subscription fee once the initial 30 day rush is over. And while it may be the best implementation of a console MMO to date, PS3 owners should still ask for more.
6 / 10