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Heroes and villains alike have been dealing with the vile machinations of that vile machine Brainiac since the launch of DC Universe Online. With the game's third major downloadable content pack his chapter finally ends and a new evil rises.
It's all coming to a giant mechanical head in DC Universe Online on the PlayStation 3 and PC with The Battle for Earth. Players will be able to join forces in a massive raid aimed at ending Brainiac's reign of terror once and for all, taking on all three of his recently-completed Prime Avatars before the main event: Pile-on Brainy. The stage is set in South Gotham, where a Courthouse Alert and new Duos will see players cleaning up the streets as the Brainiac War escalates.
The battle even spills over onto Wonder Woman's home island of Themyscira, where Chimeric Brainiacs herald a massive battle against his powerful Avatar of Magic. Players will do battle aside mythical beasts as the push Brainiac's forces back into the sea.
And then everything becomes calm and the game ends.
No! As in comic books, when one major villain is defeated another will rise to take his right place amongst the pantheon of DC evils. Who will it be?
Don't look at me, I have no idea.
The Battle for Earth also introduces a ninth power set to the game, Earth Powers, giving tanks and damage dealers alike brand new ways to rock the house.
Will Brainiac finally triumph? Not likely! Will thousands of players create new earth-based super characters? You bet your rocky little ass. When will this all go down?
Soon, my minions. Very soon.
Look folks, just because you've been granted superhuman powers that allow you to go toe-to-toe with the biggest names in the DC Universe doesn't mean you can ignore your chores. In its latest free update DC Universe Online grants players the power to craft.
Sony Online Entertainment is calling it research and development, but we know what's really going on here. DC Universe Online players on PC and PlayStation 3 can now use their powers to scour Metropolis and Gotham City for exobytes and other crafting items, discover new recipes, transform their old equipment into scrap, and team up against powerful bosses for a chance at rare ingredients.
Using the new crafting system players are able to create equipment mods, a new class of item that slots into their normal gear, adding additional stat bonuses.
And here you thought developing super strength and electrical powers was a get-out-of-work card. No such luck, SuperDude.
This may sound off-key coming from the guy who nominated the 12th edition of annual sports franchise for overall GOTY last year. But I'm inclined to say "None of the above," this year. I prefer for these honors to truly mean the game, at minimum, was the best at what it did. This year's big games, nearly all of them sequels, seem to arrive at that point more out of incumbency and the expectation that they would be a game of the year nominee.
I agree with Luke that the best games are the ones where you lose yourself in another world, or lose tremendous hunks of time doing something you truly enjoy. I just lost myself in these worlds long before Skyrim came along. As much as I enjoyed these games, I realize their shortcomings (or, to be honest, lack of heft) don't make them GOTY timber.
That doesn't mean I'm going to give a GOTY vote to another title simply because everyone else is.
WHAT I LOVED
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters—This was our Sports Game of the Year. Nothing in 2011 hooked me from the start like this did, and I'm not much of a golf fan. While Augusta National—as picturesque as anything in Skyrim—was the big selling point, this was the rare sports game that transformed how it was played. The inclusion of a caddy made a very technical game accessible to neophytes like me, without babying the difficulty level. It was made on a nine months production schedule, too, which exposes some flaws, and threadbare areas, but also underlines its real strengths.
DC Universe Online—This should be MMO of the year, largely because we haven't had enough time to judge The Old Republic's impact. Sony Online Entertainment's post-release support has been fantastic, giving two new power sets, including a thoughtfully composed Light Powers grouping. The key is building a character you really do enjoy. When I created a perfect analogue of the Hobgoblin (different continuity; sue me) I was back into up-all-night mode, terrorizing Gotham. Although the necessity of teaming up was something a little off-putting to me at first, it's a laudable design goal that forces you to use an MMO's greatest resource: the other players. Bringing it all to a console was an enormous undertaking that should be lauded.
Fruit Ninja Kinect and Pinball FX2—The first two games made the PS3 my dominant console this year. If it wasn't for these two Xbox 360 downloadables, it could have been a shutout. Fruit Ninja Kinect is probably the best Kinect game available, which is due more to that catalog but shouldn't diminish the game's simple appeal. Pinball FX2 inhaled my time and money like a real pinball table and its superb Marvel table series reconnected me to the comics and characters I loved as a kid.
WHAT I HATED
Nearly Everything on a Phone—This has been the year of mobile phone gaming. We've reviewed more than 225 games in our App of the Day feature, and they are now all bleeding into one. I'm sick and tired of three-star scored physics puzzles and endless runners and I'm mindblown by how much PR representation 99 cent games have. The field is unbearably oversaturated with developers all trying to do the same thing, which ends up making an entire platform feel like derivative piffle.
Kirk Hamilton responds:
I know how you feel, Owen. In fact, my own GOTY nomination stood out to me out in part because so many of the (great) AAA sequels we saw this year felt like iterative improvements on past GOTYs. But all the same, I don't think we should give our Game of The Year award to the villain from The Neverending Story just yet.
WHAT I LOVED
Mobile Games—Since my GOTY nomination is an iOS game, obviously I don't think that the smartphone category was a complete wash. That said, I feel your exhaustion with the avalanche of middling mobile phone games. But in addition to S&S EP, we also had Jetpack Joyride, Infinity Blade II, SpellTower, and SpaceChem. Not too shabby, I'd say.
So Many Super-Strong Sequels—While I don't think that most of the AAA sequels this year are worthy of GOTY consideration, I'll counter your wide-ranging "Nothing" with an equal wide-ranging rebuttal. 2011 saw several GOTY-worthy sequels like Portal 2, Skyrim, Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Super Mario 3D Land, Skyward Sword, and Rayman: Origins. But the year also featured a ton of games like Dead Space 2, Saints Row: The Third, FIFA '12, Crysis 2, inFamous 2, Gears of War 3, LittleBigPlanet 2, Mortal Kombat 9 and Forza 4 which, while perhaps not GOTY material, were all highly polished and fun.
In Other Words, "Everything"—It was hard for me to choose my own GOTY nomination not because everything was so bad, but because most games were so good. 2011 gave us an overwhelming number of well-made, enjoyable video games. In the words of The Wire's Marlo Stanfield: "Sounds like one of them 'Good Problems.'"
WHAT I HATED
Dragon Age II—Seriously. God.
Luke Plunkett responds
What is this, Time magazine? I thought the criteria for Game of the Year was to pick the best game of the year. If the best game was a derivative piece of shit, then you pick it, by virtue of it being better than any other piece of derivative shit. That said...
WHAT I LOVED
Man Has a Point - Most of the big games of 2011 were, in some ways, disappointing. Mostly in that they all, Skyrim included, were simply honing formulas set down years or sometimes even decades earlier. If barely-improved iterations like Modern Warfare 3, Assassin's Creed Revelations and Uncharted 3 are the very best the video game industry can produce at the biggest time of year, it's a sad state of affairs.
WHAT I HATED
GOTY Means GOTY - That doesn't mean none of them don't deserve the accolade. It's not like they're terrible games. Indeed, many of them - and my two favourites of the year, Skyrim and Total War: Shogun 2, are among this group - should be applauded for finally mastering a genre of design that's been years in the honing. Like I said above, the Game of the Year winner should be awarded to what you think is the best game of the calendar year, not whether a season's crop of games meets some spectral criteria.
Brian Ashcraft responds:
WHAT I LOVED:
Numb - We are supposed to come up with our favorite game of the year. But who says we have to? What if by not coming up with a favorite, we are then able to unleash a bitting commentary on 2011?
WHAT I HATED:
Oh Come On - OWEN! There's got to be at least one game you liked. Pick that! This is Game of the Year, not Best Game Ever Made. Just select something you liked. Nothing feels like a cop out!
Stephen Totilo responds:
Owen, I don't think you're well. I prescribe a dose of PixelJunk Sidescroller. This year was awash in wonderful games. Every year is. The only thing years aren't awash in is time, and I wonder if that's what your 2011 was short on...the time to play the greats. Hell, I wish I had time to play more Dark Souls so I could sleep at night when the commenting howls stir.
WHAT I LOVED
So many games: Portal 2, the aforementioned Sidescroller, Super Mario 3D Land, Bulletstorm, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Pushmo, Lego Star Wars III, Sword & Sworcery, PixelJunk Shooter 2 and, for a time, Find Mii.
So many parts of games: The bomb system in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Horde 2.0 and Beast Mode in Gears of War 3, the sandstorm level in Modern Warfare 3, the moments I wondered if I could trust my own character in L.A. Noire, the ending evil levels of Infamous 2, the mid-game twist in Lost in Shadow, and more.
WHAT I HATED
Complaint: The Sequel: The insinuation that games that aren't the first in a series are inherently creatively limited. Video games are an iterative medium. Sequels are a valid vehicle for improvement.
On any one platform this was a thinner year than year's past, but, game-for-game, I think it's as good as it ever was.
Evan Narcisse responds:
This nothing talk reminds me of Nietsche's quote about staring into the abyss. But 2011 wasn't totally abysmal, or even totally meh.
WHAT I LOVED:
See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me: Owen, you're rankled by the torrent of middling mobile games and that's fair. But I loved the little discoveries I was able to make this year, like soaring with Tiny Wings, weaponizing boogers with Gesundheit or leisure driving with Bumpy Road. None of them may have been GOTY material but they and games like them were clever little underdogs that made the year great.
WHAT I HATED:
That Bloated Feeling: Too many AAA games—even some of the best ones—felt padded in the name of some algorithmic value proposition, as if X number of hours justifies charging Y number of dollars. Whenever a game overstays its welcome, it feels to me like the developers were too insecure to make cuts or find a punchier pacing. I think it's that kind of fumbling that makes it easy to feel like nothing deserves to be 2011's Game of the Year.
Bottom line: for all the shovelware and overweight offerings, there's no way I can't say that 2011 didn't give me games that I'll remember for years to come.
Mike Fahey responds:
I disagree with the whole concept here. As far as I am concerned, Game of the Year does not equate BEST. GAME. EVAR. It simply means that among the games released during any given calendar year, this one is the best. If three shitty games and one mediocre game is released in 2012, then welcome to game of the year, Mr. Mediocre.
In other words, what Luke said.
WHAT I LOVED:
What Luke said: Remember back when Luke said "I thought the criteria for Game of the Year was to pick the best game of the year. If the best game was a derivative piece of shit, then you pick it, by virtue of it being better than any other piece of derivative shit"? That was awesome.
WHAT I HATED:
Nothing: I can't think of a single game I truly hated this year. Call me a ridiculous optimist in a feathered cap (Also buy me a feathered cap. What? You said it!), but even the most useless piece of Wii shovelware had some redeeming qualities. Maybe it was the graphics, or a clever bit of writing. Hell, just the fact that the developer has a product up for sale is some sort of triumph, in much the same way I praise my babies for dropping a particularly large load. There's always room for accolades.
There you have 'em, our arguments for and against nothing as Kotaku's 2011 Game of the Year. We'll have two more arguments this week, and then we'll vote and announce the winner on Monday, January 2.
First DC Universe Online introduced the Green, Yellow, and Red Lanterns. Now, just in time for Christmas, they're getting all greedy. The one and only Orange Lantern Larfleeze has appeared in game update seven, spreading Season's Greedings to Gotham and Metropolis.
Oh hee. I just got that.
Larfleeze, the Lantern so greedy he's the only one of his kind, has been stealing Christmas presents from the good people of Metropolis and the borderline insane folk of Gotham City, and it's up to the heroes and villains of DC Universe Online to return them to their rightful owners. Players will have 12 days to spot Larfleeze lurking about the two main cities to earn a special holiday feat.
While they aren't busy hunting the Orange Lantern and his construct minions, players will be able to purchase all sorts of festive holiday items, beat people with candy canes, and even participate in the new, non-holiday themed five-on-five death-match arena located in the Watchtower.
Update seven should be live as we speak. Just remember: It doesn't matter who gives or receives; it's all yours anyway.
"Batman doesn't use guns!" my inner fanboy cried. (Except that he did in his earliest appearances.) "And there's no way that he'd allow amateur vigilantes—especially ones that use guns—and evil clown wannabes to roam through his city!" Gotham City Impostors sports a more exaggerated art style than the detailed hyper-realism of RockSteady Games' latest Bat-outing. More worries.
This is going to be a disaster, I thought. However, my thinking on that's changed.
The more I thought about Impostors, I was able to put some of my fanboy fears to rest. Why? Because the game serves as a reminder of where Batman comes from. and the fact that, when it comes to the ways that the character's been portrayed, Batman is legion. He contains multitudes. The 1950s Batman comics had him and Robin adventuring in broad daylight with a lighter, boys-adventure tone that diverged wildly from the gothic shadows of his first few outings. And then, for TV watchers of a certain age, Adam West's campy Caped Crusader will always be their touchstone for the character and the comics made while the 1960s Batman TV show was on the air followed that interpretation's lead. Comics readers and Bat-observers know the rest: how a young Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams brought the character back to its pulp influences in the 1970s, followed by Frank Miller's gritty bookends The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One in the 1980s.
The point, of course, is that multiple interpretations for Batman aren't anything new. What's new is that video games are just now getting to the point where they can reflect the multivalent potential of Bruce Wayne's masked alter ego. Shortly after Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, Warner Bros' game division released Batman: The Brave and The Bold, a side-scrolling action title that tied into the popular Cartoon Network show. And, as part of a heroic triumverate with Superman and Wonder Woman, Batman figures prominently in the DC Universe Online MMO, too. He's slightly chattier, friendlier and willing to be a mentor. A different guy than in Arkham City, but the same, too.
So, if you're scared like I was, take a deep breath, fellow Batman fans. As good as Arkham City is, there needn't be one Batman to rule them all. Gotham City Impostors won't invalidate Arkham City, especially since Batman's out of town in the former game. Instead, it's evidence that we just might be entering where gamers of all ages and tastes—kids, FPS players, character creation enthusiasts—will have a Batman game they can enjoy.
[Pictured above, from left to right: DC Universe Online, Gotham City Impostors, Batman: Arkham City]
We know that DC Universe Online's recent switch from subscription-based MMO to free-to-play added one million subscribers to the game in one week, but what does one million free players mean to the bottom line? How's a 700 percent increase in daily revenue, for starters?
Sony Online Entertainment head honcho John Smedley hit Twitter this morning to share some exciting numbers generated after flipping the DC Universe Online free-to-play switch. Numbers like a six percent growth in the title's player base since the change. And that's not just people popping on to see what the game is about and leaving; more than 85 percent of daily logins are return players, coming back for more free super heroic goodness.
And of course there's the money that comes when you stop making players pay and making it an option instead. That 700 percent is split almost evenly between PlayStation 3 (53 percent) and PC (47 percent) players, with the most popular items in the game's cash marketplace being the Vanguard of the Heavens character skin and additional character slots.
With statistics like these it seems silly for any new major MMO title to launch with subscription fees in place. You listening, Star Wars: The Old Republic?
Tour Central City, the home turf of The Flash, and go back in time to the moment Barry Allen became the Scarlet Speedster with "Lightning Strikes," the second downloadable content extension for DC Universe Online. The package also delivers new Electricity Powers, the game's eighth power set, for your character creation/re-spec.
"Lightning Strikes" does not yet have a specific release date although Sony Online Entertainment said it would arrive "later this year." The biggest value it will deliver, in addition to the power set, is the addition of a Central City map that, in addition to Gotham City and Metropolis, offers its own solo and group missions.
The DLC also offers The Flash Museum Duo, a mission in which players may travel back in time to the moment Barry Allen, CCPD forensic scientist, was doused by strange chemicals during a lightning storm and became The Flash.
The Flash, and Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash) already appear in the base edition of DC Universe Online. With "Lightning Strikes," new characters such as Livewire, The Top, The Trickster, Static and Black Lightning will be introduced as well. Some, such as Livewire, will become templates at the character creation menu.
The DLC will be $9.99 for all but Legendary-level subscribers, who get it for free. DC Universe Online went free to play earlier this month.
We already know that over 120,000 PC users joined DC Universe Online in 24 hours after the Sony Online Entertainment title went free-to-play, but now the publisher's revealing more about how big the shift has been for them.
In the week since DCUO became FTP, one million new would-be metahumans have joined the game's ranks. And that number is evenly split between PC and PlayStation 3 players. Of course, there's limits on what you get as a free member but you can always upgrade to Premium or Legendary if you want to be a one-person Legion of Superheroes and access all the incoming DLC packs.
Shifting to a free-to-play model yesterday, DC Universe Online opened the gates to the freeloading hordes. More than 120,000 signed up for the MMO said John Smedley, the president of Sony Online Entertainment. That figure's for the PC, though. No word yet on PS3 enrollments.
Smedley also touted figures for number of users logged in, up more than 400 percent over the previous month. Sounds great, until you realize the influx of free players have caused stability issues and long login queues.
Under the new freemium model, free players get two character slots and all standard game content; tiered pricing delivers additional character slots and expansions, plus a larger item inventory.
With yesterday's addition to the PlayStation Network and today's flipping of the switch on the PC version, DC Universe Online is now free-to-play. Sony Online Entertainment celebrates with the most exciting trailer you'll see all...oh, nevermind.
Both versions of DC Universe Online now feature three levels of access — free, premium, and legendary, the differences between which are readily explained on the game's web page. It's a tiered system that handicaps those that don't pony up at least a little cash, but not so much that the game isn't enjoyable.
While I'm a fan of the game myself, I never felt the $14.99 a month fee was worth it, considering it only takes a couple weeks to reach the game's level 30 cap (if that). Now that it's free I'd say donning tights and a cape sounds like a rather lovely idea. Why not give it a go?