Marvel Heroes (PC – 2013)

In Marvel Heroes, players take control of one of several starting characters (Punisher, Colossus, Captain America, Black Widow, Storm, Human Torch, Hawkeye…among others, with the roster changing all the time) and embark on a mission to stop the nefarious Doctor Doom from his plans to use the Cosmic Cube for his own evil purposes.

If you’ve ever played a game like Diablo II, then you’ve essentially already played Marvel Heroes. This game isn’t innovative, but it doesn’t really seek to be – which is somewhat of a shame due to the Marvel property being so popular right now. However, for the casual gamer, this game will be great fun.

I had originally planned on boycotting this game when I found out that there was no character creation system and instead, as a player, you’d pick a character like Spider-Man or Colossus (whom I am using at the moment) and would be running around on-screen with potentially dozens of other players using the same character as you. However, in reality, it often doesn’t play out that way. The reason for this is due to there being (at the moment) 20+ characters (somewhere around 28, I believe) – all of whom have multiple costumes and other custom appearance options available to the player to make their particular Colossus or Spider-Man or Thor stand out. So even if two or more characters are using Colossus, there’s a good chance that most of them will have individualized aesthetics. Still not as good as being able to create your own character, which is what Champions Online excels at (Note: Champions Online was originally supposed to be a Marvel game) and even DC Universe Online is pretty decent at.

As it is, Marvel Heroes, despite not being innovative and despite being somewhat repetitive (as games in this genre sometimes are) is a decent action MMORPG. It’s best to play with friends for the fun factor, but there isn’t a large difficulty curve and it’s FREE (you can still pay for characters and costumes with real-life money but it’s not necessary to play the full version of the game – you can still buy characters and costumes with in-game currency that you earn, but it takes a long time), meaning that it’s not a huge investment and you’re likely to get at least some enjoyment out of it and the best thing about it is, well…it’s FREE. The only real thing that kept me from giving this four stars is the fact that you can’t pick any hero to begin with, and you can’t create your own hero.

Check it out, team up with your favorite characters and whup some bad-guy arse. The developers are constantly adding new characters to the mix, so gameplay isn’t likely to get too stale anytime soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★

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Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 – 2013)

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 - 2013)

Los Santos: A city that never sleeps, filled with botox, gangbangers and money. Lots and lots of money. As either Michael (A former wise-guy-turned informant), Franklin (A hustler looking to make some fat stacks and a better life) or Trevor (a violent psychopath with a meandering scale of justice and morality), you find yourself thrust into the biggest heists of your careers which could make or break you, depending on the roads you take.

Having played all the previous incarnations of the GTA series (Vice City being my favorite and San Andreas being my least favorite) I was pretty excited about playing this and bought it a day or two after it came out.

The story mode is great. A lot of missions are gun-n-run, but that was obviously expected. The graphics definitely got an overhaul, most noticeably with some of the environmental stuff. (Check out videos of the water graphics if you haven’t played the game yet).

The police seem to swarm faster and angrier in V than they did in previous incarnations – sometimes I find myself in a harrowing flight from death by trigger-happy police for the most minor infractions while they burst through parked vehicles with their armored vans and fire willy-nilly into the crowds trying to murder me in cold blood.

As in previous GTA games, there are a ton of mini-games. I haven’t tried them all out yet, but they are all kind of nifty to try at least once from what I’ve seen. As Michael, I played tennis with my wife for a good half hour of real time and it was fun. One of the most controversial mini-games, of course, is when you’re at the strip club and you’re trying to touch the strippers giving you a private lap dance without getting kicked out of the club. (FYI – might not want to play this particular mini-game in front of sensitive folks or children because the strippers are topless and it’s a first-person strip-club experience. Yup….big ol’ digital boobies on your massive flat-screen television. If your grandmother didn’t think your life was fail before, she will now).

GTA V Online launched already, of course, and it has been riddled with lots and lots of problems. At first, I just couldn’t get on and then after that, I could get on but my character wouldn’t save and I couldn’t rob stores or do missions so those of us on the map just ran around killing each other with sheer boredom. After that, they finally got the game at least somewhat functioning so now I can join missions and complete robberies, but the kinks aren’t all worked out yet and there are still griefers out there so watch yourself if you go on. I had a whole squad of them following me around, trying to kill me for at least an hour.

Without even taking GTA: Online into consideration, I’d give the game the score below. They packed so much into the game that it will honestly give you hours and hours of enjoyment. The sheer amount of variety earns this game a five star from moi, despite its faults, which are minor against the entirety of the game experience. Add to that the extra depth of the online mode once they get the kinks out, and it’s just a mind-numbing amount of time one could spend playing it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

DC Universe Online (2011- PS3)

DC Universe Online (2011)

Original Release Date: January 11, 2011
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment and WB Games

As far as the storyline goes, you begin the game by watching a really cool cinematic battle between the Justice League and a bunch of DC villains. The heroes are all killed in the battle, even Superman, with the Joker and Lex Luthor still standing. Then, Brainiac shows up with an army of metahumans he’s created by “downloading” the powers of the DC heroes and villains for years. Lex Luthor can do nothing but watch. So, Lex travels through time and warns the heroes about Brainiac and also releases stolen exobytes (nano-sized mechanisms that attach to humans and give them superpowers) into the atmosphere, creating thousands of metahumans which will be able to help in the fight against Brainiac once they are trained by either the Justice League (With mentors being Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman) or the DC villains (With mentors being Lex Luthor, Circe and Joker).

The character you create is one of those new superheroes, just learning how to use their powers.

Jim Lee is at the helm of the game (awesome) so the art and production is pretty amazing. Geoff Johns does the principal writing, so the story is decent as well.

I played through the entire game with my own character, Captain Kinesis, and reached the level cap. (30, currently) It didn’t take me too long and I didn’t have to pay to play, although I ended up subscribing so I could make more characters. (You only get two slots, initially, unless you pay…which is $15 a month) Captain Kinesis is a mental-based superhero who can fly, use telekinesis to lift buses and cars into the air to throw at villains, and he has super-strength….pummeling the bad guys with his fists. There are tons of power combinations for characters. (I also have another character, an anthropomorphic fox named Permafox who has super-speed and ice-based powers and uses a shield like Captain America)

I found no real down sides about the game aside from character creation problems (more on that below). It was consistently fun, the graphics and art were great and the PVP modes were always fun (and you could play as major DC characters like Superman or Batman).

One drawback, though, was actually in the character creation mode. When you try to name your character, more often than not you’ll get a message that says “Already taken, please try again” or something to that effect. HOWEVER, they don’t give you any other options and there is no way to tell what’s already been taken unless you try. Sometimes, I would sit for a half hour or more, trying various names (I refused to name the character the same way I would name a screen name in a chat room…”SuperDude23″) I don’t consider myself not creative and I imagine if they had a way to list available variations or have a list with names already taken once you try to type it in, that it would be a lot faster.

Most of the fun in this game and in others like it is creating your own superhero and seeing them interact with a comic book universe that you’ve grown to love. I’m way more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, but I can still appreciate Metropolis and Gotham. There is plenty of that as you travel through those cities, mostly, and you fight crime alongside other new heroes or even alongside seasoned, canon characters.

The other downside was the download time for the actual game. I think it took more than four hours, and that was consistent with other folks I knew of who downloaded it. Make sure to leave yourself some time for that.

Since it’s free to play, you should give it a try! Especially if you have played and liked games such as Champions Online or City of Heroes/City of Villains or Marvel Heroes – You won’t be disappointed.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For DC Universe Online