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City of Heroes

(NC Soft; US: Jul 2007)

Review [21.Apr.2004]

Look! Up in the sky! It's... The Greasy Stain?

Paragon City has recently fallen prey to rival gangs hell bent on wreaking havoc. Dealing drugs, mugging, B and E, thieving, and yes, even murdering; their antics are threatening to dismantle one of the greatest cities on the planet. Fortunately for the community at large, and unfortunately for the villains, Paragon City is also home to some of the world’s greatest super heroes.


There’s Hunter S. with his powerful mace, spiked dog collar and gas mask apparatus. The Diabolic Groove, a real hero and ladies’ man who’d rather be eating hoagies than busting heads. The Greasy Stain decked out in a suave beret and suit jacket, ready to save the world whenever he’s needed. And of course Clark Nova, a seven foot tall, athletic son of a gun who can blast bursts of fire from his hands and bring down a torrential rain of flames as well.


Never heard of them? Well they’re my personal favorites and also my creations in the terrific massive multiplayer game known as City of Heroes. In this title, the player must create a hero and then send him out into the vast boroughs of Paragon City to stop the bad guys. It’s a comic book lover’s dream come true. To say the least, it’s quite thrilling to make your dream character and then watch him do battle with the baddies. Who hasn’t ever wanted to live out a super hero fantasy or two?


True to comic book form, the super heroes of Paragon City are not always exactly trusted by the citizens. Some people are quick to praise the player’s heroics after they’ve broken up a robbery, but others are not always so sure, and will sometimes mutter a line like “Perhaps I’ve been wrong about capes.” Yes, “capes” as it were can be misunderstood, even in a city that was founded by them. It’s this true sense of comic book spirit that’s just one of the key ingredients that makes City of Heroes such a success.


Another main factor would be the sheer ease of play. Unlike other MMORPGs, the learning curve of City of Heroes takes about ten minutes to master the basics. And this is truly a game that you can play by yourself online. One thing that’s been bugging me about a lot of these types of games of late is that you’re often forced to seek out and find a group to play with in order to just merely succeed at the game in general. City of Heroes allows the player to successfully spend as much time by himself as it does with others.


But perhaps the most glorious thing about City of Heroes is how it makes friends out of strangers. Often, a group of heroes requires an across the board style of heroes. A scrapper, a defender, a controller, a tank, and a blaster perhaps. Scrappers and tanks can do damage up close, while blasters and controllers can stand back and battle from the outside. And of course defenders can save the fellow heroes by protecting and healing them while the battles rage on. It’s a real X-Men type of camaraderie.


And like the X-Men, heroes can be created in all sorts of ways. Perhaps your hero or heroine is a Natural and has become a hero through great discipline and training, such as Batman and Robin. Or maybe it’s a Mutant and can use manipulate its own body to defend itself. Then there are the Scientific heroes, like Spider-Man or The Hulk who were subjected to an experiment gone awry and have developed their powers from it. Plus there’s more. You name it, and Cryptic Studios has pretty much thought of it and included it here.


The game also allows players a lot of creativity when creating their heroes. While playing, I saw great variations on actual heroes running around Paragon City. The Hulk seems to be a widely copied motif, but there were also everything from Green Lantern types to Raiden from Mortal Kombat walking around. But the original heroes are the most creative, and you can tell that many of the players have put a lot of thought and effort into creating the heroes they’ve always wanted to be. And counter to what some may think, there are just as many females playing this game as male. Many of my friends that I’ve made on the game so far have been women. Given that, City of Heroes may be one of the few MMORPGs that has captured a female audience.


Of course, many things are planned for Paragon City as the game goes along. New boroughs, new missions, new looks for the characters, and so on. Players will even receive a monthly City of Heroes comic book just for signing up to play. And for those who would rather turn to the dark side, a City of Villains has been planned for a 2005 release.


So if you’ve always wanted to be a super hero, then by all means check out City of Heroes. To me, it’s a lot more engaging and fun than Freedom Force, a prior super hero-based game that had a lot of comic book charm in its artistry, but a rather weak online experience and gameplay that wasn’t as thoroughly fulfilling. And who knows? You may just team up with Clark Nova or The Diabolic Groove yourself one of these days.

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