Champions Online Hands-On Preview
Champions Online box art
System: X360, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Cryptic Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Atari 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept. 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: MMO 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

July 13, 2009 - Anyone who is a fan of MMOs has likely already heard of Cryptic Studios. This is the company responsible for allowing players to bring their own superheroes and supervillains to life in their first two MMOs, City of Heroes and City of Villains. Following these titles' successes, Cryptic began work on Marvel Universe Online but the project was eventually canceled. Fortunately, Cryptic continued to focus on the superhero MMO genre by picking up the rights to make an MMO based on the old pen and paper RPG, Champions. With the company's pedigree and the nostalgia supplied by the Champions license, we were excited to be able to try out a portion of the feature complete Champions Online at a recent press event held in San Francisco.

Champions Online screenshot

Before we were able to play though, Cryptic had a few things they wanted to show us about the game. Character customization has always been a big part of Cryptic's games and Champions Online is no exception. As we were walked through a few characters being created, the available options looked pretty staggering. Players will be able to choose their characters' powers from a wide variety of possibilities including premade thematic sets such as fire, ice, and telekinesis. However, if you wish, you can also create a more original and diverse character by mixing and matching different powers to your liking. The example we were shown was a character that was able to launch fire attacks from one hand and ice attacks with the other.

Still, choosing your character's powers is only the beginning. Players can also alter the color of their attacks, such as making energy bolts a pale yellow, a bright green, or any other color you wish. Where your attacks emanate from can also be customized, allowing your attacks to come from just about any part of your character's body. These kinds of options may seem fairly unimportant to gameplay but they really help to make your characters feel more unique and allow players to better create their ideal superhero.

Your superhero's physical appearance can also be fully customized, much like in City of Heroes. However, this time around the options are more robust, with better body morphing and costume customization. Every piece of your heroes body can be easily be adjusted using a slider. This makes it incredibly simple to increase or decrease the size of any part of your character's anatomy, allowing for massive hulks with tiny heads or even Popeye look-alikes.

Champions Online screenshot

Creating the perfect costume is never easy but the options provided by Champions Online appear as though they'll make building the perfect costume a simple matter of finding the right pieces and tweaking them as desired. We were shown a ton of different outfits and accessories in the demonstration and players can even unlock more options while playing due to loot drops, which are a new addition to City of Heroes players. Of course, not everyone will have the time and/or patience to sift through and tweak all of these choices. For these types of players there is the ability to click the random button to generate characters. While this is to be expected, players will also have the option to lock specific parts of their character's outfit during this process. So, if you find the helmet you want, just lock it, click the randomizer, and the helmet will remain but everything else will change. This seems to be a pretty quick and efficient way to create a character's look without the need to scroll through the hundreds of available options.

After this we were shown the game's new duel system that allows two heroes to square off against one another. By right clicking on another character, challenging them to a duel, and the other player accepting the challenge, any two heroes are able to settle their differences. Once the duel has been accepted, a rocket will crash into the ground nearby, surrounding both characters in a large dome of energy. This dome will not only keep other heroes from interfering with the fight, but it also serves as the boundary for the duel. To win you can either fully deplete your enemy's health or somehow manage to push them outside of the dome. It's a pretty simple concept that should help players settle scores with one another without involving other players.

Champions Online screenshot

Once the demonstration was finished, we were finally able to get our hands on a five versus five PvP match. In this match we were all supplied with prebuilt characters and tasked with taking out the opposing team. The combat was surprisingly fast and fluid for an MMO. While I was stuck with a longer-ranged attack type character, I was able to witness some very quick and agile sword-wielding melee characters dashing around and basically cutting through the frontlines of my team. Needless to say, I think most of the opposing team had a bit more experience playing games on the PC. Besides the direct hero on hero confrontations, there were also team-oriented turret guns lining the enclosed corridors of the location that aided whichever team they were assigned to. Players could also interact with a few computer consoles found in the environment that would actually call in some computer-controlled backup if you were the first player to utilize it.

All in all, I came away very impressed with Champions Online. The sheer amount of options when creating your own hero seemed almost infinite, yet incredibly easy to navigate. Plus, with the almost action game speed of the combat, taking your customized hero to the streets to dole out justice should be more involving than the much slower paced gameplay found in most other MMOs. Given the way online players always seem to find ways of annoying each other, the ability to enter into a one on one duel anywhere in the game world should also prove to be an excellent feature. Fans of games involving superheroes, the old pen and paper Champions RPG, and/or MMOs will definitely want to keep their eyes on Champions Online when it is releases this September on the PC, with a possible future release on the Xbox 360 as well.

By Adam Brown
CCC Staff Contributor

Game Features:

  • Hi-Octane Excitement: Champions Online delivers furious, fast-paced encounters previously reserved for action and fighting games. No more boring auto attacks and lengthy recharge times. Champions Online combat is instantaneous and electrifying!
  • Brains required: Every enemy and super-powered threat in Champions Online has its own unique abilities and combat specialties. Use your head or wind up dead!
  • Bring friends, make friends: The Champions Online universe will be jam-packed with thousands of heroes, facing thousands of threats. Join up with other heroes, create your own superteam, and prepare to take on the ultimate threats!
  • Total customization, at your fingertips: Choose from hundreds of different costume pieces, colors and body types to create your character's one-of-a-kind costume and look. There are billions of possible combinations, and in a universe brimming with the fantastic and the unforgettable, you can still be completely unique!
  • Your powers, on your terms: There are a multitude of astonishing powers to choose from in Champions Online, and its flexible character creation system gives you total control over your hero's abilities. You can even pick the appearance of your powers. Do you want purple force fields? Green fire blasts? Jet black claws? In Champions Online, you decide!
  • Keep your enemies close: Every hero must have an archenemy. In Champions Online, you design your character's supreme adversary, choosing a name, powers and costume for a superpowered foe to bedevil your hero throughout his or her career.
  • Bigger and better: Vanquish evil, and your successes will be rewarded with costume pieces to enhance your powers and abilities. Then customize the appearance of those rewards to your vision of your hero's look and abilities!
  • Endless exploration: The battle against evil in Champions Online rages across the world. No other MMOG offers players the chance to explore such diverse realms from the shining skyscrapers of Millennium City and the frozen wastes of Canada to the the hidden underwater city of Lemuria.
  • Evil most foul: Battle supervillains, aliens, giant monsters and secret, sinister organizations. Doctor Destroyer is launching new plans to conquer the world. VIPER lurks in the shadows, seeking chances to strike at humanity. The ancient Lemurians are plotting a return to power. Can you stop these heinous threats to humanity?
  • Make your mark: The story of Champions Online is constantly changing, continually evolving. Villains are defeated. Heroes rise and fall. Cities transform. Your actions may decide the future!

  • Screenshots / Images
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