City of Heroes Review

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a superhero? To have super strength, the ability to fly, invisibility … Of course you have. Well now’s your chance to see for yourself what it would be like with the game City of Heroes (CoH), a massively multiplayer online game where you and thousands of other games will don the tights to keep Paragon City safe from evil.

This is my city.

One of the downsides of being a superhero is that you don’t really get to choose your powers. You just have to wait around until you are bitten by a radioactive insect, are dowsed with gamma radiation, or randomly mutate, and then you’re stuck with whatever powers you get. This is not the case in City of Heroes, though; you’ll have the freedom to select your superhero’s archetype and powers, and direct how those powers develop and grow while playing the game.

There are five hero archetypes from which to choose in the game. Blasters fire beams of energy, fire, ice, etc. at evildoers from afar. Tankers are hulking brutes who can absorb a tremendous amount of damage while getting up close and personal with evil. Scrappers are also close melee fighters, but they rely more on fighting moves and disciplines than on pure brute strength. Controllers use the powers of their minds to disorient, confuse, or terrify criminals. Finally defenders are altruistic superheroes who provide healing and shielding to group members. Selecting your archetype will have a big impact on the life of your character and you’ll need to be careful to select the one that will fit your style of play. It’s also a good idea to look through the manual’s list of powers at this point as most of the powers are tied to one particular archetype. If shooting beams of ice is more important to you than bashing heads, then you’d better go for a blaster. I should point out at this point that some powers are universal to all archetypes – so yes, you can fly or have super speed no matter which archetype you select. Can’t decide? The game lets you have multiple characters on a server, so you can take a few types out for a test drive before deciding which one you want to play the most. Once you select your archetype you’ll need to select your hero’s origin. Is your hero the product of science gone awry? A genetic mutation? Your choice of origin will affect your initial contacts and missions in the game, but does not have a significant affect on gameplay.

Next comes one of the most enjoyable aspects of CoH, costume creation. First you select the sex, build, and size of your hero. You are given a good degree of leeway with this and can create a superhero as small as Atom Ant or as large as the movie version of the Hulk. Once you’re satisfied with your hero’s frame it is time to dress and accessorize him or her. In the world of superheroes dress means everything. A superhero’s costume does as much to define his personality as do his powers, and makes the superhero instantly recognizable. CoH really got this right in the game because you have a tremendous amount of leeway in costume design. The entire costume is broken down into parts such as boots, pants, and belt and you can customize each component separately. There are numerous choices for each component, so whether you’re looking to create a robot, a mutant, an alien, or a simple human superhero you’ve got plenty of options for each. In addition, many costume components have subcomponents that allow for even further customization. Add to all this an extensive color palette with support for both primary and secondary colors, logos and symbols, and pattern textures and you have one powerful costume creator. You can make a very close, if not dead-on, homage to your favorite superhero or an entirely new creation. In playing the game I did not come across two superheroes with the same look once, which is a rarity in most online games. The one shortcoming of the hero creator is that there is an absence of capes, so Paragon City must go without caped crusaders. Sorry Batman fans.

Once you’re all suited up there’s one last step to creating a hero: selecting his or her initial powers. Selecting your hero archetype was the first step in defining your initial power options, but at this stage you’ll need to pick the two powers that you begin the game with. As you advance in level you’ll be able to gain new powers, but you won’t be able to have them all. Picking the right mix of powers to be an effective hero is part of the game’s challenge.