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Fans may not be able to play as Batman, Superman, the Joker or other official characters in Sony's "DC Universe Online," but as ComicsAlliance's Laura Hudson and Caleb Goellner learned during a demo last week with the game's creative team, there's nothing stopping players from experiencing an expansive DCU to the fullest through eyes simultaneously analogous and original.We had a chance to try out DCUO's character creation feature with Art Director Mark Anderson, who broke down the process from start to finish. The amount of control a player has over their character's appearance, powers and gear is pretty massive. Anderson demonstrated the "inspired by" options allow players to take on the traits of the DCU's most famous heroes and villains, acting as something of a shortcut for first-timers, those lost in a sea of choices, or anyone who wants to play as a kind of legacy character. The "inspired by" feature was not limited by gender, meaning that you could have a female "Batman" or "Joker" and a male "Wonder Woman."

Following our time in character creation, we stepped into DCUO gameplay with Game Director Chris Cao, playing as a flame projecting/manipulating heroine acting under the guidance of Batman. After briefly exploring Gotham's massive map, a moment that left us yearning to play in the larger sandbox of Batman's city, we got to work tracking down Scarecrow in the city's sewer system, where the villain was piping fear gas into the water supply.

After a quick intro ("push this button to jump," etc.) the controls were pretty intuitive, and soon we were battling hallucinatory bats with the best of them. Our initial combat experience was satisfying -- simple enough to get learn the basics in a couple minutes, but with the sense that there was more complexity beneath the surface, not to mention the variety of power sets and attacks available through the wide range of possible characters.

The combat-heavy mission in the sewer gave us a chance to use our flame powers against threats both real and hallucinated while also meeting our mission objectives of cutting off the fear attack by disabling toxin barrels. The side affects of inadvertently taking in a heaping helping of Scarecrow's fear gas were especially felt during the mission's final confrontation with the villain, who we battled with the aid of a very feisty Batwoman -- whose shoes have somehow reverted to pre-Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams heels.

DCUO's official character creation trailer:

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