Sony Online Entertainment landed at E3 2011 in Los Angeles with heads held high. While DC Universe Online had two well-publicized hacks to deal with (one on SOE, one on Sony's PlayStation Network), and the recent cancelation of The Agency that came alongside 3 studio closures and 200 lost jobs, SOE wanted to show that their current titles are going strong, and future plans are well in play.
With DCUO, the company continues to ramp up near-monthly updates. The third update, which went live at the end of last week, features Ra's Al Ghul, the near-eternal foil of Batman featured heavily in the 90s Batman: The Animated Series and the feature film Batman Begins. The fight against Ra's includes new League of Assassins gear to keep people looking their finest in the virtual DCU. A well-timed "event" mission has you teaming up with Swamp Thing or Poison Ivy, hitting right as Swamp Thing has returned to the comic book DCU. Oolong Island's alert gets a new hard mode as well, so players can jump back to the realm of mad scientists and get some new loot.
The company also teased the next update at the show. Update 4 will feature Brainiac forces coming down on Superman's famous "secret" arctic base, the Fortress of Solitude. The mission will take players from the exterior and through all the famous locations inside the Fortress as they prevent Brainiac from stealing the Kryptonian technology inside. The twist to this mission is that heroes will be teaming up with both Superman and Lex Luthor, who recognizes the threat posed by the alien overlord getting this tech. The other surprise teammate? General Zod! He'll be coming out of the Phantom Zone to protect Krypton the only way he can, by beating the crap out of some robots. The Fortress level was playable, and offered more action than just about any battle yet seen in the game. One mini-boss was really anything but mini; a giant scorpion robot with electrical/energy whip arms, the boss was something straight out of the over-active imagination of comic books' heyday.
The update will also have a 4-man alert version of the Batcave, allowing people to experience the story there, rather than trying to have an 8-man raid, and a hard-mode version of the HIVE alert on the moon. The company doesn't have any plans right now to change any character looks or statuses based on the September DC Comics relaunches, but a SOE representative did say they'd look at all the changes and "pick and choose" what they want to integrate into the game. Nothing to announce on a bigger update or true expansion pack yet.
In other upcoming game news, they also brought a playable demo of a new online game called Payday: The Heist. This game is taking the "heist" craze from movies like the "Job" and "Ocean's" series, or TV shows like "Leverage," and applying it to a game. Players team up as a crew of thieves set to pull off one of 6 possibly robbery scenarios. In the game, you start by casing the joint, then mask up, take hostages, and help your team of four complete various objectives from disabling security measures to the final escape. In our playthrough we saw how the game went beyond conventional shooters. Here, managing your team, trying to accomplish multiple simultaneous goals without spreading too thin, and racing against the clock are all as important, if not more, than shooting the cops storming your objective.
Payday's a fun game, and something that definitely changes the way you'll think about a shooter a bit. The teamwork elements aren't just encouraged, they're completely necessary. While SOE says this game has "infinite replayability," due to the slight changes that can happen each time you load one of the heists, the 6 scenario starting point is a little worrisome. They have however already promised additional DLC heists, and says the price of the downloadable title coming later in 2011will be "less than half of a retail title." With that, the unique premise, and the team play, it looks like this game will be a great reason to turn to a life of crime Fall 2011 on the PlayStation 3 and PC.