The Horror! The Horror!

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Come my dear play chums – Halloween is nearly upon us so it's time to be evil. For the last month or so, I've been delving into the world of City of Villains to bring you a preview of the dastardly dealings in the Rogue Isles. Yes, it's the long-awaited partner game to City of Heroes! And now I can tell you if it's gonna be worth the wait"

On entering the Beta, the one thing I wanted to see above all else was the character creation. And I have to say, developer Cryptic Studios hasn't disappointed.

Where the character creation of CoH was, I have to say, heavenly, on CoV it is indeed hellish, but in the nicest possible way you understand. If it looks evil, they've got it covered. All goths Mansonoids please step this way and prepare to be dazzled by the ghoulish monsters you can create.

If it's skulls you're after, then great. Cloven hooves anyone? Or maybe sir would prefer a hellish grimace? Ah, I think eyelids sewn shut for the lady or perhaps a barbed-wire gimp mask? You know the latest fashion with villains this season is exposed brain with cooling fluid pipes as accessories – all the evil geniuses are sporting them. Something for the weekend? How about full on scales – always goes down well with cowering minions?

Well, I think you get the idea. Every conceivable vogue de pure evil is there for the taking. And of course if you prefer to go for traditional spandex and let your evil actions speak for themselves, rather than your darker fashion sense and random physical deformities, then have no fear.

It took me a while to get into the whole designing an evil character vibe, but I soon got into the swing of things. And then I was on my way to building my evil reputation.

The game starts with a prison breakout (aka training mission), which is sponsored by arch villain extraordinaire, Arachnos. The aim is to help him achieve his suitably maniacal master plan of total domination and annihilation of heroes. It seems fair enough when you're an evil and twisted psychopath, hell bent on destruction.

The game looks pretty amazing compared to Heroes. The Rogue Isles have a distinctly European feel to them and an olde world charm, right down to the red telephone boxes – making a Brit like me feel right at home. There are nicer lighting effects and textures, plus fog, rain and the like adding to the gloom of the wrong side of the tracks.

New archetypes will have CoH players clamouring for sure, but you don't have to be a Heroes devotee to be wooed I'm sure. Brutes take their strength from the damage they take and is your standard Tanker; the Dominator uses mind control, the Mastermind can control minions including robots and ninjas, which must be the ultimate in cool, while the Corruptor uses the environment and bends it to their evil will.

The missions are much more varied and don't limit themselves to the rescue thingemy, find the object or kill all living beings in warehouse formula that became all too familiar to CoH players. By all accounts the depth of the mission goes even further than that, but you'll have to read my review (coming soon) to find out more about that.

One of the major additions to CoV, compared to Heroes, is the ability to build bases. Well, seeing as your evil ‘n'all, it just wouldn't be right if you couldn't have a lair now, would it!? And the lair creator is just as comprehensive as the character creator, ensuring no two bases will be the same. You can display trophies in your little evil abode, but watch out it doesn't get looted in PvP.

Which brings me smoothly on to PvP. Yes, it's true; you can actually fight real live heroes controlled by CoH players!! Permission to giggle like a school girl and wet pants granted. It's like an über Marvel crossover Christmas special!! Special zones mean villains and heroes can battle for items in special missions.

But enough about additions and upgrades, what about the actual game!? As a dedicated CoH player, I have to say it's a little unnerving entering the evil world. The public spaces have been left to go to pot, someone really needs to get onto the council about the litter and people just don't know the meaning of courtesy when living in a hellish dystopia.

Then there's the whole thing of leaving your heroic persona behind, which takes some getting used to I can tell you. At one point I was racing across town to meet team mates in a mission and spotted someone official looking. "Ooh," I thought to myself. "I'll nip back to that guy and buy some enhancements to power-up with."

I'd no sooner stopped than the guy turned around and started shooting at me. "Gah, forgot, I'm a villain and he's a hero!" I cursed under my breath as I started running away. I'd forgotten I was a bald hell siren – easy mistake to make.

Then I ran into a mission that involved a bank heist, only I forgot I was the one doing the heist until the cops started shooting at me. There's more to this being evil malarkey than meets the eye!

When it comes to unspeakable evil, I'm looking forward to delving into the darkest shadows of CoV. And with just one subscription fee for both games, this is one happy heroic villain type person. As far as I'm concerned, NCsoft are pushing all the right buttons when it comes to involving, yet not life-sapping MMOGs with enough depth to keep you coming back again and again.

Now if I have a bad day at the office, I can be pure evil, which is my queue to go:

MWAH HA HA HA !

Most played: Stubbs the Zombie

Most wanted: Shadow of the Colossus

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