DC Universe Online's PvP gets a well-executed overhaul in the latest DLC pack

New places to fight

The best new content isn't for Legends, though--it's for Arena PvP, where everyone plays as their own character. Seven new maps focus on including NPC iconics like Superman, Deadshot, and Mr. Freeze as powerful variables or direct objectives. Both sides' headquarters, the Watchtower and the Hall of Doom, are turned into multi-stage 8v8 arenas stuffed with tons of NPC heroes and villains helping you take it over. Your objectives in these maps and their related scoring system aren't explained well (I'm still not entirely sure if success on the first stage actually does anything), but having the iconics fighting alongside you adds a lot to the combat and strategy. Your attention is constantly split, almost like a MOBA, between guarding your NPCs, attacking the other teams' NPCs, and dealing with enemy players.

The City Safehouse maps are equally terrific, and bring an element of randomness that boosts repeatability. All four maps (two set in police stations and two in nightclubs that players frequent) are lumped into one queue and each map can have one of two different modes. In one mode, you're stealing gravity emitters that spawn all around the room. Iconics and squishy mobsters/policeman join the fray and create plenty of mayhem as a backdrop for the players' fight over the gravity emitters.

When my team got close to winning, Harley Quinn jumped on the loudspeaker and started making gravity puns. A crowd in the background groaned after every one, but she kept going. After about six attempts all met with disapproval, she finally gives up and throws away the mic. This is the sort of thing that might get old over time if it's played too often and with too little variation, but for now it adds another layer of fun to the experience.

The second mode in the safehouses has no iconics roaming free at the start. Instead, teams battle over a single force field disruptor item, which they must carry/throw to the NPCs trapped around the building. Get it to an NPC of your faction and you free them and earn a ton of points for your team. NPCs close to the disruptors spawn location are simple civilians that'll run away, but if you can manage to escort your team's disruptor-carrier to the far away NPCs, you'll free powerful iconics like Huntress or Parasite to help you fight.

In both of these modes, player kills are worth almost no points, encouraging teams to play strategically and focus on objectives, rather than mindless killing in the middle.

The final arena added is The Pit: that central area in the Hall of Doom that villain players will be familiar with. The terrain is different, but the objective is straightforward. There are enemy players, and you must kill them. The first team to 20 kills wins, so it's at least over quickly if the teams aren't balanced.

Legends also got a token new map, although it's basically an identical copy of the Fortress of Solitude arena map that's been around for a while.

The Shield

Let's not be coy: DCUO added shields so we could pretend to be Marvel's Captain America . And being Captain America is awesome. The weapon has some pretty fun combos that are easy to memorize. Basically, you click the left mouse button like crazy and hold the left mouse button at any time to perform a combo based on how many clicks came before it. It's definitely one of the more simple weapons to play as, but the terrific animations make it fun to watch. All of the melee hits are single-target, with lots of CC and knock-ups.

The ranged attacks are the real reason why I'm keeping my shield equipped for the long haul, though. Once again, the combo is incredibly simple: do hold-clicks on the right mouse button repeatedly. You will cycle through a series of three attacks that send your shield whirling like a boomerang in front of you, dealing AoE damage and stunning everyone caught in front of you. Best of all, each of the three attacks in the combo are block breakers. The animations are once again magnificient, letting you picture the shield bouncing off the enemies' heads before returning to you. Most importantly, it gives my healer a great way to contribute to the fight from a safe distance. I can AoE stun the enemies and break through all of their blocks from afar, allowing my up-close DPS buddies focus on unleashing maximum pain.

I haven't seen all of the appearances yet, but there seems to be a pretty healthy variety. I've been bashed in PvP by spikes, gears, lion crests, and—my personal favorite—a trash can lid.

The other stuff

There's not a lot in this pack for PVEers, but there is one nice nugget on top of the Shield weapon type (if you're into that sort of thing): the new Duo. Shady Nightclub is the first Tier 3 Duo in the game, meaning that it gives Marks of Krypton, which are used to buy gear from the Fortress of Solitude raids. Unfortunately, that also means it comes with the same obnoxiously high Combat Rating requirement (a system that locks you out of endgame content based on the quality of your gear). You need a whopping 53 Combat rating to enter the new Duo, which means I wasn't able to test it out.

The few reports I've heard from players that have gotten to try it out so far have been fairly positive, for whatever random chat channel hearsay is worth to you.

Bottom Line

The Last Laughter DLC is a must-buy for anyone that PvPs for a significant amount of time in DCUO—its new maps are the best in the game and the Legends characters and rewards structure jump on to easily make this pack worth more than the $10 price tag. However, if you don't like PvP, you can easily skip this pack—there's not much here for you outside the new Shield weapon type.

I remind any PvP fence-sitters forget that a huge chunk of PvP is completely free to play. Download the client and give the free PvP content a shot--if you enjoy the combat system and the rulesets, you can get a ton of enjoyment out of DCUO by only picking up this DLC and ignoring the rest of the packs until you crave endgame PVE content.