If you think the Joker and Batman are outstanding in the mega movie hit  “Dark Knight,” just wait until you can take on their roles in an upcoming video game powered by Unreal Engine 3.

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) kicked off Comic-Con International with a media lunch with the creators of its upcoming “DC Universe Online” massively multiplayer online (MMO) game for PlayStation 3 and PC. And the game is powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3.

“Unreal Engine 3 has given us a great tool set to work from,” said John Blakely, vice president of development at SOE Austin, where a team of 70 has been working on the title for three years. “This will be the first time people get the real superhero experience in a multiplayer game.”

Comic book legend Jim Lee, who serves as executive creative director of “DC Universe Online,” was recently in Cary, N.C., meeting with Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski and other members of the studio. The Unreal engine is one of the most popular for game developers in the industry, being used across all major game platforms as well as for MMOs.

“I love videogames, whether it’s MMO games like ‘EverQuest II’ or console games like ‘Gears of War,’ and using Unreal Engine 3 has really allowed us to bring the DC Universe to life in this game,” said Lee, who continues to create art for DC Comic books.

SOE has six playable PC kiosks set up with “DC Universe Online” at its Comic-Con booth on the show floor. Attendees were able to get a sneak peak at the game Wednesday evening and will be able to play the game throughout the weekend.

“The depth of the license is 70 years of continuity,” said Blakely. “Any time you do a licensed product you have to deliver what people expect. We’re giving comic book fans the first chance to try out this game.”

The playable demo features six different examples of custom superhero characters, including two characters who can fly and one who can run like The Flash and zip up the side of buildings. Set within Metropolis, these new characters aid Superman as he fights an attack by Brainiac, Lex Luthor and a wave of infected citizens.

“You can create an inspired character based on their favorite hero,” said Chris Cao, studio creative director, SOE Austin. “You’re not going to play as Batman, but you can be a martial arts acrobatics character like Batman. If you have your unique character in your imagination, you can create that from scratch with our character creation. There are a dozen elements you can combine to create any type of hero or villain.”

Each newly created superhero will come with a story that will progress with the larger story of the game, which focuses on why the DC Universe is being inundated with all of these new characters. Players will gain new superpowers and abilities as they progress through the game. They’ll also be introduced to new superheroes and villains.

“Since this is an MMO, the entire premise of this game is to team up with others,” said Cao. “There will be heroes versus villains. We even have heroes and villains working together in some situations. There are all sorts of dynamics that you’re used to in DC Comics that will come through this game-play.”

The game’s combat has a console feel, which should help this game attract the mainstream audience on whom SOE President John Smedley said the company is focusing. He points to the overwhelming success of "The Dark Knight" and "Iron Man" as showing that comics have arrived as mass-market entertainment.

“We’re bringing comic book gaming into the MMO space,” said Smedley. "’DC Universe Online’ will appeal to a much broader audience than we’ve ever seen before in this space – even in ‘World of Warcraft.’"

While Smedley said the game will ship "when it’s ready," it’s not slated for release this year. Yet even in this early stage, the playable demo showed a lot of polish, and the ability to easily control a variety of superpowers was console-simple.

“When you run down the side of a building like The Flash, you feel it,” said Lee. “When you fly through Metropolis like Superman, it feels right. And when you’re performing amazing acrobatics like Batman, it feels right.”

In addition to Lee, who founded DC Comics’ WildStorm Productions, a variety of DC Comics writers are developing stories for the new game. Some of these stories will migrate from game to comics and vice versa.

“It’s a really exciting time in comic book history right now,” said Lee.