The Villian versus Hero PvP is live now, the people who pre-ordered Villians got a 3 day head start but heroes were able to go into the zones last Thursday I believe. You can PvP from day one, anyone that enters a PvP zone is reduced or increased to the zone level...so there's no ganking of a bunch of lowbies by a couple of 50s.
There are like 3 or 4 open PvP zones that you have to specifically go into to participate in PvP. Outside of that, there's the arenas. There's no way to get ganked while minding your own business, PvP is entirely optional to the game. They also added gladiators, which from what I understand is a player controlled 'pet' that you get from certain accomplishments. These are used in special arena matches where you can't directly attack, you have to command your gladiators to fight for you.
Superbases are also in the game now, but the amount of cash (prestige) you have to earn to build them is really insane. To the point where a group would play for 2 or 3 months before having enough money to build a raidable base. You also have to buy CoV to even enter a superbase.
And all death penalties are fairly similiar...they slow down your leveling and are a time sink. Of all of the games I've played, I probably liked Guild War's penalty the best, but even it was just more of a nuisance than an actual penalty. CoH/CoV Debt I find debt much easier to put up with than a complete stop to XP gain that you you get from corpse hunting or worse the backtracking of XP/level loss.