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Jan 20, 2009

Review: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Midway Games, Midway Amusement Games
Available for Playstation 3 & Xbox 360

From the moment Midway announced their plans to develop the strange fighting game mash up, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, I have been watching the game progress with curiosity and some fear as this seemed like a possible recipe for disaster. When any two franchises are brought together, one can always expect the results to be either very good like in the case of the Lego Star Wars or very bad like RoboCop versus The Terminator, and MK vs. DC had many of us wondering what Midway was planning with this concept. Luckily for them, this game has some really cool concepts and managed to fly even without the traditional fatalities system.

In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the brutal combatants of the Mortal Kombat invade Metropolis and the rest of the DC Universe after Raiden destroys Kahn by blasting him through a portal and at the same time on Earth, Superman defeats Darkseid by blasting the super villain with his heat vision as he enters a teleportation device. These acts do not destroy either of them of the villains, but merges them into an entity known as Dark Kahn, and this causes the DC Universe and Mortal Kombat universes to merge.
The game's Story Mode recounts this crossover invasion from both the DC and Mortal Kombat perspectives, as the DC heroes suspect another Darkseid plot and their Earthrealm counterparts fear another Outworld assault. Infecting both sides is the mysterious rage energy that overwhelms their senses, causing them to see friends as enemies and supercharging their fighting abilities.

In addition to the Story mode, the game also offers a more traditional Arcade Mode featuring the standard Mortal Kombat 10-fight contest from years past. Players can chose to play Mortal Kombat only, DC only and mixed fights, but in either case the ultimate villain is Dark Kahn.

The game features 20 combatants, 10 from each universe, with two unlockable characters. The Mortal Kombat side features Scorpion, Subzero, Sonya, Shang Tsung, Kitana, Jax, Liu Kang, Raiden, Kano and Baraka, while DC is represented by the Joker, Catwoman, the Flash, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Deathstroke, Lex Luther, Captain Marvel and Green Lantern. The unlockables are Darkseid for the DC side and Shao Kahn for Mortal Kombat.

While the Mortal Kombat characters were able to slide through this series with their fatality finishing moves still intact, the DC heroes were given a series of brutality moves which keep with their “Thou shall not kill” attitudes. Keep in mind though that this is a teen rated game so don’t expect to play your favourite MK character with the idea that their finishing moves are going to end in glorious blood and gore because that doesn’t happen. Jax still crushes a skull or two with his big mechanical arms, but their heads do remain intact as they fall to the ground.

The game has online and local versus play which held up pretty well on the Playstation network. The online play had you choosing from a list of 100 people in the a chat room to compete against. You could issue a challenge or wait for someone to issue you one and then either accept, decline or ignore the challenge. The chat room allowed for voice or text chat amongst the other players and you could play against friends but you would have to choose the room to play in before you logged online. Apparently the Xbox 360 version had better player and ranked match system for their online play for those gamers with a choice between the two systems.

While each character’s moves were pretty easy to pick up after a couple hours spent practicing, I found it especially annoying that the finishing moves were only available online and not found anywhere in the game manual or in the in game instructions. Though most people have the internet nowadays, it still seems pretty silly of the developers to assume that all players will be able to track down the control sequence online to pull off the finishing moves for each character. Would it have killed them to publish it in the manual?

Being that I haven’t play a Mortal Kombat game since the third instalment came out in the arcades way back in the day, I was actually a little giddy to finally sit back down with the franchise. The graphics are so different from the video screen shots used on the original Mortal Kombat game and the environments though still so terrifying, have come along way from the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo’s 16 bit screens. Each character and environment reflected the energy of the storyline and had that spectacular comic book feel. I especially loved some of the arenas like Wonder Woman’s Themyscira and Shang Tsung’s Island that had the two worlds actually merging into one as the two combatants fought. Brilliant.

Finally the audio is always fantastic in the Mortal Kombat games with appropriately intense music and the loud cracks of hand-to-hand combat. Moves like uppercuts and ground slams are accompanied by some great, deep bass that will shake your surroundings if you're appropriately equipped. While there's plenty of great new sound, there's also some old stuff like Scorpion's "get over here” and the announcer’s “Fight” & “Flawless Victory” which both sound like they are straight out of the old games.

While I was unsure at first about this weird, little mash up of the Mortal Kombat series, I am happy to say that my favourite fighting franchise is still as wonderful as ever. Though my fatalities may not be as brutal as I want them to be and my Joker isn’t voiced by Mark Hamill, I can push those tiny flaws aside to enjoy the fact that Mortal Kombat is still an amazing fighting game which great characters, wicked combos and a good storyline to finish it all off. Fans of the series will be happy with what Midway had done to renew the series and hopefully some DC fans will come over to embrace the series as well.

Rating 8 out of 10
Buy it!

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