Review by _pinion_

""I've been having problems with my ring." - Green Lantern"

The video game industry has seen some odd couplings lately – the strange combination of Disney and Square that resulted in the Kingdom Hearts series springs immediately to mind and yet, look how mind-bogglingly well that turned out. If we're talking one-on-one fighting games, Capcom and Marvel partenered up years ago to bring us the uber-cool and over-the-top 2D brawler Marvel vs. Capcom efforts – and how awesome was it pitting Spider-Man against Ryu? In fact, comics giant Marvel have had so many different iterations of their huge roster of heroes brought to consoles and PC alike over the years it almost seems unfair that arch-rivals DC haven't had their stable of enduring world-savers similarly plundered (well, lest we forget the Nintendo 64's Superman, possibly one of the worst games ever made). On the contrary, let us forget that particular misstep, because in the growing tradition of unlikely alliances Midway have decided that they'd very much like to see Scorpion tussling with Batman; Catwoman matching breast circumference with Sonya Blade; and Jax beating the giggling piss out of The Joker. So it is that Mortal Kombat brings ten of its finest fighters – Liu Kang, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Shang Tsung, Kitana, Sonya Blade, Kano, Jax, and Baraka – to bear against ten of DC's best and brightest (Superman, Batman, The Joker, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, The Flash, Green Lantern, Deathstroke, and Lex Luthor). Naturally, fans of either or especially both will get the biggest bang for their buck here, but beneath the batarangs and Finish Him's beats the fists of a solid digital punch-on.

With a comparatively modest roster of pugilists in respect to recent Mortal Kombat games and only two secret characters that are unlocked upon completing both sides of Story Mode (more on this in a sec), you'd be forgiven for thinking that Midway have toned things down a little for your average punter. While there's still much depth to combat such as elaborate combinations of basic attacks and special moves and punishing air combos if you're keen, on the whole each fighter's moveset is limited to a handful of regular techniques plus a handful of specials, and both are easy enough for even the most newbie of gamers to get around – Virtua Fighter this ain't, but with the DC license hopefully breaking the action open to a massively wider audience, you can understand where the developers were coming from. Another welcome divergence from the norm is that MK vs. DC comes replete with a pleasingly elaborate Story Mode that must be completed from both the perspective of the Mortal Kombat warriors and DC's heroes to get the full picture, with short-but-sweet in-game cut-scenes cropping up between each bout to usher the plot along and signal the next confrontation. What's not so great about this set-up is that you're forced to control a set character for the four fights that make up each chapter of the story, of which there are a total of seven. While it does force you to get to grips with fighters you might otherwise completely ignore, you might not even get a chance to do battle with your favourite – Kano, Kitana, and Baraka for example, are face-palmingly absent from the Mortal Kombat scenario and none play much of a role in advancing the theatrics. There are also glaring balance issues that steer dangerously close to rendering some top-tier characters so powerful they're almost broken – The Flash in particular is almost unstoppable at times, with his BACK, FORWARD, CIRCLE ‘Around The World' special capable of chaining the opposition until they're hopelessy beaten and ready for a moderated fatality.

Despite these niggles, MK vs DC's combat system is remarkably robust – and pleasingly aesthetic. You'll get almost as much of a kick out of watching a mate play as laying in yourself, with context-sensitive damage ripping up the combatants' clothes and bodies the more of a beating they take. Keep batting Scorpion in the face with high attacks and his mask will eventually fall away to reveal the grimacing skull beneath; pound Superman's guts from the middle and The Man Of Steel's poxy outfit will tear at the arms and chest to reveal cuts and bruises on his seemingly invincible skin (the rationale being that the current crisis – which we won't spoil – is depleting his powers somewhat). The glorious damage modelling (which can start to look pretty messy, especially if you go to three rounds) is best appreciated during another new addition to combat, the clinch. With a tap of R1, you'll grab your opponent and the screen'll zoom in as you mash buttons in an attempt to really pummel them senseless. Careful, though – if they can hit the same button as you, they'll reverse the attack and come back with a big hit. Yes it's a gamble, but then so was the whole idea in the first place. While it won't satisfy technical fight-fiends, it's definitely a sterling loungeroom fixture for a crowded night in of mashing each other into opposing franchise paste.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/04/08

Game Release: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (AU, 11/20/08)

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