Review by kiriyama2

"You know, it really isn't half bad."

I was initially against this idea, when I first heard of it, I thought it was entirely stupid. After all, the very idea of Mortal Kombat fighting it out with a select few from the DC Universe seemed like a recipe for failure. Then I fell smugly into the camp that this was simply Midway's sad, sad attempt to try to steal a bit of the thunder from the Marvel vs. Capcom series (albeit several years too late). I admit that perhaps this was a bit prejudiced of me thinking this crossover game was stupid while singing the praises of Marvel vs. Capcom. Regardless, I was actually relatively surprised with MK vs. DCU, it just wasn't all that great.

Before going any further, let's talk about the story in this game. At some unspecified point in the timeline of Mortal Kombat, Shao Kahn loses the tournament and is about to be escape from Earthrealm when Raiden destroys him and his inter-dimensional portal. For a time things seem a bit keen, until people start disappearing at an alarming rate. Naturally Liu Kang and co. suspect Shang Tsung and his people of being up to no good, and set to find out what's going on. Of course when the various baddies of MK turn out to be innocent they're at a loss. Meanwhile in the DC Universe, Darkseid has been defeated after a botched attempt to take over the Earth, by Superman and most of the Justice League. However, as Darkseid is trying to make his escape from Earth back to Apocalypse Superman gives him some of his heat vision and seemingly destroys him and his boom tube. Eventually after a few run-ins with villains Deathstroke the Terminator and Catwoman, Kano gets dragged into the DC universe and fights the Flash. Then, naturally Flash gets dropped into the MK universe. The plot has something to do with that after the defeat of Shao Kahn and Darkseid, and the destroying of their mode of conveyance the MK and DC universes are somehow trying to merge together. Of course, if this happens both worlds (universes, whatever) will be destroyed completely. Perhaps the story should be commended for trying to adhere to the more ludicrous aspects of comic storytelling. While also keeping to the sheer crazed lunacy that is fighting game storylines. The story mode itself, tells the story decently, and while it sounds baffling and just plain bizarre, the story bits at the end of each character's arcade mode does no justice whatsoever to the main story. Instead of building on the story mode's story the arcade ones just sort of throw out a random ass paragraph of information that has next to nothing to do with the story at all. Just a brief “these worlds almost merged, and (insert character here) got something for stopping it.” Perhaps I'm being too harsh on it, but in all seriousness, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray deserve some credit for making the story mildly interesting and not irrevocably stupid like many a fighting game plot.

Of course a fighting game would be worthless if not for the cast of pugilists set to slug it out for your amusement. On the DC side of things there's Batman, Catwoman, The Joker, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan version, of course), The Flash, Lex Luthor, Captain Marvel, Deathstroke, and naturally, Superman. Seems like a fairly obvious list, you'd go with a portion of the Justice League, some of their notable rivals, and that's it. But, a quibble, if you'll indulge me, why Deathstroke? Not that I'm complaining mind you, he's quite a good fighter, and I love playing him, he just doesn't seem as popular as any of the others. Then there's the denizens from Mortal Kombat. Liu Kang, Raiden, Scorpion, Sub Zero, Sonya, Jax, Kano, Kitana, Baraka, and Shang Tsung. Again, seems a bit obvious, go with the mainstays of the series since the olden days of yore. But, again, a minor quibble, why no Kung Lao? Hell even Quan Chi makes a non-playable appearance in this game. So, the list of fighters is primarily a bunch of fan favorites from either universe. Here in lies the problem the minimalist number of people from either universe. Granted you do get to unlock two other characters, that's still just a scant twenty two character roster. I know it sounds like I'm complaining (and I am) but there should've just been a few more characters.

One of the problems I have with the characters is that they're all limited to about four or five special moves. Which might not be a reasonable complaint, games like Street Fighter III and Capcom vs. SNK have less. But it's a double edged sword, on the one hand, you don't have to memorize fifteen different button combinations. On the other hand however, it means the game is more reliant on button mashing than stringing combos together. Something that's somewhat nice is that the special moves rarely have different button combinations, so you don't have to memorize several pages worth of button combos. That's not to say that they're all the same, it's just that a majority of the moves by every character are the same combos, just a wide margin of them are. Perhaps it's a dumb complaint, but it makes things too easy. The problem gets exacerbated when you consider that a number of characters have some special moves that can hardly ever be blocked. Such as Superman's ground pound or Flash's around the world move. Yes, I know it is possible to block/evade these moves, but for the most part those moves in particular are nigh impossible to avoid.

Then there are the fatalities. Surprisingly enough these moves are really quite simple to perform. Gone are the days of long twenty button combinations, now they're simple six button combos. But since joining league with DC the game has lost it's trademark over the top, needlessly gory fatalities. Sure a number of them remain unchanged, but they've lost their campy fountains of blood, and humorous explosions. Like I said a number of fatalities remain unchanged, it's just they're not as good as they once were. Hell most of the DC characters' Heroic Brutalities (naturally the superheroes don't use killing moves) are pretty tame and downright boring (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman's in particular). Although some of them are pretty cool (any of Sub-Zero's, Flash‘s or Kitana‘s), if not needlessly censored (Deathstroke's or Joker's).

As it's a fighting game the single player modes start off easily enough, a few gimme matches. Then at about four fights in (both Arcade and Story) the fights degrade into the computer spamming the same four or five moves verbatim. Culminating at last to a controller snapping final fight with the villainous cur who plans to merge the two worlds. What's striking about the difficulty curve in the Story mode, it repeats the aforementioned pattern throughout most of the story. After about the fifth chapter the game finally decides “enough of this!” and just throws increasingly difficult fights at you.

Only problem is this game isn't really difficult, it just gets to varying degrees of cheapness. For instance, say you're fighting Sub-Zero, he has this move where he turns into ice and if you hit him you get frozen and he hits you with a bit sword. You can be in the midst of a combo when suddenly, a half-second between hits, he'll somehow use that exact move and break the combo. Also he can hit you, yet simultaneously use that move and score two very cheap hits. Not to mention the final boss in Story mode who is a complete and utter spammer.

Lastly there's the online play, it's pretty much what you'd expect of an online mode in a fighting game. You find a match, and there you go. Problem is the match qualities are a bit suspect, to say the least. Perhaps it was just my connection, but a large number of matches I took part in were annoyingly laggy. Also there's the ever present problem of the players who keep spamming the same five moves verbatim that it gives the computer a run for it's money in terms of repetition.

But for all my complaining the game is pretty good. The fighting system isn't terrible, and the characters do look pretty good (except Wonder Woman, woof). Also it's surprisingly fun to recreate the Battle of Lexor City, where Superman and Captain Marvel pretty much destroyed that city in that Justice League Unlimited episode (I can't be the only who did this). It might not be the most complex of fighting games, but it is still pretty damn good. Even if I did have some problems with the online fights.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/20/09

Game Release: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (US, 11/16/08)

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