Review by SenorCactaur
A fun, enjoyable game, but absolutely atrocious online gameplay
I've been a pretty big fan of fighting games for a while, and I've played almost all of the major ones. However, Mortal Kombat dropped off the radar of fighting games I played for the most part. A relative of mine got Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe for Christmas, so I spent some time playing it. I was very much interested by the DC side of things, as I'm a pretty big fan of crossovers and I've always liked Superman and company. I enjoyed it quite a bit, to the point where I got my own copy.
What makes Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is the actual nature of it. The fact that it's a crossover is one of the best factors of the game. The contrast of the two universes making for different and very interesting play styles. The DC side is what keeps it from being just another Mortal Kombat game, and overall I think that's a good thing. There are complaints about the game being rating T instead of M, and the lack of gratuitous gore in fatalities. However, I think that's a pretty bad reason. If you're playing a game just for the sake of seeing a character disemboweled, then you're not playing games for a good reason. Yes, the Fatalities and Heroic Brutalities in this game could have been much better. But I think the positives of the crossover far outweigh not being able to see a ninja rip his opponent's spine out.
In terms of the actual play, it doesn't really stand out against other fighting games. In fact, most fighting game veterans would dislike the gameplay. It's very simple, especially compared to other games where 8-button memorizations are required for some moves. This translates well for pick-up and play, you can get into the rhythm of things pretty quickly. On the other hand, the gameplay is a bit slow. There's new introductions, such as Free-Fall Transitions, which fit well with the DC side of things and add a nice little bit of depth to the game. Klose Kombat is very similar, but doesn't really work as well when you can just trigger it voluntarily. There's also a new Rage meter, which fills up when you get hit or your attacks are blocked. You can then activate the Rage and do heavy damage to your opponent. However, the main problem is that it pretty much gets dependent on using specials, rather than trying to do combos and link attacks together.
Visually, the game is great. The graphics of Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe are among the best in any fighting game on the 360. The characters look very realistic and are animated well. As another nice touch, the characters get a "battle worn" effect during the fights, with their outfits being torn and their faces getting bruises and cuts. Though this doesn't work well for Scorpion, who will end up having his mask torn off half the time with his skull face showing. The backgrounds look great as well, and visually there's no real problems.
The Story mode of the game is one of the better parts. The story itself is very well done, and above all keeps your interest, something rare in fighting games. The only problem is the fact that there's an uneven amount of chapters, with DC getting 8 and Mortal Kombat getting 7. Some of the character choices seemed pretty poor (Jax geting a chapter out of the Mortal Kombat side, but none for Kitana?). However, for some reason I think that it was originally intended to be all characters getting a chapter, in which case it's not AS bad. However, some chapters just drag on and seem unnecessary, the main one being Lex Luthor's. Other than that, Story mode is very good, letting you use most of the characters and get experience with them. The story is covered from two sides, DC and Mortal Kombat, so you get to play both and get a clear picture of the story.
In general, MKvDCU is a fun game if you have some friends over and want to play a fighting game with them, or you think you'll enjoy playing the Story and Arcade modes. However, if you're thinking of buying this for online play, seriously reconsider.
If you're expecting to get on Xbox Live and have fun playing some Ranked matches, think again. This game is horrible online, and it shows why there will never be a serious competitive Mortal Kombat tournament scene. The problem has nothing to do with the service itself. In fact, it's very well done and I've experienced very little lag in most matches. The problem stems with the players, and the general nature of the play. Because of the way it's set up, the game is a mess in serious matches. Matches basically come down to who can spam their specials the fastest. Characters who have moves where they can warp around the stage become ridiculous. The worst of these is The Flash. If your opponent picks The Flash, you can fully expect them to be warping from one side of the stage to the other the entire time. The game is just loaded with cheap moves. And I know that usually with fighting game fans, using the word "Cheap" is a way to get called a bad player, but if the word applied to ANY fighting game, it would be this one. Where in other games, most moves had an actual counter in lieu of their effectiveness, in this game, all you can do is block and hope for the best. This will basically come down to who can spam their specials the fastest. The Rage meter becomes effectively useless unless you get it before them, because then no one will use it in an attempt to use it second. Free Fall Transitions lose their point, as the player who has the advantage won't even bother pressing buttons for long periods of time. It's just a huge, terrible mess. I usually don't like fighting games online that much, and this game proves why it's often a terrible idea.
If you're concerned about Achievements, that may also be another reason to avoid. There are a lot of easy ones, I got 125 only playing about an hour or two the first day. However, there are more time consuming ones, worst of which are Kombo Challenge ones. Kombo Challenge takes up 23 achievements (one for each character, then one for all characters). However, it's so annoying with such ridiculous timing that you'll be lucky to even complete one, let alone all. There's also win 25 ranked matches in a row, which is basically impossible, and time consuming ones such as beat Arcade mode with all characters. You can get about 350 just by beating Story mode with both sides, Arcade mode with two characters and do other small things along the way. However, unless you go online or spend a lot of time, that's all you get.
Bottom line, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC is good if you're playing alone and will enjoy the Story and Arcade, or have buddies you want to play with. But if you lack competition and want to get on Live to get your fix, good luck.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (US, 11/16/08)
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