Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe review
Available for
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher
Midway
Mortal Kombat
vs. DC Universe

Reviewed by Jason Zingale

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here was a time when “Mortal Kombat” used to be the most controversial video game in the world, but ever since the “Grand Theft Auto” series arrived on the scene, Rockstar has been hogging most of the any-PR-is-good-PR spotlight. Choosing to set aside the blood and guts in favor of a completely different strategy, Midway’s latest foray into the “Mortal Kombat” universe looks to take back a little of that thunder with arguably their most controversial version yet: a Teen-rated brawler co-starring the superheroes and villains of DC Comics. On paper, it sounds like an awful idea, but “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” works better than you might think.

Believe it or not, it’s all thanks to a well-crafted story (penned by comic book writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray) that finds Mortal Kombat overlord Shao Kahn and Superman nemesis Darkseid fused into a new being (Dark Kahn) when their universes begin to merge into one. Some of the characters are randomly transported between worlds, while others are infected with a "combat rage" that makes them want to fight anyone who stands in their way. Meanwhile, the effects of the cosmic event have weakened superheroes like Superman and Captain Marvel, while non-powered villains like The Joker and Catwoman discover newfound superhuman strength. It’s all part of the game’s way of making each character as equal as possible, and though it certainly helps explain why the DC characters have a smaller advantage than they should, that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t some fighters who are stronger than others.

The cast of playable characters is actually a pretty solid group. The MK side features just about everyone you’d expect to see (Raiden, Liu Kang, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Shang Tsung, Jax, Kano, Kitana and Baraka), while the DC side includes the expected (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Joker, Lex Luthor and Catwoman), along with the unexpected (Captain Marvel and Deathstroke). There are 22 to choose from in all (including the unlockable Darkseid and Shao Kahn), and while it’s a little strange to see the DC characters in a fighting game, there’s no doubt that they’ll become the more popular choices among players – even for the most diehard “Mortal Kombat” fan. Of those 11, there are a few that really stick out, and all for different reasons. Captain Marvel is probably the most well-rounded fighter of the group, as he’s essentially a mix of Superman and Raiden; Green Lantern is the kind of guy you use when you absolutely need to win, thanks to the fact that his ring delivers some of the game's cheapest moves; and The Joker is just plain fun, from his electrifying hand buzzer to the big punching glove that ejects from his body à la Data from “The Goonies.”

As for the gameplay itself, people will be happy to hear that “MK vs. DC” has finally gotten rid of those silly weapons and fighting styles that were implemented into the series a few years ago. Midway has taken a decidedly more classic approach with this latest installment, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely void of any new features. For starters, while combat rage plays a much bigger role in the story than the game, it does serve a purpose during matches. Players accrue rage through taking damage, having attacks blocked, and performing supermoves. Once your rage meter is filled, you can then unleash combat rage (by pressing both trigger buttons), which gives you a hand up on your opponent for a limited amount of time.

Other new features include Klose Kombat and Free Fall Kombat (where players can dish out damage by activating certain combat modes), as well as Test Your Might, a button-mashing minigame that determines how much damage is applied to the player who has just been smashed through a wall. While Test Your Might only allows the victim to decrease the damage taken, both Klose Kombat and Free Fall Kombat offer the chance to counterattack by matching the same button your opponent has just pressed. Unfortunately, none of these features make “MK vs. DC” any better or worse, and they might as well have been left out of the game.

With the exception of Story Mode, the only other ways to play are classic arcade style (where you fight your way up a ladder of opponents) or online, which is about as barebones as it gets. Additionally, there are no unlockable costumes or characters aside from the aforementioned Shao Kahn and Darkseid, which means the only reward you’ll get from playing through every story is the text ending that comes with winning. That said, however, “MK vs. DC” is still a really fun brawler that could have been even better if they had included a little more replay value. It’s not the best title on the market, but considering the adversity that Midway faced in making a “Mortal Kombat” game that didn’t focus on violence, the end result is pretty damn good.

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