Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe Review: Bloody Fun

At first glance, “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” seems like it should have come out around 1998, to go head-to-head with the wildly popular “Marvel vs. Capcom” series, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t. Fast forward to today, and, through some wild twist of fate, or, possibly the will of the Elder Gods, 10 years after the game should have been released, gamers finally have the chance to kick Scorpion’s ass with Batman. On the plus side, waiting may have paid off; after a string of less-than-awesome “MK” games “MK vs. DC” may put the franchise back on track.

“Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” isn’t the best “MK” game ever released (that honor goes to “Mortal Kombat 2”), but there are some redeeming factors that might make fans that soured on the series years ago think twice about this iteration. A good deal of the game has been revamped, since “Armageddon” was released, taking full advantage of this generation of consoles. The controls, gameplay, graphics, and characters were all treated to a much-needed upgrade, and the improvements show over the course of the game.

Three seconds after you hear your first battle commencing “FIGHT!” it becomes immediately apparent that some work has been done on the controls, as well as the battle mechanics. The characters move just a little bit slower, and it may take seasoned veterans a little bit of time to really become accustomed to the new pace. Also, the game is virtually impossible to play with the analog stick, forcing 360 owners to do battle with their horrendous D-pads if they want to be able to pull off any of the super-moves in the game. Even some of the series standards like the sweep and round-house kicks are a little challenging to pull off with both the analog and D-pads. It’s hard to count the controls as big strikes against the game; it’s a little bit of a unique situation, because you can’t really fault the game, for a longstanding hardware issue.

Once you adapt to these changes, the game plays really well, but it still isn’t (and has never been) on the competitive levels “Tekken” or “Virtua Fighter.” In other words, your kid brother might have a chance of taking you down just by mashing the buttons. Additionally, the newly instituted “Rage Mode” and mid-match mini-games (not necessarily bad things) can really swing the momentum of a match, making the game not as “competitive” or “skill based.”

The most obvious draw to “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” is the fact that there’s two established universes colliding, and there’s well thought-out story behind the game. Written by seasoned comic book veterans, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, it’s nice to have a little bit of depth along with one, cohesive story line, in a franchise that’s usually just about surviving a murderous tournament. While it might seem a little odd to have The Flash, Catwoman, and Sub-Zero all together in one game, the story is actually pretty straightforward. The “MK” Universe and the DC Universe are about to collide and it’s up to the kombatants, and the superheroes to do something about it. It may not be the most complex story ever written, but it is fun to take both casts through their respective storylines and see how they intermingle with each other. It’s rather unique to get to play both sides of a storyline in games, (in fact I can’t think of any other games that do that) and it created a really unique experience, instead of just fighting one match after another. There’s one thing that the story mode is missing though – series staple Fatalities. I realize you can’t kill someone one second, and expect them to reappear in the next cut scene, but, c’mon - it is a “Mortal Kombat” game.

The game also offers the standard Arcade mode as well as online Kombat. The Arcade mode offers you the option to choose to fight only characters from either the “Mortal Kombat” or DC universes, or tackle a mixed bag on your way to Dark Khan. If you’re daring enough, you can also take your skills online, and get very quickly reminded that there are significantly better players than you out there (at least that’s how my experience went). My online matches only suffered minimal lag (Xbox LIVE was having connectivity problems), and I didn’t have much problem finding someone that was willing to lower my worldwide rank. While neither the Arcade nor online modes reinvent the wheel, it’s nice to see that there’s something else to do once you’ve run through the story modes in a few hours.

The story mode, Arcade, Kombat training, and online modes do add up to a nice package, but for some reason as I played through I still felt like there was something missing. In recent memory, the last “Mortal Kombat” had 60 plus characters, and (my second favorite) “Mortal Kombat: Deception” had numerous hours of gameplay, and tons of unlockables. I just felt like “MK vs. DC” lacked some of these incentives to dig really deep into the game. In a weird twist, I felt like had this been two separate, stand-alone titles, I would have been completely ripped off on the “Mortal Kombat” side, but I would have been really satisfied on the DC end. I think I’ve just come to expect a little more from the “MK” team, and, alternatively, good DC games are generally few and far between.

I also don’t want to it to appear like I’m complaining about the slim character list (a total of 22), because this is the first “MK” game in a very long time where it felt like each character had something unique to offer. “MK” fans have become accustomed to large rosters filled with similar looking characters who have very similar move sets, and that’s always felt like a palate swap at the hands of the developers. While there are more characters on both sides that I was secretly hoping would appear (”MK”: Reptile and DC: Dr. Manhattan) this particular list of characters felt well rounded, and fulfilling. With the promise of DLC, there’s a good chance that “MK” might get a bit of extra playing time, if the right characters get released.

Numerous “Mortal Kombat” games have graced many consoles since the series first hit the arcades in 1992; unfortunately, with every release the franchise has devolved a little bit. “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” may not be the saving grace of the series, but it, for the most part, is pointing the franchise is the right direction – back toward mindless, bloody fun. There does seem to be a spot for it in today’s crowded fighter market, simply because it’s fun without needing to learn combos or use an arcade stick, plus the novelty factor doesn’t wear off too quickly. While it may have come off as a fan service game, both fans and newcomers should be able to get something fun out of “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe,” even if it is their brains blown out by The Joker.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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One Response to “Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe Review: Bloody Fun”

  1. DaveDaGamer on November 18th, 2008 10:47 am

    Good Review.

    Two things I might comment on. Lego Batman allows you to play both sides of the story (Albeit not to the same effect)

    And as for controls. I suggest and also highly recommend investing in an arcade stick.

    When SF:IV comes out you’ll have 3 quality games to play with. MK, Soul Calibur and SF not to mention SF HD.


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