Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Review
A new challenger appears! Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe steps up in-between the bustling crowd that is the fighting genre. Depending on your tastes and probably your gaming heritage, you may be a follower of Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Dead or Alive or one of many other series. Mortal Kombat fans have been waning over the years and with the recent news of a T rating for their loveable series, dedication is questionable. Fans have been in uproar over the series famous for its gore and violence taking a route of increasing the Publishers audience in order for them to ‘hopefully’ sustain afloat.
Eagerly excited to pummel renowned superheroes faces into a pulp I jump right into the Arcade mode (“jump” should be replaced with “crawl”, thanks to endless loading screens), selecting Scorpion as my weapon of choice. Unfortunately I could not select my favourite Mortal Kombat combatant as the line-up on offer provides a measly ten MK characters and ten DC characters, with an additional two characters to be unlocked. This is considerably less than the previous incarnation of Mortal Kombat which contained an impressive 63 fighters. Considering this is a combination of licences it would have been nice to see more selection, not much less.
Moves and abilities found throughout the series have been included, and look especially great when performed by the high quality character models. Your basic attacks are present, ranging from a combination of kicks and punches, to in some cases only one. Each character has their own unique style with fatalities (or heroic brutalities if you are a hero) that ooze Mortal Kombat, in a softer and gentler fashion. One thing that fans will pick up on straight away though is the far slower pace of the gameplay.
Fighting my way up the ranks in the common style of Mortal Kombat I faced a good range of enemies. It was not until I faced myself that I found surprise in the fact that I was wearing the exact same clothing as my familiar faced opponent, and after delving further I found that there was no alternate option for any character. I was rather surprised by this discovery considering the sheer amount of unlockable items and costumes common in fighting games, particularly the Mortal Kombat series. This feeling of lacking depth continued throughout the game, as small issues keep cropping up in terms of attention to detail. Ending character poses, mid fight round animations, clothing, environmental destruction, move sets – it all started to quickly give me a sense of déjà vu as variety took a holiday.
Upon fighting the final bosses I had quietly hoped that there was a reason for the overly generic end enemy. Twenty feet tall, massive figure, burning lava based body texture and obviously scary as hell. This seems to be a requirement with today’s fighting games, as seen heavily with the Soul Calibur series. Thankfully after enjoying the ending scene (which consists of nothing more than 2D artwork with a voice over) of the character I had completed Arcade with, I ventured forth into Story Mode to learn that the end boss does actually have reason, as do all the characters in the game. This pleased me very much so.
In a nutshell the storyline follows the MK and DC characters as they are fighting off their own individual evil forces, as is common place. In this case it was Shao Kahn and Darkseid. As Raiden and Superman, each in their own world, blast their enemies through an unknown portal, something goes horribly wrong and the power contaminates the portals, bringing both worlds together and merging both enemies into a single entity, Dark Kahn. From this the characters abilities fluctuate and their personalities change, giving an excuse for your friendly neighbourhood hero to become a jackass. Perfect!
The developers have done a surprisingly good job at portraying such a refined storyline in a fighting game, making full use of in-game cutscenes that look gorgeous. At each chapter of the story you take the role of the character at hand, which can be one of the ten available depending on if you chose to fight as MK or DC characters at the start of the mode. This is a nice variation from the typical style of playing a single character from start to end.
Unfortunately outside of the aforementioned modes above there is little on offer. For the single player fans you can always continue on into Kombo Challenge or Practice, but both could have easily been combined into one as Kombo Challenge is as the name suggests, a simple challenge of hitting certain tough button combinations. As for the multiplayer offerings, it is a bit of a mixed bag. On a single console everything is how you would expect it, Arcade mode but with a friend instead of an AI controlled opponent. Online however the game provides a rather well designed, if ugly lobby system. The only issue I have with the system is, like every aspect of the game, every sub-section leading up to a match takes an age to load. As anyone that has played a fighting game online knows, you can expect that the annoyance is only just beginning. The majority of the matches that I played were full of lag, disconnections and players which rely heavily on one-trick-wonders. All of which are equally annoying and quickly brought me to the often decision of “back to single machine multiplayer or I’ll have to buy another controller”.
Characters and environments look absolutely stunning, and on the whole animations are equally fantastic. The main problem comes in the form of collision between the enemies. Throughout a single match you will find countless times where attacks have not touched the opponent, yet landed. Second to this is the annoyance of certain abilities which should require momentum simply doesn’t. Sonya is a great example of this, as she hops into air and runs all over your chest defying the laws of gravity over and over again. All in all it gives a feeling of the characters being a little like cardboard.
Audio wise the game follows a similar theme as with graphics. Surprising great audio presentation throughout is ruined with periods in nearly every match where hits would either be without audio, or faint as if happening from the distance. All attempts to rectify this in the options fell short, leaving me with a rather strange sense of surroundings with audio which would come, go, and echo when it saw fit.
As a fan of fighting games in general, with fond memories of the Mortal Kombat series, I find it a shame that the new direction that the developers have taken one of the most renowned series in gaming as one of shallowness, filled with generic design flaws. I expected much more from the titles offerings and only hope that Midway can keep it together to get the series back on track. If you are a die-hard fan of Mortal Kombat you may be able to ignore the faults and find enjoyment, but personally I am letting this one hit the bench in anticipation of the many other high hitting fighters of 2009.