How do you reinvigorate a franchise that’s well past its prime? Add a few gimmicks to make it more appealing to the mainstream and you can be sure that the game will be lapped up by the casuals, if nothing else. This is exactly what Midway has done with the latest offering in their long-running Mortal Kombat series. Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe marks the coming together of two big franchises, as the warriors from Mortal Kombat take on the comic book superheroes and super villains from the DC Universe.
This coming together of two big brands is nothing new to gaming. Capcom pulled it off spectacularly in their cult classic 2D beat ‘em up Marvel vs Capcom, which has fans foaming at the mouth even today at a mere mention of the game. Then you have the Kingdom Hearts series, Square’s mega successful action RPG series that had appearances from classic Disney characters. But things are a bit different here. On one hand, you have comic book superheroes, who aren’t exactly known for their killing ways and then you have Mortal Kombat, a series renowned for its extreme gore. This mismatch of worlds feels like a disaster waiting to happen, but somehow the developers manage to pull it off.
At the forefront of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is the story mode. Instead of just choosing a character, you get to choose a faction. You can either play the game from the DC or the MK perspective. Each side has its own story, periodically intertwining with the happenings from the other faction. The story itself is pretty entertaining; the game does a fair job of explaining why both these worlds are colliding. It has an out an out comic book feel to the way it’s presented. Another interesting feature is that you won’t be playing just one character throughout the story mode. After every 4-5 matches, you’ll be forced to play as another character. Completing the story mode for both factions can take around 5-6 hours, which feels a bit short. But hey, who plays a fighting game for its story!
So you have the arcade mode, where most of your time would be spent. Following the same structure as the old games, you pick your character, climb up the food chain and destroy anyone that stands in your way. Each character has their own ending, which consists of just some commentary and a piece of concept art. Meh!!
Completing the feature list is the Kombo Challenge mode and an online mode. Even with the feature-rich online component, MK vs DC feels criminally short of game modes. What makes matters worse is that there is no sense of accomplishment for completing the game. No alternate costumes, no new arenas, no new modes; nothing. The roster itself is trimmed down from the previous iterations of the MK series. Both factions have a set of 10 characters, including 1 unlockable character each.
The core gameplay should be familiar to those who have played any of the last-gen Mortal Kombat games. The game is pretty forgiving, so even if you are a newcomer to the series, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting into this game. You can button mash your way through the game, but it really won’t help you much once you jump online. While the gameplay remains largely unchanged from the previous iterations, there are a few new additions that spice up things a bit.
Klose Kombat: The camera zooms close towards the fighters and you can attack the opponent by using one of the four face buttons. Be careful though; if the opponent manages to match the buttons, he can counter your attacks.
Free Fall Kombat: Available only in certain areas, you can throw your opponent over the edge and get into another short mini game as you free-fall.
Test Your Might: Similar to Free Fall Kombat, this move can only be performed in certain arenas. You smack your opponent against a wall and start running through it, inflicting heavy damage.
Rage: Activated once your rage meter fills up, this mode makes you temporarily invincible and your attacks inflict a lot more damage on the opponent.
While the changes don’t really offer anything groundbreaking, they do add an extra layer of depth to the relatively simple combat system. One change that’ll have fans of the series fuming is the toning down of fatalities. As you may have heard, the fatalities in the game are neutered to make the game more appealing to a wider and younger audience.
Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. It just about gets the job done. The character models, for most part, are well detailed. The arenas on the other hand are empty and bland. A few nice touches include your character’s getting all bruised up and his costume being ripped and torn after a fight. Everything else, ranging from the character animations to the lighting can be summed up in a one word – average. Thankfully, the game does maintain a good frame rate despite running on the Unreal Engine 3.0. The sound too is nothing to write home about. The music and sound effects are as generic as they come. The horrendous voice acting coupled with cheesy dialogues can provide a few amusing moments though.
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is a great example of a game that doesn’t know its target audience. It tries to broaden its appeal at the expense of the series’ fans and that’s ultimately where it fails. Hardcore Mortal Kombat fans might feel cheated and the casuals won’t care about it once the story mode is done and dusted. The game should mostly appeal to the MK and DC fans, but even if you are not a fan of either, you can still end up enjoying the game. Just don’t expect anything special.
(+) Easy to pick up and play
(+) Story mode is surprisingly good
(+) Tight controls
(-) Average presentation
(-) Lack of modes/unlockables
(-) Feels unbalanced when playing against human opponent/online
IndianVideoGamer Verdict: 5/10 (Borrow/Rent)
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is in stores for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3