Crossovers are certainly nothing new in the world of media. Freddy Vs. Jason, Alien Vs. Predator and now Midway has decided to take a stab at the craze with Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. When it was first announced the outcry from both camps was loud and clear, how could this possibly work? Well after spending plenty of quality time – and being a huge fan of both universes – I can safely say this is one crossover that works, and works well. The fighting system is pure old-school Mortal Kombat, the storyline is ripped straight from recent comics in the DC Universe and most importantly the game is fun.
One of the biggest changes that the MK team has done is eliminating a lot of the frustrations that came with the previous entries in the 3D titles. The weapons system and multiple fighting styles are gone as are the on-the-fly Fatalities introduced in Armageddon. Instead each character now possesses two finishing moves that are entirely unique. The finishing moves themselves are a bit disappointing, mostly due to the Teen rating, but there are some clever ones out there including The Joker as well as some classic returning finishers for veteran MK characters. The button inputs should be familiar and for seasoned experts the distance system returns requiring you to be at the correct spot to perform the finisher.
The combat system has also been revamped to resemble the older MK titles. Everything is based around the 2D mechanic, which suits the game much more than the convoluted multiple fighting styles introduced in Deadly Alliance. All of the special moves are performed with similar button presses making learning multiple characters a breeze. The repertoire of moves is also complemented with the unique attacks, especially with the DC characters. For instance Green Lantern uses his ring for most of his moves while Lex Luthor relies mostly on the technology in his suit. Everything meshes together extremely well and feels responsive. The downside of all of this is the timing, some of the more advanced combos, specifically found in the Kombo Challenges, require split-second timing and will take even veterans a while to master.
Another big addition to the fighting is Free-Fall Kombat, Klose Kombat and the return of Test Your Might. Free-Fall Kombat is instigated by pushing your opponent through the confines of specific levels. As you plummet to the ground you can input a series of buttons to perform different moves. Your opponent can also counter these by anticipating your button presses and timing. Klose Kombat works roughly the same way except you can initiate it by simply tapping the bumper. Once inside this mode the idea works the same as Free-Fall. Test Your might works similarly to Free-Fall but instead of timed button presses you simply mash buttons. If you are on the receiving end your mashes reduce damage while the other person is trying to add damage. Amazingly enough none of these new ideas break the core gameplay and actually add some new strategy to the game.
The last addition is almost like a refining of the counter system introduced in Armageddon. As the match progresses you will fill up a meter at the top of the screen that can be cashed in for either a Kombo Breaker or unleash the new Rage Mode. Rage Mode basically makes you invincible and your attacks deal out more damage. The sacrifice of course comes from losing your Kombo Breaker moves. Overall deciding whether to use the Rage Mode or save it for a counter move causes players to think about what strategy they want to use.
The single player game has also been re-worked to accommodate the two universes. There is an Arcade mode that allows you to work your way up a tier of opponents and you can even decide whether to take on strictly MK or DC opponents or a mixture of both, but both roads lead to the same main villain. The story mode is broken down into each universe and tells the story from the perspective of both sides. The idea behind the story is that in an attempt to thwart Darkseid’s return to his world Superman distorts his warp and opens a portal between the DC Universe and Outworld. It is a typical comic book scenario, but it works and that is all that matters.
Surprisingly this mode is long and cut scene heavy. It is broken down into chapters and each chapter focuses on a specific character. The storyline itself feels like something out of a comic book (meaning of course totally outlandish and involving multiple universes) but it does make sense and is entertaining. My biggest complaint is that the voice acting feels a bit lacking for most characters and recycled for others. The presentation is solid making this the most impressive story implementation in a fighting game in a long time.
The meat of any fighting game though is the multi-player and MK Vs. DCU comes packed with all the traditional modes including versus both online and off. In our online tests everything ran relatively smooth with little lag, but there were instances where some matches would slow down due to some network hiccups. The lobby system is interesting at best, allowing you to join one of four rooms or create one of your own, and accept challenges from other users within the room. You can trash talk and when someone is victorious it announces it among everyone else in the room. The online feels more predictable than exceptional and will not change the tide of online fighting games.
Visually the game is pretty much what you would expect from a game built on the Unreal Engine. Character models are nicely detailed down to even battle damage and torn clothes as the fight progresses. The stages are all modeled after locales in both games including landmarks such as the Batcave, the Fortress of Solitude and several locations from Outworld. The game never drops a frame and the animations on some of the moves are downright impressive. The voice acting, as mentioned earlier, is hit and miss with stand out performances by The Joker and Catwoman respectively. The music is typical Mortal Kombat as are the announcer and sound effects. The idea here is obviously don’t change what has worked for over a decade now.
Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe works better than most crossovers, but not as well as others. The combat is solid, the story mode is substantial and if you are a fan of either universe there is something here to enjoy. The lackluster finishing moves and lack of extras really hurt the overall experience, but if you are indeed looking for a game that pits two franchises full of beloved characters there is a lot to love here. Hopefully if they decide to make a sequel we can see a boatload of extras and unlockable goodies, but as it stands MK Vs. DC is a solid entry in the series and a great crossover for fans of either series.