Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe - Xbox 360 Review

Not the Mortal Kombat you were expecting? Well, I'm still trying to get a bit more online in (barely got any before the PSN went crazy last week and weekend). But, I had picked this game up fairly cheaply awhile back (like $6 at Disc Traders) and figured it would be a good way to get by the week before the new release. I had completely missed this one when it first came out. I was aware of it, but it never made it onto my list of must-grab games when it released about 2 1/2 years ago.

The premise is pretty simple: come up with a somewhat silly storyline that merges favorites from two different 'worlds' and merge them into a single game. This has been done before (probably most notably by Capcom with their vs. Marvel stuff). To be honest, the story here holds up better. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was a blast to play, but the story was paper thin. Here at least, there was an attempt made to explain things such as peoples' limitations (Supes is hurt by magic) and trying to balance out the roster (Joker can hit pretty hard for a skinny clown). Speaking of roster, that was one of my bigger curiosities going in, so here that is:

Mortal Kombat DC Universe

Scorpion The Joker
Sub-Zero Catwoman
Sonya The Flash
Shang Tsung Superman
Kitana Batman
Jax Wonder Woman
Liu Kang Deathstroke
Raiden Lex Luthor
Kano Captain Marvel
Baraka Green Lantern
Shao Kahn Darkseid

For those hoping to see Sueprman ripping someone's head off though, be forewarned that this game was aiming for a Teen rating. There's still some blood to be had, but it is not the vicious affair you expect from a Mortal Kombat game. Depending on who you anticipate playing it, that could be a good thing. I felt a lot more comfortable playing this in the living room during the day with the kids coming in and out, than I did the newly released Mortal Kombat. Interestingly enough, having played both games, I can see several elements of this game having made its way into the newer release from last week. So, let's get into the specifics, shall we?

Graphics - 7:

There's some nice touches to be had here. When you fight your opponent, they get beat up physically and their outfits take a toll as well. This is something they did in the recent Mortal Kombat reboot as well, and it looks pretty good here. It's not terribly bloody, but you can see some scrapes and bruises, with parts of Sonja's pants tearing away around the hamstring area, or a deep gash through the back of Flash's costume. The characters all look pretty decent in-game. They animate smoothly (if a bit slowly, but that's more of a gameplay concern) and have a vivid use of colors that reminds me of a comic book - which is probably a good thing given the source material. Backgrounds at first glance sometimes look okay, but upon closer inspection are a bit rough-looking. You tend not to notice it with the attention on the fighters in the foreground, but it is a bit disappointing. The characters in the cut scenes are serviceable if unspectacular, with the occasional goofy stance - or when you notice people turning their heads rapidly only to see their long hair remain perfectly stationary.

Sounds & Music - 6:

The music is not really bad or there - it's just good. It does nothing to stand out, and does the job of filling space, but I can't recall a single memorable tune coming out of it. The sound effects are good enough to get the job done, but they too are fairly unremarkable - and somewhat repetitive as well. Again, none of it is bad really - just none of it is terribly good either.

Gameplay - 7:

Okay, there's quite a bit to talk about here. For starters, the control scheme is rather interesting. The Mortal Kombat games originally were a strictly 2-D affair, while some of the latter ones became 3-D. This one merges the two together, using the analog stick to control the 2-D mechanics (like jumping and ducking) while the directional pad allows you to step up and down in the environment, giving it a sort of tangible 3-D feel.

Plenty of moves and combos give the characters variety, though some did feel stronger than others. It was also interesting to see how some of the DC characters had their powers brought into a Mortal Kombat game. Flash reminded me of Cabal with his speed and the special attacks he could use to make you start spinning. Captain Marvel had a ducking sort of lightning move that brought him up behind a character, much like Raiden. In that sense, some of the DC characters felt familiar, which is probably a good and bad thing at the same time.

Also, I can only describe the combat as 'floaty'. Jumps seem to hang a bit longer than then should, and when you punch in the air, instead of a fist driving down at your opponent on the ground, your kombatant hangs for a moment to execute the move, which felt a bit odd to me. Special attacks were easy enough to pull off, and there was plenty of environment interaction, which I've always liked. It's fun throwing someone through a stone statue, and some stages allow you to plow into your opponent and execute a free falling sort of quicktime event. There is also a close quarters kombat as well that uses the same principle. Cool ideas, but I didn't really like either as much as I thought I would.

The free fall was neat the first few times, but it felt like it slowed the game down. Ditto the close quarters (though it did give you a nice closeup view of the warriors, allowing you to take in some of the bruising and costume damage, which was nice). Also, the quicktime events really need to be handled a bit differently. I don't like it when games use those off to a side or corner - it pulls your eyes away from the actual action taking place. I prefer games like God of War that put them front an center for you to see overlaying the action.

Like most one-on-one fighting games these days, there is also a bar that fills up over the course of combat, allowing you to do certain moves - when it builds up all of the way you can do a rage/super that gives you enhanced strength and makes you harder to take down for a very brief period of time.

Intangibles - 6:

There is a story mode, and it's pretty interesting how it is told from two different sides. It gives you a reason to play through it twice - once as the DC and once as the Mortal Kombat side. Still, I'd guess both versions are less than 3 hrs to get through. They do use an interesting mechanic that shows up in last week's Mortal Kombat release as well - where you take control of a single character for a chapter, fighting off a series of staged opponents. I like that as opposed to just the arcade/ladder versions found in most fighting games where you fight a random assortment of enemies before facing a boss or two and then getting a canned ending. You still get that here from arcade mode as well, but that is sort of the 'norm'. To me the structure of this story mode is a good thing and I'd love to see a bit more of it as you are told an 'official' story, instead of trying to make sense out of 20 different characters' different endings.

There are online and challenge modes as well, but it's hard to score these terribly high. There's almost no activity online that I can see (no doubt due to the game's age and newer fighters out there) and the challenge modes were more frustrating than fun in my opinion.

There is a decent selection of characters though, and that kept me burning through the arcade mode for awhile (I'm one of those people who has to beat a fighting game with every character). Still, it really doesn't take much to burn through the provided content, and the lack of online life really hurts a game like this that was clearly meant to be competitive.

Overall 6.5:

Not a bad game. For the price I picked it up? I'd call it a decent if not great game. There are some cool ideas that got put in, and it was fun using characters usually not found in titles like this. The Teen rating will be a boon or bust for different reasons. For me personally, the finishing moves were kind of 'meh'. I'm used to old school Mortal Kombat where Johnny Cage uppercuts an opponent's head off, creating a fountain of the red stuff. Then again, this is a game I can play when my youngest walks through the living room, and I don't have to pause it. So, there is some give and take to be had. I would say buying the game at full price, it's a tough recommend, but if you can find it really cheap, it's not a bad deal if you're looking to kill a weekend or two with it.

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