Review: Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe
Whilst PEOWW’s reach is global, ninety percent of our readership comes from the UK which means that a crossover between the cast of Mortal Kombat and the heroes and villains of DC comics was never really going to pull up any trees for us but, as far as basic premises go, watching the likes of Sub-Zero and Scorpion square off against Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman does evoke a little excitement even if your interest in either faction is limited.
The plot is barely worth mentioning but I will anyway. Raiden’s team of heroes has defeated Shao Khan yet again and kicked his perpetually beaten arse into yet another portal. At the same time, Superman has done a similar thing to the ludicrously named Darkseid. Fast forward a few cutscenes and it transpires that Shao Khan and Darkseid have merged into Dark Khan (fuck me, that almost makes Rodimus Prime sound good), an individual who’s so utterly pissed off that his rage is actually merging the Earth Realm and the DC Universe together and causing people to get properly narked with each other.
The game’s ‘story’ mode covers all of this but the plot is mostly crowbarred into place by the aforementioned ‘Rage’. In storytelling terms this just makes characters’ eyes glow yellow and makes them as reasonable as a Millwall fan who’s just accidentally had the back of your pool cue knock his pint into his lap. In front of his bird. Who’s just laughed at him and remarked that she’d rather be with you and your best mate who just happens to be wearing a West Ham shirt. ‘Rage’ also acts as a strength boost in the game. One of the many bad decisions the makers of this game have made but I’ll get into that later.
Each faction’s story mode game has six chapters, each of which sees you playing as one of their characters (you don’t get to pick in this mode). The MK faction starts you off as Liu Kang and sees him facing off against Sub-Zero, Captain Marvel and various others before replacing Liu with the likes of Sonya Blade and Jax for later chapters. The DC story also works in the same fashion. Irritatingly, fatalities aren’t available in this mode as you often defeat characters that you’ll go on to play as but as far as beat ’em up story modes go, this is functional enough.
Aside from the story mode you can also play the bog-standard arcade mode which also functions as expected and gives you the choice of facing off against MK or DC characters only or a mixture of both. This mode is truer to Mortal Kombat’s roots and features fatalities (or ‘heroic brutalities’ if playing as a DC hero) and the now-obligatory cheap as fuck boss. As a veteran of all the Mortal Kombat games, it’s still a source of mystery to me as to why Midway persist on putting in a horrendous boss cunt who can level your energy bar within a couple of hits, especially after you’ve pummelled him unanswered for the best part of fifteen seconds.
Most of the 3D Mortal Kombat titles have tended to offer extra mini-games (usually 3-of-a-kind puzzlers) as well as drawn-out ‘Quest’ modes and absolute stacks of unlockables. Well MK vs DC doesn’t. If the story and arcade modes don’t do it for you, all that’s left for the single player is ‘Kombo Training’. In this mode you have to land ten different combos for each character. These often include ‘pro moves’ which require specific timing to pull off and are, without a doubt, the MOST FRUSTRATING FUCKING THING TO EVER BE PUT IN A FUCKING GAME EVER. Pulling off basic moves without a Hori stick is gum-achingly awful. Attempted it with the analogue stick or, God forbid, the d-pad is borderline impossible (especially without mood-enhancing drugs). The controls are a joke throughout the game, and that joke is at your expense.
Aw man, I really wanted this to be good, no not good, GREAT. I spent all summer watching the previews and tried to remain positive amid the weak-arse fatalities (Joker excluded, sorry America by the way with your watered down T for Teen’s version) and grimaced as new ideas like close kombat and mid-air kombat were ruined by the random guess the button QTEs they quickly became.
In the end despite trying to believe otherwise I know this game is seriously broken. The controls are broken with 3D movement awkward and complex move combos impossible to complete thanks to the notorious Xbox 360 d-pad and inconsistent timing of the character’s movement. The characters themselves are broken with some being cheap-arse teleporters like Scorpion and The Flash while others have near unavoidable moves and the game’s AI will always reverse any close or mid-air attacks on higher difficulties despite you really only having a one in four chance of doing likewise.
If you’re a MK fan or, like me, a DC fan you’ll be temporally won over by seeing HD versions of your favourite characters giving out lumps but under the slick veneer of pre-rendered cut scenes and dubious voice over work (I mean c’mon how the hell could you manage to make Green Lantern and Darkside sound boring) it’s an average beat ’em up complicated by unnecessary QTEs and long term appeal crippled by stingy unlockables and limited character selection. I wasn’t expecting it to rival Virtua Fighter or even Tekken but when it compares poorly to say Soul Calibur you know something’s not right.
Secondary Score: 6/10
This is a bad enough problem in this mode but in arcade or story mode it literally breaks the game. Sure, you can complete the game, on easier settings, using quick one-two combos and the wide range of a special moves but that’s not very interesting and seeing as how Tekken has already proven that long combos can work in a fighting game, this all seems like a massive oversight. Suffice to say that the controls suck the enjoyment out of the game entirely unless of course you like your beat ’em ups to have a worse flow than Claire Rayner.
On easier difficulties, attempting mid-level combos is a risk worth taking but as soon as the AI ups its game, forget it. And forget about pulling off most of the fatalities. Of course the game and manual don’t actually tell you how to do them, so a it’s a quick trip to GameFAQs for you. Unfortunately most of these are the same old dull ones that have been in all the 3D MK games. Sub-Zero freezes and smashes you, Scorpion pulls off his mask and burns you… blah blah…dull. DC fatalities are a bit more interesting but this is still a poor showing when compared to even something as old as MK2.
The combat (fuck off with the Ks) has been tampered with as well. If you throw an opponent out of the arena you’ll freefall with him, trading blows, until you hit the floor of the next area. This can take almost a third of an energy bar off, so you’ll need to be careful but as the countering system is based on a QTE equivalent of blindfolded rock/scissors/stone, I guess it doesn’t matter how careful you are. Fair play to them for trying something different but random button mashing doesn’t make for a good countering system.
All that’s left is to mention the laggy online modes that are already infected with pricks who only play as The Flash (the cheapest character in the game) and the frankly horrible achievements that often fail to unlock and include twenty two Kombo Challenge ones (sob) and the fucking terrible ‘Win 25 ranked matches in a row’ achievement which proves without a doubt that this game was developed exclusively by cunts. Oh and don’t expect any Tekken-style ending movies. A shit bit of text about the usual Mortal Kombat portals, realms, tournaments bullshit is all you get for your efforts.
Look, just avoid it. Some aspects of the game manage to be average (graphically it’s alright and the sound is um… reasonable) but what we have here is a rush job that should kill enthusiam for the crossover and what little affection the fans still have for the MK series in general.