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Reviewed: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: November 20th, 2008
Page: 2

For any crossover game, you need a storyline excuse... or at least, it helps - and the more convoluted, the better. In this case, the storyline goes roughly as follows: at the same moment in time in two different universes, Superman and Raiden respectively each hit their nemesis (Darkseid and Shao Khan) with an energy attack while they were attempting to teleport. This screwed up their teleportations, fused the two beings, and started the Mortal Kombat and DC universes merging together. Of course, they don't merge easily, so everything started breaking, people freaked out, and the new "Dark Khan" started using his powers to cause everyone to fly into a fighting rage, fueling his own strength and coincidentally getting his enemies to wipe each other out.

Silly? Maybe, but no worse a storyline than the DC writers have ever come up with, and they're big fans of "merging universes." Crisis on Infinite Earths, anyone?

Nicely for the players, this isn't the end-all and be-all of the game. There's a variety of modes to be had; standard arcade mode (with storyline endings for each character), 2-player competition, "Challenge" modes where the game attempts to teach some insane combos, and a "Storyline" mode where players get to play through the worlds-merging storyline in 8 chapters, one for each side's character.

Graphically, MK vs DC is almost perfect - a few clipping errors involving caped crusaders (Superman, Captain Marvel, Raiden) but otherwise stellar. The models are amazingly well done, looking mostly realistic (setting aside Sonya Blade's oddly buoyant and enlarged bust) and not "zombie-like" like so many games have done in the past. The music is solidly done, as well, but the same can't be said for the voices; while most are solid, there are some oddities, such as Shang Tsung sounding like he comes from Brooklyn and Catwoman that's... well... ok guys, if they give you a sequel, PLEASE go with a different take on Catwoman. Seriously, Yikes.

Pick of characters... ok, this was one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. One major problem for DC's fighting games is that their characters' power levels don't sync as well, so some accomodations (due to the "magic" of the universe merging) were made, but the lineups are great regardless, if a bit sparse; 8 characters per side (plus one unlockable each) doesn't give room to include a whole history, but they did make some novel choices. Baraka is back on the MK side, and DC offers up two unusual choices: the Flash, and Captain Marvel. Yes, for the first time to my memory, it's possible to put Superman up against the Big Red Cheese and see who comes out ahead.

So that's the good side... that and the fact that, when playing between two humans, the game is relatively balanced.

Unfortunately for those who will play in single player mode most of their time, there's plenty of frustration to be had as well. The game offers up only a partial list of moves in its pause menu, and doesn't offer displays of fatalities or the various "pro move" linked moves, none of which generate from anything other than an "I say it combos" list in the game. End result? A lot of nuisance going online or buying a strategy guide to learn each character's full potential.

Fatalities can be frustrating to do even when you know how, because the game requires standing at a specific distance for some of them. Practice, practice. "Pro Moves" are even worse; they take an existing move (like Raiden's electric bolt) and have you complete another move at *just* the right time to combo them. For the computer, which has an "I do move X now" input system, this is no problem and on anything other than basic difficulty, expect to regularly see combos of 7 hits or more. For a human, trying to make the Xbox360 or PS3 controller execute the move in a 4-frame window or less is ridiculous, tricky, and is one of the unfortunate reasons that the fighting game genre has lost a lot of its popularity over the last few years.

Motion control is, alas, awkward at best. The d-pad has the standard 2D fighting controls; up/jump, left/right motion, down/crouch. The analog stick has "3D motion", left/right movement and encirclement. The left trigger can be held to switch the two, but while the game offers a chance to remap buttons, there's no way to swap the modes of the analog stick and digital pad. This will be a real nuisance for those who find it awkward to be constantly holding the trigger due to twitchy D-pad sensitivity that makes characters jump when not intended.

In the overall game system, there are a few innovations that work well. They've dumped the "weapon stances" system (thank you!) entirely, removed a few other silly and/or nonsensical options, and added in a sub-bar. Unlike most games, this isn't a "super move" bar; it holds up to two charges and can be used in two ways. A half-bar can be used to automatically break an enemy's combo, useful if you're caught in one of the previously mentioned computerized "I win button" scenarios. A full bar puts the player temporarily into "Rage" mode, where they have the ability to break through enemy blocking and can absorb hits without flinching - turning grab moves like Scorpion's and Wonder Woman's ropes into mere nuisances. If both players go into Rage at once, they rebalance and the game acts as normal.

Grabs and throws and environmental damage are significantly modified, as well. The primary grab mode simply tosses an enemy across the arena, potentially through breakable objects like statues. The secondary grab ("Klose Kombat") goes into a "paper-rock-scissors" attack mode, where up to 4 hits can be made; if the enemy matches the button pressed, however, they'll counter the grab and break out of it, doing some return damage in the process. A similar aerial combat mode ("Freefall Kombat") comes up in certain stages, and there's also a "breaking walls with your enemy" mode on others, wherein a strong hit at the right portion of the stage sends an enemy flying through barriers and the two players struggle for dominance in a small minigame.

Bottom line: MK vs DC shows a lot more potential than the MK titles of the past few years have, and it shows Ed Boon and his team are learning from their mistakes. If you've got a good group of friends to play around with (online or locally), it's definitely worth giving a try.

Added:  Friday, November 21, 2008
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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