Product Type: Midway PS3 games
Newest Review: ... two-player functions propping things up. The two-player is, much like the single-player, an okay means of killing an hour or so, though it'... more
Holy Mortal Kom-Batman!
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (PS3)
Member Name: tom1clare
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (PS3)
Date: 01/11/11, updated on 01/11/11 (55 review reads)
Advantages: Story mode is nicely handled; some great fighters; solid mix of moves
Disadvantages: Fatalities; inconsistent character-balancing; combat engine is dated
Still, the unlikely pairing is what's on show here and there are times when it works, and times where the gulf creates problems. The game presents the usual Arcade mode setup where you work through a series of battles before facing Dark Khan (a fiery combination of villains Shao Khan and Darkseid). Victory grants a rather lame, gallery-shot ending with a brief narration divulging the nature of what each character did with their new-found power. More noteworthy however is the brave and enjoyable Story mode.
After choosing your side, you get to play through a lively narrative as a number of protagonists, and some smart cut-scenes flesh out the combat rather nicely. The Story sees a merging of realms, with figures from both sides getting transported into each other's habitats and succumbing to "Combat Rage", a symptom manifesting from the aforementioned Dark Khan's lust for conflict. Each chapter pits you as a different player, and cleverly, weaves a few of the more unsavoury figures into the mix as they attempt to benefit from the ensuing chaos. Admittedly, it's a touch disappointing that they opted to keep the franchises in strict in opposition throughout, possibly as forging any "common-ground" dialogues between the likes of Scorpion and The Joker would surely have proven difficult to substantiate.
With significant differences in fighting styles, as well as the fact that many of the DC lot aren't exactly a staple of the beat 'em up genre, the character-balancing perhaps inevitably isn't great. Raiden and Superman, as the story's main figureheads, have a fair bit more in the way of special moves than other characters. The Flash has a range of lightning fast combos and tricky-to-block-efforts whilst Sub-Zero is agile and full of frosty menace, but their potency ends up highlighting the deficiencies of others. The likes of Captain Marvel, Lex Luther and (despite being easily the most creative figure on show) The Joker all require rather more effort to make effective in battle. In fairness, isn't just the DC lot either; as spec-ops pairing Sonya and Jax struggle to establish themselves with short-range moves and neither are especially effective in fights. Toothy-freak Baraka and shady DC villain Deathstroke, whilst fairly robust combatants, seem tacked-on as they play virtually no meaningful role in the stories at all.
On the whole, it plays well enough. There's a fine (if over-familiar) array of quick 'n' easy combos and character-specific special moves, whilst the Kombo Challenges mode highlights the additional manoeuvres made available through good timing. Though it would perhaps be a little unfair to describe the fight system as wooden, there's no question it lacks the fluidity of the Tekken's and Streetfighter's of this world, and the ungainly block function rather draws attention to the severe shortage of low-aimed combat moves outside of basic attacks. To its credit, the game throws in a bunch of new gimmicks, even if they prove hit and miss. "Free-fall Kombat" sees fighters battling in mid-air, punching and parrying on the way down to the next level of the arena. Judged right, you can inflict 30% damage on an opponent's health bar, but as these can be reversed, and the player who hits the ground first takes all of the damage, they can also frustrate. Other quick-time events see you smashing your enemy through walls in a button-mashing frenzy to determine the extent of the damage, whilst the filling off the "Rage" bar grants the combatant near-unstoppable, hyper-powered moves that are guaranteed to turn the tide of most battles. You will of course enjoy the inclusion of the "Rage" function far more if you're the one using it, rather than being on the end of the already uber-powerful Dark Khan's unnecessary usage of the system.
The presentation isn't bad. Finding a happy medium for the bright 'n' chunky DC Universe characters is a tricky task, but though the game misses the heavy atmosphere that benefited the classic Mortal Kombat titles of the early nineties, the compromise is relatively well-met. It's rather odd seeing the superheroes mimicking the gangly punches and lurid uppercuts of their counterparts however, and only really The Joker is given a truly distinctive fighting style. The music is, on occasions, pleasantly foreboding, and the environments are a definite boon. The pick of the bunch include downtown Metropolis, Gotham City, the Batcave and also arenas where the two universes have been split down the middle, though the character select screen and menus are rather unattractive on the whole.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment attached to MK vs. DC is its fatalities. The once-legendarily gory finishers have been severely toned down, in all likelihood because certain folks wouldn't see the benefit of having Batman being ripped in two or Catwoman having her head-severed. So what you have is an unfortunate collective that ranges from the mildly diverting (such as The Joker's fake pistol routine and rather vicious playing card finishers) to the uneventful, and the downright rubbish - such as Shang Tsung replicating his opponent's appearance and then timidly levering them to the floor. So whilst it's always entertaining to give the finishers a go, most are a bit half-hearted.
There's just enough in way of distractions and game modes to give you a couple of weeks of play, with online and two-player functions propping things up. The two-player is, much like the single-player, an okay means of killing an hour or so, though it's not addictive or satisfying enough to get you enthralled in epic, best-of-50 matches.
Midway ultimately made sound work of what was in hindsight not an easy assignment. It's impressive that they've made this brawler as cohesive as it is, because by all accounts the two franchises involved are not an ideal fit. The fatalities aren't satisfying, the characters are a bit of a mish-mash and it's not as refined as the genres top representatives, but for all this, there's still some endeavour and enjoyment to be found in this bizarre marriage.
Summary: A problem shared is a problem doubled.
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