Mortal Kombat birthed one of the only video game movies I’ve ever enjoyed. I’m not sure if that says anything about my tastes, but the gratuitous mo-cap fest of the 90’s was somehow turned into an enjoyable feature film that stirred the hearts of young boys everywhere. Along with Mortal Kombat 3 for the SNES, it was the last thing I truly enjoyed from the franchise. When did Mortal Kombat start to misstep?
The dawn of the 3D era found the 2D fighting king floundering. Suddenly the real, yet obviously fake, pre-rendered characters of Mortal Kombat looked lousy next to the polygonal glory of games like Soul Blade and Tekken. Fatalities and large spouts of blood were no match for hulking weapons and the ability to side-step. The series waned in the fighting genre. An attempt to keep it appealing by bloating the roster (60+ in the last version) fell flat on its chubby face coming into the 21st century. It then moved on to dabble in the realms of platforming (very loosely) and brawling, but never found equal-footing or open arms in either.
Midway approached the drawing board one more time and came back with one of (initially) the oddest couples ever seen: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. While it initially struck most of the gaming community as a stupid move, MK vs. DCU has turned out to be the best game in the franchise since Mortal Kombat 3, though that is only saying so much.
This is a straightforward fighter with a few ’innovations’ to try to reignite the franchise’s flame. The mechanics and move sets are classic MK. ’Klose Kombat’ is a new mechanic that boils down to a battle via Quick Time Event. The receiving end of the ’Klose Kombat’ engagement has a chance to turn the tide if they are able to match button presses with their adversary. ’Test Your Might’ and ’Free-Fall Kombat’ are similar mechanics and can make a match really memorable with a good mix of each, though if you get into a match with someone who is ’Klose Kombat’ happy, it can sometimes slow the pace so much that it turns redundant.
The introduction of ’Rage Mode’ is the worst of the bunch. It’s basically an invincibility mode that is able to be triggered once your rage bar is full. It renders hits unblockable and your character nearly untouchable. The ’Rage Mode’ is a large part of the story mode and feels as if it was introduced to somehow tie the fighting back in, but it feels so out of place in a traditional fighting game. The story mode is fairly weak in itself and it probably wasn’t worth inserting a potential gamebreaker to try to tie it all together. Luckily, the game isn’t broken and can be really enjoyable with a friend.
The character models look fantastic and Midway has done a great job of trying to inject personality into each one. The roster has had a tummy tuck down to a lean 22 fighters (2 of them hidden), and none of them are just re-skinned copies of another character. All your favorite MK moves and characters are present, and the DC characters are a blast to play. It’s still a mystery that Superman is able to lose even a single battle but his introduction, along with other great characters like The Joker, Captain Marvel, and The Flash, is a saving grace for this series. Playing online I’ve seen that others agree, as almost no one I faced off with used a character from the Mortal Kombat side.
Though there are issues, and Soulcalibur IV was tough competition this year, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is truly the best thing to come from this franchise in many years. It’s rough around the edges and a little bare bones in features but the fighting, at its core, is solid and that’s what counts. It’s good to see that new life, by means of bizarre franchise combination, can be breathed into a nearly dead game series.
Versions Reviewed: Xbox 360, PS3