There are a stack of geek fantasies out there. Fantasies that might include seeing Captain Picard actually kick Kirk's tired old ass once and for all, or seeing the real X-Men tear through the characters from that shitty show, Mutant X, to prove who the original and best really are. Some might include the Ninja Turtles teaming up with the Thundercats or Optimus Prime taking on Voltron in the ultimate mech/robot wars fantasy.
There are likely absolutely ridiculous team-ups or crossovers as well, such as ALF vs E.T., M.A.S.K. vs Dino Riders, GI Joe vs He-Man or John Rambo vs John Matrix (for the ultimate in cheese
The possibilities, when you get down to it, are utterly endless thanks to years and years of growth and expansion in popular culture, with equal crossover through a variety of different audiences. And you could generate a wish list of co-branding opportunities through these for hours upon hours and come up with some of the coolest (or lamest) of possibilities, and thanks to the power of the "all ighty ollar
," the various industries fertilising the pop culture tree are beginning to see this, too.
Having grown up with videogames and comics as my main choice (and outlet) of geekdom, there are countless crossovers I've always hoped for, but in all my years reading Batman, Green Lantern and Green Arrow comics (in my opinion, the only
DC characters worth anything) whilst pumping coins into Mortal Kombat II, or earning serious thumb calluses from performing Fatalities on my SNES controller, it never once occurred to me the DC and MK universes should ever cross paths.
It seems fairly obvious most of the people involved with the creation of the game never did, either (at least not until some marketing douche-bag pitched the idea at a meeting and it was given the green light). And so despite such a product forcing you to conjure images of your parents having sex (because that act, for all offspring, is just plain wrong
), it has been made, and now we're forced to deal with the reality of its existence (in as much the same way your own existence
means your parents did
Now I know most people are screaming at their monitors because Capcom and Marvel already did this. But let's face a serious fact: Marvel characters, like them or hate them, are infinitely cooler than DC characters. There are exceptions, such as Captain America who is still very much a product of a long-gone era, but the bulk of popular heroes like Wolverine, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hulk, Psylocke and their ultimate baddie, Apocalypse (among others) eat Superman, Captain Marvel and the Flash for breakfast.
And Wonder Woman... oh dear lord when will someone at DC change her outfit? It's just plain embarrassing now.
In fact, with the exception of Batman and The Joker (though in this game The Joker is pretty lame), the one thing Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe does is really show off just how behind the times and out-of-date DC's flagship characters are.
It doesn't help that the Mortal Kombat manifest is just as bad. This series had its peak in the 90s, and while there have been a few cool updates to the franchise since MKII all those years ago, it still feels pretty archaic (especially in the face of both Street Fighter IV and the recently released Street Fighter II HD Remix for Xbox Live Arcade).
Still, despite all this I fired up the game's Story Mode, chose the DC side and began my torture. One of the first major issues here is that this game takes itself way too seriously. The ridiculous plot and its equally ridiculous attempts at creating instances for two-round fights between DC Universe characters and Mortal Kombat characters just reinforces the idea the two entities simply should not co-exist in this way. There are immediate problems with a lot of what's going on. You can't really ever have Superman in a game because he's just too powerful, and so seeing The Joker punching him with globs of blood flying is just hard to swallow, and even if you throw out any concept of maintaining a suspended sense of disbelief, it all just looks silly.
In Story Mode, depending on which side you choose, you'll play through as each of a supplied side's characters with three two-round fights with members from both sides. The game attempts to link them all together, but I'm not even going to waste my energy writing about how they do it, it's that redundant. Suffice to say, with so many characters and so many rounds and fights, by the time you reach the end of the game, you're going to want to sit in the corner of a dark room and rock yourself to sleep.
The fighting formula has once again changed (it's becoming commonplace for Midway to change the series' mechanics with every update), and this time around it's a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, using the D-Pad has you facing battles pretty much in 2D ala old-school MK, but using the analogue sticks immediately shifts things to 3D. This is problematic because we haven't yet mutated as a species to have two thumbs on the one hand, and facing off against a play who uses the analogue if you're a D-Pad player just makes it all dizzy.
There equally seems to be some serious ill-balance to fighting. For the most part everyone in the game has similar moves (cleverly masked as signature
moves based on the character), but there are a lot of cheap ways to win, and finding these not only makes you an ass, but also someone no one will likely want to play with.
Beyond the fighting mechanics, there are also seminal quicktime events such as the newly added Klose Kombat bouts (when will Midway learn using "K" instead of "C" just isn't kool
anymore) where you grab an opponent and move into a slow-mo mini-game of fisticuffs. Hit any one of the face buttons without your opponent being able to match them, and you'll land them all and cause some damage, but if a press is matched your attack is broken and reversed.
Equally, you can ram an enemy down a level and while falling essentially play the same mini-game, the difference here, however, is the option to land a special attack at the end if you manage fill a special gauge and not have your attack broken.
There's also another meter that governs Rage. Rage can be activated when said meter is full and can act as a tide-turner (read: unfair comeback), because it fills the more you're wailed upon. It essentially knocks the other player down and while you can still be hurt, it deals more damage and you receive less. Rage is just another way in which MK vs DCU stands as a far lesser fighting experience than deeper big-hitters like Street Fighter or Soul Calibur.
The big draw for the Mortal Kombat series then has always been its over-the-top gore and sheer tenacity. Here, however, thanks to the DC Universe license, that tenacity has been scaled back to a slightly annoying growl (as opposed to a threatening bark). Fatalities have returned, but only certain characters can perform them, and there are only two per dealer. The DC cats then perform "Heroic Brutalities"; essentially they're just mad beat-downs on the recipient, but the trodden are left to live and fight another day. It's annoying because it undermines the reputation Mortal Kombat has garnered as the fighting genre's 'bad boy', and reflects the clear desperation of Midway to make the series not only more accessible, but financially viable.
Online multiplayer is just as bad, if not worse, than the single-player portion with me experiencing some serious lag in most matches due to poor match-making. The game's unbalanced fighting system doesn't help, especially if the person you're fighting is aware of Superman's endless combo. If you're lucky you'll knock grudges with someone of equal or lesser skill to sate the frustration of a poor connection, but ultimately you're better off chucking this on as a party fighting game when friends and beer are over.
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is a perfect reflection of each of the license's current state in the world. Sure it's cool to play as Batman, and the Batman/Sub-Zero grudge match is probably going to be a favourite, but it's not something you can sell an entire game on. As far as fighting games go, this is among the bottom of the barrel with so many other titles out or on their way offering up so much more.
The aesthetic angle equally leaves little to be desired, and unless you're either a die-hard Mortal Kombat fan or DC fan, you're going to find this game pretty lame in its archaic presentation, terrible story and ridiculously out-of-date characters. If there's ever an update to this, here's hoping Midway and Warner scrap the DC angle altogether (sans Batman), and just go with Vertigo characters instead.
(PS: Warner - please let it be known, absolutely anything
featuring Batman that isn't live-action needs
the voice of Kevin Conrad. He is