Review: Finish him! But use less blood this time.
At first, when I caught word of the Mortal Kombat and DC Universe crossover fighter, like most people I was concerned. MK vs DC? Really? I was made even more wary when I saw that big ugly ?T? in the ratings box instead of the inviting, loving ?M? we've come to know and love as Mortal Kombat players. These concerns lasted right up until I played my first match, which is when I realized MK vs DC will surprise a lot of people. Great visuals, a solid fighting system, and a creative story mode makes for an entertaining experience, even if the finishing moves aren't what we're used to.
The roster is 22 strong, 11 from each side, and none of the characters are real surprises. Mortal Kombat has Liu Kang, Raiden, and the ninja duo of Sub-Zero and Scorpion, while the DC Universe has Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Joker. Most of the kombatant's fighting styles and movesets fit the personality well, but I don't understand why Wonder Woman twirls around in the air like she does. The lasso move makes sense, but that's about the only special move she has that does. Other than that, each character is well represented by their moveset.
When you get right down to it, MK vs DC's fighting system is like any normal fighter, four attack buttons (creatively named Attack 1 ? Attack 4) and a block button. Special moves are easy to perform, sometimes as easy as Back Back Back 3. It's the additions to the standard fighting system that intrigue me. Klose Kombat, initiated by pressing the Right Bumper, is a cat-and-mouse minigame where the opponent must guess which button the attacker will hit or suffer massive damage. Freefall Kombat has the same mechanics, but instead of just ending the combo with a correct guess, the fighters flip around and the other player can go on the offensive. With enough successful strikes, Freefall Kombat can be finished with a character-specific special move (For example, The Flash swings the opponent around reeeeeeeeeallllly fast, then throws him to the ground). Both of these are welcome additions to the tried-and-true fighting game system, as they both can make fights much more interesting. The one addition I didn't understand, though, was the Test Your Might minigame when knocking your opponent through a wall. The command is to press all 4 buttons, but every time I tried I must have been doing something wrong, because it never worked in my favor. Perhaps I just didn't get it, but that little addition doesn't seem all that necessary, nor is it as applicable to the match as the other two, especially as it is limited to only a handful of stages.
Visually, the game is stunning. The character models are excellent, right down to the facial expressions and movements in Story Mode. Each arena is beautiful, from the pits of the Netherrealm to the dark streets of Gotham. The fighting looks just as good as the rest of the game, with vibrant special moves and realistic damage to the arenas. This is easily the best looking MK game to date.
What really makes the game, though, is the Story Mode. While the scenes and dialogue can be campy at times, all in all MK vs DC's writing team did a fantastic job bringing the worlds together. There are two story choices, Mortal Kombat's point of view or that of the DC Universe. Each story is seven chapters, each played with seven different characters from that universe, and includes a lot of plot twists and surprise fights. I know that a couple of times I was genuinely surprised by what was going on. My only gripe is I would have preferred a more creative final boss than Dark Kahn. Come on now, that's all you could come up with after writing a fantastic story like this? Dark Kahn?
Of course, not all games are perfect, and MK vs DC has some glaring issues. I know this is supposed to be a T rated game, but the fatalities are weak even for teens. Why isn't Baraka beheading someone instead of just slicing at them? Why did you move the character getting shot by The Joker off-screen, when the original was so much more badass? Why is Catwoman breaking necks with her legs and not clawing someone's face off? As constricting as the T rating is, there are games with T ratings more violent than this.
Also, the lack of unlockable content is a buzzkill. The previous 3D MK games each had the Krypt, which housed tons of unlockable content, from characters to stages to artwork, all purchasable with different color koins. After finishing story mode and beating Arcade with everyone to get all the achievements, all that's left is Kombo Challenge, which is exactly what it sounds like, and online play. That's it. There are only two unlockable characters, Shao Kahn and Darkseid, both unlocked by completing Story Mode with their respective side. No artwork, music, stages, nothing. The replay value takes a massive hit because of it, for as good as the fighting system is, it's not going to keep you coming back for more online challenges like, say, Soul Calibur IV will.