Everyone remembers the first time they saw one of those brutal fatalities featured in the Mortal Kombat series. Whether it was a ripped out heart, a deathly plummet onto sharpened spikes, or an arcade cabinet dropping on your head, spying one of these horrific animations has always been one of gaming’s rights of passage.
But the years haven’t been kind, and since those heady days of the mid-90s, the Mortal Kombat titles have languished in the doldrums. This latest attempt to change around the series’ fortunes sees the likes of Sub-Zero and Raiden go toe to toe with some of the greatest heroes and villains that the world of DC has to offer.
The single player meat of the game prompts you to choose your allegiance. Either it’s the Mortal Kombat brawlers that are your favourites, or the DC heroes. What follows is your usual staged beat ‘em up fare, yet with one intriguing twist. The story is actually quite interesting, in a corny, poking fun at itself, kind of way. It won’t go winning any awards, but it certainly helps you keep going for the few hours it’ll take to play through the whole thing.
In playing this you certainly get back to basics. Where most fighting titles now have a wealth of stances and fighting modes to choose from for each character, here the only real difference from character to character are the special moves and fatalities. And even the button press to initiate each special move are exactly the same from brawler to brawler.
Newcomers to the series, and even the genre as a whole, can be right up to speed within minutes. It’s got the kind of accessibility that most titles can only dream about. Unfortunately this lowly entry level doesn’t hide a deep level of gameplay genius that would keep fighting fans coming back to master the nuances of each character’s fighting style.
For one, each character has a couple of easily pulled off special moves that can be exploited with incredible ease. Special moves have long been a staple of the genre, but the sheer ease at which you can pull off multiple stamina-draining attacks make the ones on offer in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe incredibly frustrating.
Manage to knock an opponent’s health bar all the way down and you'll be prompted to finish them, and here comes the return of the fatalities. Only this time they’re much different, thanks to the lowly age rating enforced on the development team. Admittedly some can be quite brutal - though lacking in real blood drenched gore - but the DC heroes in particular have some of dullest “finishers” you could ever think of. Certainly a long way from ripped out spines.
Visually Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is quite spectacular. Each character is animated superbly, and the way they interact with each punch is sheer brilliance. They’re big, chunky, and fill the screen with colour and superb design.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe not only lacks the over the top gore synonymous with the long running beat ‘em up series, but feels like a brawler geared towards newcomers to the genre.
With some horrifically overpowered moves that are ridiculously easy to exploit, it’s only some enjoyable storylines, and decent presentation that raise this moderately above total mediocrity.