Monday, April 22, 2013

One Hour Playthrough: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

I'm playing through my vast game collection one game at a time, one hour at a time.

Game: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Developer: Midway Amusement Games
Publisher: Midway
Published in: 2008
Genre: Fighting
Rating: T

Injustice: Gods Among Us came out this month and while I haven't played it yet, I did remember I have a fighting game in my library where the DC Universe characters (who I love) don't have lame costume redesigns. I actually balked at buying MKvsDCU for a long time, but I wanted something to play with my nine year old son that wasn't on a DS. Was this a good parenting decision? Maaaaybe not. He does laugh and laugh while beating the tar out of me. Ah, kids.

In all those times playing MKvsDCU with my son, I never actually got around to playing the story mode - which is why one plays a fighting game, right? For the story? OK, maybe not so much. So I broke out the disc and started it up. It turns out there was some sort of data update since 2008, when it first came out but then again it is a Playstation 3 game. Fortunately, the game updated pretty quickly and I was on my way!

The game starts off surprising bland - some logos and legal. I do miss the old DC comics logo. That new "folded page" logo doesn't do it for me. After pressing the start button, I see my old pal (and favorite character) Batman standing on a rooftop. One of the Mortal Kombat characters in the background. Is it Sub-Zero? No, he's blue. Kano? No, he's a robot dude. M. Bison? Wait, wrong game. These Mortal Kombat guys all look alike to me. (That's what you get when your distinguishing visual trait is a palette swap.)

Look out Batman! It's... that... guy...

Because I spent too long writing this, I was treated to an attract mode of Superman fighting what looked like either General Zod or Kano. Screw it, they're all Kano. I'm not quite sure why modern games really need an attract mode? For E3, I suppose. Or maybe for display at GameStop? Why not use this to tell some story or even better, some tutorial? Now Lex Luthor is fighting black Kano.

I select one player (selecting one player for a fighting game is like going to dinner and telling them "party of one" - it's slightly sad.) and story mode. I am given a choice of sides - wait, I DON'T get to be Batman? I HAVE to play Shazam? Or god forbid, Aquaman? If I must. The cinematic starts with Superman smacking around Darkseid who escapes via BoomTube. Lex Luthor shows up long enough to be a plot point.

Superman's heat vision creates a plot device

But instead of playing Superman, I'm informed that I'm going to be playing Flash, fighting against Deathstroke the Terminator. Deathstroke cuts a guy's head off (shown off-screen) which is moderately violent, but not outside of Deathstroke's personality. (He is named Death-stroke and he does terminate on a semi-regular basis.) But when the fight starts, I'm thrown back a bit... Flash is beating on Deathstroke and... blood is spraying out with every hit. I shouldn't be surprised, after all Mortal Kombat is getting top billing in this game and it was the poster child for video game violence until third person shooters became all of the rage. Still it feels out of place in the DC Universe. Now, I'm no square. I know "Comics aren't for Kids Anymore" and Grim N' Gritty was all the rage for superheroes... in the 90's! Maybe "turn off blood" is in the options somewhere, but it's a bit disappointing that it wasn't an option from the get-go.

Yeah, it just doesn't feel right

The fighting controls are pretty simple. Like all fighters button mashing can suit you just as well as actually learning how to fight. I haven't played a Mortal Kombat game in awhile, but I notice two interesting mechanics - one is a RAGE meter that charges up allowing the player to get all glow-y and do a super-attack. (Of course, this was done by Deathstroke - I have no clue how to activate this move) The other is TEST YOUR MIGHT where the hero smashes their opponent through a succession of walls into a new arena. Now you're talking!

Next I'm in Gotham where Flash fights cleavage-heavy Catwoman because... Batman is busy I guess. So they fight. The fight is pretty much wash, rinse, repeat. I actually start to experiment with the buttons - shoulder pads block and do a grab move. I accidently found a way to slide under my opponent, though I'd be damned if I know how to pull that one off again. I do notice that the fighters clothes are getting ripped up as the battle progresses - a nice touch. I beat Catwoman and then Kano (at least I think it's Kano, he looks like the Terminator... kinda... and is speaks with an Australian accent.) shows up. The battle starts and SURPRISE! it IS Kano. Well, at least I know one Mortal Kombat character.

Sorry for the Flash. Get it? The flash?

Finally! Batman shows up just as Flash gets possessed by some evil spirit. Here's the thing: If I'm now playing as evil Flash, should I be fighting as Batman? I would assume that the player would always be the good guy. Playing as evil Flash fighting Batman just feels wrong. (Or maybe I just really want to play as Batman.) Pausing the game (to tuck the kids into bed) brings up a move list option! Ah-ha! I open it up to find...a bewildering selection of moves I can perform. I'm not bad at playing fighting games, but there's NO WAY I can remember all (if even a handful) of those moves. Which brings me to my biggest complaint about fighting games on the PS3. The analog stick isn't "sticky" enough to pull off precision down-right-whatever moves and the d-pad is just to darn tiny (and don't ask me to try to do anything with a diagonal with that thing) - I don't really want to invest again in a high-quality fighting stick (I wish I hadn't sold that awesome Soul Calibur stick I had in the 90's) so I guess it's back to button mashing.

Batman, with his plethora of batarangs, martial arts moves and smoke pellets, makes short work of the Flash. I'm given a chance to try again. This time despite being "raged" and "test your might"'d by Batman, I win the fight. However, he sucker shocks me and takes me back to the Bat-cave where Flash turns into Scorpion, that yellow guy from the title screen. I am over come with nerd joy as I finally get to fight as Batman. After another short cutscene (Flash and Scorpion have switched places) Batman squares off against the Joker. I get to fight a proper, non-roided out Joker? Squeeeeee! I didn't get to even do that in Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Squeeeeee, I say. Squeeeeeeee.

I'll keep you in suspense to how this epic battle between Batman and the Joker ended as I cross the hour mark. So, what did I think about Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe?

What would I do differently? I didn't notice it when I was playing, but a training mode would be nice. There are so many moves and it takes awhile to master them so having a "safe" location where they can be tried out would be appreciated. Other than that, I don't have too many complaints. The blood is a little disappointing, but that's the license. I can deal with it. At least Superman isn't killing anyone... well, as far as I know.

Would I keep playing? Sure. The story, while not riveting, was interesting - at least I wanted to see who the other playable characters were. And it satisfied the DC fanboy in me. If I had an opponent, I'm sure this game would capture my interest longer. Fighting games are vastly different experience with two players and talking smack with your friend on the couch goes a long way to make an OK game great. The characters looked and acted how I would expect them to and while I don't really care about the MK characters, they weren't so intrusive to hamper my enjoyment. I'm sure someone, somewhere LOVES Scorpion as much as I do Batman.

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